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Coronavirus – check if there are changes to your benefits

This advice applies to England

The government have made changes which might affect your benefits.

You might be asked to go to appointments at the Jobcentre Plus, for example:

  • interviews
  • appointments with your work coach

Call the Jobcentre Plus if you're worried about going to an appointment in person. You can find the number of your nearest Jobcentre Plus on GOV.UK. 

If your benefits are ending soon

If your benefits have an end date, the DWP should move the end date back 6 months. For example, if your benefits were due to end in June, they would now end in December instead. The DWP should write to you to tell you the end date has changed.

Your benefits might have an end date if you get:

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB)

Check your benefit award letter if you’re not sure if your benefit has an end date.

If you haven’t got a letter from the DWP saying they’ve moved the end date back, check by calling the number on your benefits letters.

If the DWP won’t move the end date back and you think you should keep getting your benefit, you should make a new claim.

If your repayments for a benefit or budgeting loan overpayment were temporarily stopped

Your repayments will start again after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped them because of coronavirus.

The DWP will write to you to tell you when your repayments will automatically restart if:

  • you make repayments by Direct Debit

  • your repayments are taken from your benefits or earnings

They’ll either write you a letter or add a journal entry if you get Universal Credit.

If you normally make repayments yourself, for example by a bank standing order, you should contact your bank and start them again.

If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs and can’t afford your repayments, contact the DWP’s Debt Management contact centre.

DWP - Debt Management contact centre

Telephone: 0800 916 0647

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 916 0651

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233

Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm

Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

If you’re appealing a benefit decision to the tribunal

If possible, a tribunal judge will assess your case without a hearing. Instead they’ll make a decision based only on the documents.

Some tribunals have closed so it’s a good idea to check where you should send your documents - you can find contact details for your tribunal on GOV.UK.

Send any evidence you have as soon as possible – for example medical evidence.

If the judge assesses your case based on the documents, they’ll send you a ‘provisional decision’. If you don’t agree with the provisional decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead. 

If there has to be a hearing, the tribunal might suggest a phone call or video conference.

Tell the tribunal as soon as possible if you will find it difficult to have a remote hearing. For example, tell them if you don’t have the equipment for a conference call. You can find out what happens at a remote hearing on GOV.UK.

If you get Universal Credit

Your work coach might ask you to look for work or be available for work. This depends on your claimant commitment and which work-related activity group you’re in. 

Check your Universal Credit account regularly so you don’t miss any messages about this. Contact your work coach if you’re not sure if you need to be looking for work. 

If you’ll struggle to complete the work-related activities in your claimant commitment, you might be able to change them. Find out how to change your claimant commitment.

If you’re earning less money because of coronavirus you’re likely to get more Universal Credit. If you’re an employee, you don’t need to tell the government you’re earning less money. If you get a payment from your employer because you’re furloughed from work, this counts as earnings.

If you’re self-employed

You need to tell the DWP if you get money from the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, because this counts as income. Tell the DWP by making a note on your online account on GOV.UK.

Your work coach can remove or reduce your minimum income floor. This means you might be able to get more Universal Credit. Tell your work coach if you’re:

  • staying at home because of coronavirus
  • having trouble getting work because of coronavirus

Tell your work coach by making a note on your online account on GOV.UK.

If you get Jobseeker’s Allowance

Your work coach might ask you to look for work or be available for work. This depends on what you agreed in your jobseeker’s agreement.

Check for messages from your work coach about this. Contact your work coach if you’re not sure if you need to be looking for work. 

If you’ll struggle to complete the work-related activities in your jobseeker’s agreement, you might be able to change them. Find out how to change your jobseeker’s agreement.

If you get Employment and Support Allowance

You usually need a note from your GP to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – this is called a ‘fit note’.

At the moment, you don’t need a fit note if you’ve got an isolation note.

You can get an isolation note if you or someone you see regularly has symptoms of coronavirus. You can:

If you get Housing Benefit 

You might be able to get more money if you’re earning less because of coronavirus. Let your local council know as soon as possible.

If you’re struggling to pay your bills, you might be able to get extra help. 

If you get Working Tax Credits

You don’t need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about short-term changes to your working hours. You’ll need to start reporting changes 8 weeks after the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closes. It doesn’t matter if you’re not on this scheme.

At the moment, you don’t have to tell HMRC about things like:

  • your employer reducing your hours temporarily

  • your employer paying you through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – this is called being ‘furloughed’

  • getting less work if you're self-employed

You still have to tell HMRC if your working hours increase or there are permanent changes to your job - for example if:

  • you're made redundant or lose your job
  • you've stopped being self-employed because you weren't getting any work
  • your hours change permanently 

If you’re earning less than normal

You should tell HMRC – you might get more money.

You’ll only get more money if your income drops by £2,500 across the tax year, which runs from 6 April to 5 April. If you say your salary will drop by this much and it doesn’t, you’ll have to pay back any extra money you got. 

If you don’t think your income will drop by that much, you should check if you would get more money on Universal Credit. If you start claiming Universal Credit, you won’t be able to claim Working Tax Credits anymore. It’s best to talk to an adviser about moving on to Universal Credit.

If you got an extra £500

HMRC paid the extra £500 in April and September 2021, to people who were working and getting tax credits.

You don't have to pay tax on the payment. It doesn't count as income so it won't affect your benefits - for example it won't affect your:

  • tax credits
  • Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit
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