Home Information for Residents Benefits Welfare Rights Service Further advice on common questions related to COVID-19 and benefit advice

This page was last updated on – 20 October 2020.

We have prepared the following useful information that might help to answer some of your questions in relation to COVID-19 and benefits and debt advice. The information is updated as frequently as possible but the changes are also announced frequently.  If you want the latest up to date position please call our duty line for advice on 0115 9151355.  We have also provided links to a number of useful web pages. These are external to the Nottingham City Welfare Rights service so any advice contained is the responsibility of the website owners and their organisation.

If you have no income and need support then call us a soon as possible. We may be able to assist you with a referral for a voucher for a local foodbank. The foodbanks have been effected by COVID-19 and have different arrangements in place and some are providing a delivery service. We have recently been advised that many of the foodbanks run by the Hope group are returning to a collection service observing social distances measures but this varies and individual foodbanks have different arrangements in place. Our team will be able to give you the latest position in relation to these and how best to access the foodbanks if you call us. They will also be able to give you advice on support you might be able to get from your energy supplier with your energy costs.

If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit you can apply for an advanced payment up to 100% of the amount of your estimated first payment.  You can apply for this on your journal or via the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.  The money will be recovered from your ongoing award over a period of 12 months.  If you need further advice on any aspects of Universal Credit then this can be obtained via our duty line (0115 9151355).

If you are looking for useful online content about Universal Credit Advances then there are some useful pages from LITRG/LASA Revenue Benefits website.

There may be grants or other charitable help that you can apply for.  A useful website on this is provided by Turn2Us.

If your circumstances have changed and you want to check your benefit entitlement then this can be done via our duty telephone helpline (0115 9151355).  Our advisors can check your entitlement to benefits and provide advice about Government schemes such as the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and Job Retention Scheme.  They can also check if you would be better off on Universal Credit or the existing benefit system.

If you are already in receipt of Welfare Benefits and are considering making a new claim for Universal Credit it is important for you to understand the following:

  • When you make a new claim for Universal Credit this abolishes your right to claim benefits under the existing system. This means that any tax credits or housing benefit that you receive will be replaced by Universal credit.
  • Once the change has been made you cannot return to these benefits even if the change to Universal credits makes you worse off.
  • There are circumstances where you can amend your existing benefits rather than making a new claim for Universal Credit.

Therefore, if you are considering a claim for Universal Credit we would strongly suggest that you speak to one of our Advisors before making your claim.

If you are not on existing benefits and want only to know the amounts of Universal Credit you may receive then you may wish to use one of the online benefits calculators

If you are already receiving benefits and are considering making a claim for Universal Credit it is important to understand the following:

  • When you make a new claim for Universal Credit this abolishes your right to claim benefits under the existing system. This means that any tax credits or housing benefit that you receive will be replaced by Universal credit.
  • Once the change has been made you cannot return to these benefits even if the change to Universal credits makes you worse off.
  • There are circumstances where you can amend your existing benefits rather than making a new claim for Universal Credit.

Therefore, if you are considering a claim for Universal credit we would strongly suggest that you speak to an advisor before making your claim.

You will also require the following in order to process your claim:

A bank account

If you don’t have a bank account there is useful information about how to open a bank account at Money Advice Service.

An email address

In order to make a claim for Universal Credit you will need, in the vast majority of cases, to have an email address. If you don’t have one then there is advice about how to set up an email address on Which.

Prove your ID

You will need to obtain proof of your identify and this will need to be verified as part of the claim process. There is a useful checklist of accepted ID on the following pages from Citizens Advice.

Proof of Housing Costs

You will need to verify your housing costs so make sure you have a copy of your tenancy agreement. If you are a council tenant or housing association tenant then your landlord should be able to verify your housing costs directly with the DWP. However, if you are a private tenant it will make the process easier if you have proof of your rental charges.

If you are struggling with making your Universal Credit claim

Citizens advice have a national agreement with the DWP to provide assistance to claimants to make their claim. This service should take you from your initial claim up to the date you get your first payment. Details of the service are found at Citizens Advice.

Make arrangements to pay the rent

The default position for Universal Credit is that the rent is paid to the claimant so you will need to think about making arrangement’s to pay your rent. If you are unable to do this you can ask for payment to be made directly to your landlord. Your landlord can also request this directly on the GOV.UK website.

Government advice on Universal Credit can be found here.

