Benefits and personal financial support
The government's response to the coronavirus outbreak is constantly being updated. During this time you may become eligible for support or for benefits you have not claimed before or you may want reassurance about what is happening with your existing benefits.
Claiming for the first time during Covid-19
Welfare benefits can seem very complicated and if you are claiming for the first time it can be difficult to find out which benefits are right for you. Visit our Better Off page for help with claiming and managing benefits which includes access to a benefit calculator to help you work out what benefits you may be able to claim and a guide to benefits for people affected by coronavirus.
Our welfare support advisors will also be able to help you if you need support with making a claim.
Help with bills you pay and managing money
If you are suffering financial hardship there may be ways of reducing or spreading bill payments during Covid-19.
Options you may be eligible for if you are experiencing financial difficulty paying your Council Tax:
- If you are on a low income you may be eligible for Council Tax Reduction. You can apply for this online at www.herefordshire.gov.uk/eclaim.
- As part of central government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a maximum Hardship payment of £150 was applied to all customers who receive help with their Council Tax payments via our Council Tax Reduction scheme for the financial year 2020/2021. This payment has been credited to all qualifying customers and letters have been issued dated 5th August 2020.
If you are eligible for Council Tax Reduction after 5 August 2020, your hardship entitlement will automatically be applied.
- If your Council Tax instalments currently finish in January or February 2021 then your instalments can be extended to finish in March 2021. To request this, please email email@example.com quoting your Council Tax account reference number
- If you are already receiving Council Tax Reduction and your income has reduced, you should send confirmation of your income reduction, if you haven't already done so, to firstname.lastname@example.org as you may be entitled to more help
- If you are having difficulty paying your Council Tax due to severe financial hardship then you may be entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment. Find further information, along with an application form on our Council Tax hardship relief page
Help with your rent
If you are struggling to pay your rent you may be able to claim for Housing Benefit if you meet the housing benefit eligibility criteria.
If you do not meet the Housing Benefit criteria then you may still be entitled to the Housing Element of Universal Credit (UCHE). Find more information and make an application at: www.gov.uk/universalcredit.
If you are entitled to UCHE and are liable to pay Council Tax, you should ensure you also apply for help with your Council Tax.
If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or the Housing element of Universal Credit, the options below may be available to you:
- If you receive either of the above and have a shortfall in your rent and are facing financial hardship, you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Further information, including an application form is on our Discretionary Housing Payment page
- If you are already receiving Housing Benefit and your income has changed, you should notify us as soon as possible, if you haven't already, at email@example.com as you may be entitled to more help with rent if you are not receiving the maximum support
- Central government announced an additional earnings disregard of £20 per week. These adjustments have automatically been made to your claim
- If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, central government have announced an increase in the weekly amounts of Local Housing Allowance. This is the maximum amount of weekly rent you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. Any increase in your entitlement will be made automatically
Help with utility bill payments
There is government guidance if you are struggling to pay energy bills. Further advice is available from the CAB and Money Advice Service, call 0800 138 7777. Both services can also provide free independent debt advice.
Emergency assistance for food
Our Local Welfare Provision scheme provides short term support to people who have a low income or can demonstrate they do not have the immediate resources to meet the basic needs of themselves and/or their dependants. To request assistance complete the online referral form or phone 01432 383838.
Test and Trace support payment
From 28 September 2020, you may be entitled to a £500 payment if you:
- Have tested positive for Covid-19 (coronavirus) or
- Have had close contact with someone who has tested positive on or after 28 September 2020 and has been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
These payments are designed to help ensure people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their close contacts self-isolate for the required period to stop the onward spread of the virus. They are also designed to encourage people who are eligible for this payment to get tested if they have symptoms. This is important to help stop the transmission of Covid-19 and avoid further economic and societal restrictions. Find out more on our support payment page
Help with funeral costs
You may be eligible for a Funeral Expense Payment if you receive certain benefits and need help to pay for a funeral you're arranging.
- More money is available for funeral grants from 8 April 2020
Help with managing debts
- Repayments that were temporarily stopped because of coronavirus are starting again. DWP are restarting debt recovery which includes all benefit related overpayments, tax credit debts, rent and utility arrears.Claimants can still contact DWP Debt Management Centre on 0800 916 0647 to raise concerns about an overpayment or request a reduction in the overpayment recovery amount.