The Job retention scheme means the government pays up to 80% of a ‘furloughed’ worker’s wages, via their employer’s payroll, up to a total of £2,500 per worker each month. In order to be eligible for the scheme you must have been on your employers PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. If your employer is intending to apply to the scheme they must do so before the 10 June 2020 in order for you to qualify.  If you are furloughed and your income is reduced you should check your entitlement to other benefits as the reduction in your income may mean that you are entitled.  This can be done via our duty telephone line.  If you are furloughed you cannot work for your current employer at the same time but the scheme does not prevent you finding employment elsewhere as long as your contract of employment with your current employer allows this.

If you want some further advice online about the Job retention scheme. There is are some useful information at the following webpages:

If you need further information then detailed guidance can be found on the LITRG webpages.

If you need further information about being furloughed but not being able to work please visit the Citizens Advice webpage.

There is also some useful information contained in the following parliamentary briefing covering frequently asked questions.

The government has recently announced that employers will, from the 1st Of July, have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work part-time.  For full details click here.

See information from the GOV.UK website for more information.

The basic details of the initial scheme were that you were allowed to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total. The deadline date to apply for the scheme was before 13 July 2020.  In order to qualify, you must have been trading in the 2018/19 tax year and intend to continue trading in the current tax year. You were also asked to demonstrate that profits have been adversely affected by COVID-19. If you are using the scheme and your income is reduced you should check your entitlement to other benefits as the reduction in your income may mean that you are entitled.  This can be done via our duty telephone line.

The Government also announced that there was a second grant is available to apply for from 17 August 2020 until 19 October 2020. Both grants have separate criteria and you had to apply separately.   

The Government has also made a recent announcement that there will be a further extension to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and this will be extended until 30 April 2021, to support viable traders who are facing reduced demand over the winter months. This will form two grants one to cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January 2021, worth 20 per cent of average monthly profits up to a total of £1,875. The second one covers the period from February 2021 to the end of April 2021 the value of which has not been announced.

If you want some detailed online advice concerning this then this can be found on this LITRG webpage

The government advice on the scheme can be found on the Gov.uk website. 

Further government announcements can be found here.

HMRC have agreed that if your working hours are affected by COVID-19 then you do not need to report this change for 8 weeks and will be treated as if you are still working the same hours.  They have added further advice to say that you will be treated as if you’re working your normal hours until the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closes under certain circumstances.  The changes that you still need to report in terms of your tax credits are on the GOV.UK webpage.

If you were previously claiming Childcare Costs as part of your Working Tax Credits and these are no longer applicable then you must report this change. There is a 4-week run on for these costs but if you don’t report this then this may lead to an overpayment.

If you want detailed advice about your tax credits then contact our advice line (0115 9151355).  If you want some further information online then there is a useful guide at Child Poverty Action Group page.

The amount of Universal Credit has been increased to:

  • £342.72 for a single claimant under the age of 25
  • £409.89 for a single claimant aged 25 or older
  • £488.59 for joint claimants who are both under 25
  • £594.04 for joint claimants both aged 25 or older.

This change is currently only expected to be temporary and is due to end at the end of the 2020/2021 tax year.  It is not clear what will happen after this point so if you are considering moving to Universal Credit you may wish to get further advice before doing this.

From the 30th March 2020, the government announced there were no work search requirements imposed on Universal Credit claimants for a period of 3 months. This meant that your Universal Credit would not stop or be affected by failing to carry out any work search activity you were previously asked to do. The government has since announced from the 1st July that work search requirement based on the claimant commitment will be resumed as capacity allows. They have acknowledged that these will have to adjust to allow for the effects of COVID-19.

If you are self-employed the Minimum Income Floor has been suspended temporarily.  The way this works under the normal rules is that Universal Credit can treat your earnings as being at the minimum wage for the number of hours you are expected to work and use this to calculate your benefits rather than the actual amount you earn.  As this has now been suspended the actual amount of your earnings will be used to calculate any entitlement you have to Universal Credit. There have also been some changes to the rules to allow the DWP more discretion on when you are treated as being in gainful self-employment.

If you are looking for some useful information about the changes to Universal Credit during COVID-19 then this can be found on the Child Poverty Action group website.

You are still able to make a new application for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and will need to call 0800 917 2222. If you want to check if you are eligible for the benefit then you can call us on our duty telephone lines (0115 9151355) and we can provide a full assessment to see if you qualify. We will also be able to make you a telephone appointment for assistance with completing the forms over the phone.  Please note if you are already getting Disability Living Allowance you will need to be aware that a new claim to PIP will end your entitlement to this benefit. When the forms are sent out there should be a deadline on the forms indicated when they need to be returned by.

If you return the forms after the deadline but have a good reason for the forms being late they may still be accepted. If you are in the situation we would recommend that you call us on our advice line for further assistance.

The assessments in relation to PIP are normally carried out face to face but these have been suspended due to COVID-19. The assessments are now taking place temporarily over the telephone.  If you are refused PIP after the assessment then you should contact our advice line, and we can provide support with challenging and appealing these decisions.

If you are currently already in receipt of PIP but your award is due to expire within 3 months from April 2020 the DWP had announced that they were extending these awards by 6 months automatically. Initially, all renewal activity was placed on hold but the DWP has announced from the 20th July that some renewals of PIP will resume.

The DWP should write to you when they are going to start the reassessment process or if you have already returned the review forms you may be contacted from the assessment provider to arrange a medical assessment. The medical assessments are still taking place on the phone at present and the Government has stated that there is no plan to return to face-to-face assessments until public health advice is changed.

If you are unsure of the DWP’s approach to this then you should call the PIP helpline to check on 0800 121 4433 or speak to us on our advice line 0115 915 1355. Also, if your award is due to end shortly and Personal Independence Allowance have not contacted you we would advise you to check with them as if you have a fixed term award coming to an end you may have break in your payments if you don’t make an application before your current award runs out. 

Initially the  DWP were advising that they are putting the reviews on hold and extending these awards by 6 months in order to concentrate on processing new claims. Since this time they have announced that they will resume some review activity and the position is not clear .  If you want further up to date advice on this then contact our duty line (0115 9151355) or alternatively call Attendance Allowance 0800 731 0122 or Disability Living Allowance 0800 731 0122 directly who will be able to advise about the latest position.

The DWP in March had indicated that it would be putting the transfer to Personal Independence Payment on hold for 6 months and will not be transferring claimants to PIP to concentrate on new claims. It is not clear what the current position is at present.  If you are being transferred you will receive a letter from the DWP advising you what to do next.  If you are unsure or want any further advice on this call our duty line (0115 9151355) or you can call the Disability Living Allowance who should be able to update you on the latest position on 0800 731 0122.

From the 11th March, the government announced that you can claim Statutory Sick pay (SSP) from the first day of your illness rather than as previously the 4th day of sickness. If you are self-isolating you can now provide an online sick note for your employer which can be found on the NHS website.

Further changes have also been announced covering those who need to isolate due to someone in their household suffering symptoms and also for those who have been notified they have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19 and is self-isolating. There is a good summary of the changes that can be found on the Child Poverty action group Ask CPAG pages.

The government initially allowed claims for SSP on the grounds that a person that was “shielding” following public health guidance. It was then announced from the 1st August claimants would not be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) on the basis of shielding as a result of COVID-19. For details see the GOV.UK webpage. If you have been “shielding” you can still claim SSP but this will need to be on the basis of your health condition. Following the policy of local lockdowns, you can claim statutory sick pay while shielding but only if you receive a letter from your GP or other health professional informing you to shield. The length of time you are considered to be shielding should be specified in this letter.   For some more detailed information on this, see the pages from Low-Income Tax Reform Group.

There has also been a recent change to the regulations from the 5th of August for SSP to support the updated health guidance that anyone who needs to self-isolate due to having either the symptoms of Covid-19 or a positive test must do so for 10 days.  You can now claim SSP for 10 days on these grounds to put this in line with the current public health advice. 

If you have paid sufficient National Insurance Contributions in the last 2 tax years you may qualify for this benefit. You cannot receive this at the same time as Statutory Sick Say from your employer but you can apply for Universal Credit at the same time as receiving this. We would recommend that you call our duty advice line for further detailed advice before making your claim on 0115 9151355.

You can now apply for this online here

If you are looking for further online advice then this can be found at the following Citizens Advice page.

For the latest government advice on how to apply, see the GOV.UK website.

Child Benefit claims should be made as normal during COVID-19. The normal rules for the benefit is that you have to have registered the birth in order to claim, however as the offices were initially closed to enable you to do this HMRC have advised that claims can be made without this and you should indicate on the forms that you have been unable to register your child’s birth due to COVID-19.