DWP confirm that recovery of Universal Credit advance payments will still continue.
Herefordshire CAB offer debt advice and the organisations below also offer free, independent advice to people who are experiencing financial difficulties:
- National Debtline call 0808 808 4000
- Stepchange call 0800 138 1111
- Money Advice Service call 0800 138 7777
Covid-19 financial support for workers
There are government support schemes for employees and the self-employed who are unable to work or lose income due to the restrictions of coronavirus.
Test and Trace support payment You may be entitled to a £500 payment if you are self-isolating and you are working and claiming certain benefits.
- You can get £95.85 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you're too ill to work. It's paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks
- If you cannot work while you are self-isolating because of coronavirus, you could get SSP for every day you're in isolation. You must self isolate for at least four days to be eligible
- SSP may now be paid from day one. Employees who are sick, self-isolating or shielded due to Covid-19 may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay from the first day of their illness or self-isolation
- If your illness is not related to coronavirus (Covid-19), you must be eligible for SSP and have been off work sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days) to get SSP
- You cannot get less than the statutory amount. You can get more if your company has a sick pay scheme (or ‘occupational scheme’) - check your employment contract
Coronavirus job retention scheme Find out if your employer could keep you on the books and pay you 80 percent of your wages during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Support for self-employed workers Find out about and apply for the government's scheme to support self-employed workers. HMRC also have a dedicated helpline for anyone running a business or self-employed and affected by Covid-19, call 0800 024 1222. There is more about support and grants on our Covid-19 business support page.
- Workers who are sick or self-isolating and not entitled to statutory sick pay may be able to claim new style ESA instead
- Face-to-face assessment suspension continues for health and disability benefits
New style jobseeker's allowance If you’re unemployed or work less than 16 hours a week you may be able to get New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
Find out about any changes to your existing benefits during Covid-19
Restrictions on movement and business opening and the need for social distancing and quarantine requirements may have an impact on the way your benefits can be managed. For example, it may not be possible to attend assessment meetings in person or apply for jobs during this time or there may be increases in the amount or changes to eligibility for some central government benefits.
Check the individual benefit on the government's site to see how any changes will affect you. We have highlighted some of the ways the benefit may have changed during this time. Visit the gov.uk page for the full update.
Universal Credit is usually claimed online but there is a Help to Claim Service for Universal Credit online provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau. Their help line number is 0800 144 8444 or visit the CAB online Help to Claim service.
- Workers who are sick, self-isolating or caring for others, and whose household income and capital are low enough, may qualify for Universal Credit
- Claimants are no longer required to attend face-to-face meetings with work coaches
- UC claimants 'affected by Covid-19' do not have to provide Fit Notes or medical evidence to be treated as having limited capability for work
- Self-employed people claiming UC do not have to attend an interview with a case manager at the start of their claim to establish whether they are in gainful employment
- The DWP has temporarily removed the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) used to calculate UC when the net profit from self-employment is low
- More information about covid-19 and what to do if you're already getting benefits
- Other useful information about understanding universal credit and employment and benefits support
Working tax credit and child tax credit These benefits have been replaced by universal credit for new claimants. If you are already claiming one of these benefits you will be informed of any Covid-19 related changes via your online account.
Carer's Allowance If you or the person you care for are affected by coronavirus, you may still be able to claim Carer’s Allowance if you provide care remotely. This includes giving emotional support over the phone or online.
Child Benefit It is not possible to currently register births. However, you should still go ahead and claim Child Benefit even if you have to do so before you are able to register the birth.
Free School Meals During Covid-19 the government expects schools to provide support to eligible pupils even if the school is closed or only open to certain groups.
Disability related benefits
- Where benefit awards are due to expire, the DWP will extend end-dates of benefits so that claimants continue to receive their existing level of financial support
- Changes in assessment methods and end-dates for benefits expiry or claim submission
Personal independence payment (PIP) extension to time to submit claim, but advice is still to submit claim as soon as possible after initial phone call to start claim.