See Government advice on the GOV.UK website.

You are now able to register a birth and make an appointment to do this in Nottingham. However, there may be some considerable delays due to the effects of Covid-19 so it would still be best to claim in the way indicated above. 

Register a birth

The Government has announced some changes to the rules for Carers Allowance.

Firstly that carers will be able to continue to claim Carers Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets Coronavirus, or if they have to self-isolate because of it. The normal rules mean that you have to care for someone for 35 hours a week or more but the meaning of this has now been extended to include the provision of emotional support to a disabled person.

For details of this see the DWP magazine Touchbase website.

 

If you are due to attend a tribunal hearing then many of these hearings are taking place either via telephone hearings or cases being heard on the paperwork. We would encourage you to avoid a paper hearing as this has a large impact on your chances of being successful as tribunals rely heavily on the evidence that you are able to give verbally and they can use this evidence change the DWP’s decision.  If you are waiting for an appeal hearing date then the Courts and Tribunals Service should contact you in respect to this. If you are appealing a decision we would suggest you call our advice line as we can assist with all aspects of appeals including preparing all the legal arguments and submissions before the hearing takes place. We can also ensure that you get the right type of hearing that suits your needs.

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has also recently advised us that the face to face hearings are returning. They have advised there are some very limited face-to-face listings in August but this will increase in September and Nottingham is amongst the venues where this is happening.  HMCTS have advised that all venues have been risk assessed and they will be applying appropriate social distancing measures. They have advised that if you need to have someone accompany you to your face to face hearing you need to notify them in advance of the hearing date. 

If you have a face to face hearing scheduled but do not wish to attend due to underlying health conditions and the effects of Covid-19 then you will need to contact the tribunal service to advise them of this and request a telephone hearing.  You will need to put this in writing to the appeals service and can do this via email. We would recommend that you get advice from us if you are in this situation.

 The Government made some changes to bailiff action during COVID-19 to stop certain enforcement action from taking place. The details of this can be found in the following press release from the Money Advice Trust. These measures have now ended as of the 23rd of August and bailiffs can now visit your property to enforce debts.  If you receive any contact from the bailiffs call our advice line on 0115 9151355. We can advise you on what the bailiffs' powers are for each type of debt, may be able to get a hold on the action being taken and can also negotiate an arrangement for the debt that may be able to prevent further enforcement action being taken.  Call us as soon as you can as if you are due to be visited by the bailiffs your goods may be at risk and this will lead to increase in the debt as bailiff fees will be added to your account.

There has been a series of announcements in relation to debt recovery. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) had announced from the 14th April 2020 that if you are in financial difficulty due to coronavirus there is a requirement for organisations to place a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to three months and zero interest on up to £500 of arranged personal overdrafts. 

For full details of this see the Financial Conduct Authority website.

The FCA has also announced in relation to mortgaged property in updated guidance that there is an extension of mortgage holidays for three months and continuation of the ban on lender repossessions until 31 October 2020.

For full details see the Financial Conduct Authority website.

The FCA has announced a further extension to some measures listed above until the 31st October. For the full details of this see the press release here.

If you are struggling to keep to any repayments arrangements or need any debt related advice you can get this on our helpline (0115 9151355). Our Advisers are still dealing with all aspects of debt casework but on the telephone rather than by face to face appointments.

There are also some useful pages on the Money Advice Services website.

The Government had announced a ban on Eviction Proceedings and a stay on new possession action up until the 23rd August 2020. You will still be liable for any rent arrears that accrue and should make sure you stay up to date with your rent if you can. Therefore, you need to try and ensure that you make payments and claim any benefits that will help you with your housing costs, for more advice you can contact our advisers on 0115 9151355.

The Government initially announced that possession action could resume from the 24th August.  On the 21st August, however, a further announcement extended these measures until the 20th September 2020. The government has also issued advice to state that new measures will be introduced to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice other than cases where there are serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March 2021. They have also added that when evictions resume the courts will prioritise cases involving antisocial behaviour or cases where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would face unmanageable debts.

It is important to note that if there are some exceptions to the 6-month notice period including if you have more than 6 months arrears or if you are facing eviction for antisocial behaviour. Also, if you had received your notice before the 29th August or your landlord started court action before or during the eviction ban this 6-month notice period will not apply.

A good independent guide on this can be found on the Shelter's website.

Please visit the GOV.UK website for latest advice to tenants facing possession action

If you have any issues around possession action we would recommend contacting our advice line as soon as possible as your rights to resist court action will depend on a number of factors including when the action was taken by your landlord. These can be complex and difficult to understand. Also, due to the impact of COVID-19, this situation is changing frequently, and we can provide the most up to date information. We will be able to give you the latest position if you contact our advice line as we receive the updated information.

It is also the case that there is no longer a ban or warrants for eviction and these can resume from the 4th of October 2020. These will most commonly be for warrants that were initially suspended due to Covid-19 or if the landlord already has an outright possession order.  If you do receive any warrant paperwork then contact our advice line immediately as you will only have 14 day notice period and must take action before this expires or you will lose your home.

Recently a number of Nottingham Citizens report that they have had Universal Credit claims made fraudulently using their details. It seems that fraudsters are undertaking some level of identity theft and using these details to make a Universal Credit claim without the victim being aware of this. 

As the correspondence for Universal Credit is sent via the online journal then you would not be aware that a claim had been made, therefore often the first time you realise that you may be a victim of the fraud is if there is a disruption to your other benefit payments. If you don’t get paid your existing benefits or you receive notification that your rent payments are stopping contact the relevant departments as soon as you can. 

If a claim has been made using your personal details you should take the following action:  

  • Contact the Universal Credit helpline and advise that you have not made the claim and ask them to make sure that they hold all payments on the account until they have resolved the issue.
  • Report the incident to Action Fraud via their website https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
  • If you are still having problems then please contact our helpline (0115 9151355) as we will be able to give further advice and information on this issue, and we can help to try to get the matter resolved.

Other issues to be aware of:

Contact from the DWP

The DWP has issued some guidance to say that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)/the Jobcentre/Service Centre will appear with a new number from 6th May 2020. When they call you this number will show up as 0800 023 2635. 

The DWP has also said that before they call they will put a note on your online journal to say that they are going to call.  If you receive a call please check your journal and if you are not sure of the identity of the caller and that they are calling from Universal credit then hang up and don’t disclose any personal information to them.

Text phishing scams

There have been some reports of a text phishing scam claiming to be details of a DWP payment and asking to follow the link in the text. The DWP do at times send out text messages but this is only for information and you will not be asked to follow links or reply to the message. If you receive such a message it is likely to be a scam and you should call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

Some useful tips on avoiding scams can be found on the Nottinghamshire Police website and at the following Nottingham City Council pages.

Information about HMRC related scams can be found on the blog pages from the LASA/LIRTG Revenue benefits website.

The Money Advice Service pages also contain some useful information on Universal Credit scams.

Nottingham Jobs is the City Council's employment and skills brokerage service providing specialist support to employers and job seekers within Nottingham and its neighbourhoods. It is delivered in partnership with the DWP and Futures with funding from the European Social Fund. They have provided the below information about how these services can help if you are looking for work: 

Jobs, advice, support and training opportunities

If you are out of work, on reduced hours or looking to gain new skills, support is available for you through Nottingham Jobs.

Whatever your age or circumstances, we’ll help you find or apply for jobs, update your CV, learn interview tips, gain confidence and much more. We’re not just a recruitment agency, we’ll get to know you and will treat you as an individual to get you the support you need.

You can call us on 0115 876 4508 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm) or if you prefer register with Nottingham Jobs online, and we’ll contact you to find out more about whatever it is you’re looking for help with.

You can also contact the team at jobs.hub@nottinghamjobs.com.

The Government announced that this scheme would be available from the 1st of November 2020 following the end of the Job retention scheme.  In order to be eligible for this scheme an employee must work at least 33 % of their normal hours and not be on a redundancy notice.  Employers will pay the worker for the hours they work but in respect to the hours not worked the Government and the Employer will each pay a third of the total.  This is based on the employees’ usual salary and is capped at £697.92 per month.  It was also confirmed that you do not need to have been previously getting help under the Job retention scheme in order to qualify.

For the Government announcement see the Gov.uk website.

There is also some further guidance here.

The payment is available from the 28th September and will be a one off payment of £500 aimed at people on lower incomes who cannot work from home after being notified of need to isolate due to NHS test and trace procedures. You will have to have been given a test and trace number from the NHS after the 28th September to qualify.  This scheme will be administered by Nottingham City Council.

Full details of the eligibility criteria and how to apply can be found here.