If you are of working age and your circumstances have changed, and your income has reduced or stopped, the main benefit that you can claim is Universal Credit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit. Once awarded this benefit is paid monthly in arrears, but if you need to you can apply for a short term advance of payment then that is recovered from future benefit payments. This advance payment can include help to pay for your housing costs (not mortgage). You cannot have savings of more than £16,000 and claim Universal Credit, and all income, and savings including that of any partner will be taken into account.
If you are already receiving Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit seek advice first as these benefits will stop as soon as you submit a claim for Universal Credit and you will not be able to reclaim these benefits at a later date.
The Camden Adult Social Care Welfare Rights Service have put together a downloadable booklet on making a Universal Credit claim.
It is straightforward to claim Universal Credit online, and you can then report changes and respond to instructions and questions via your online Universal Credit journal. However if you are unable to do this you can use the Helpline on 0800 328 5644 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
If you need help because English is not your first language, ask someone to make the call with you and ask for a “call back” with an interpreter.
British Sign Language Video Relay Service is available if you need to contact Universal Credit. The service is available Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm. Guidance on what you need to do to use the BSL video relay service is available.
Remember to also claim help with your Council Tax bill via the Council Tax Support Scheme directly from Camden. This also is dependent on the income and savings of you and any partner.
Already receiving benefits?
If you are of working age and your circumstances have changed, and your income has reduced or stopped, and you receive benefits such as Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Council Tax Support, contact them and let them know that things have changed. It may be that these benefits can increase to help support you at this time.
If you want to see what changes have been made due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the government has issued the following guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re already getting benefits.
If you are already receiving Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit seek advice first before considering Universal Credit, as these benefits will stop as soon as you submit a claim for Universal Credit and you will not be able to reclaim these benefits at a later date.
In the guidance you can also find information about temporary increases to Universal Credit, about Universal Credit short term advance payments (including how to access them) and about other benefits.
Access to Job centres and any face to face work is generally limited in order to maintain social distance and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Face to face new reviews or reassessments across all benefits have been suspended for three months from 26 March 2020 and this is likely to be extended. This includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. However telephone assessments are being carried out for new claims where needed.
In addition benefit awards for health and disability benefits that were due to expire will be extended and will carry on at their current rates (for existing claimants) until reviews and reassessments can again be carried out.
If you are appealing a benefit decision at tribunal, there are currently no face to face hearings but some appeals are being conducted over the phone or are decided on the papers.
ESA and UC claimants whose cases have already been referred to the Healthcare provider (in order to carry out the health assessments) will be contacted directly by the provider to take this forward.
Current benefit entitlement rules remain the same and if you are unsure you can check your entitlement by using an online benefit calculator https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators.
Help available for people temporarily unable to work
Self Employment Income Support scheme
There is a new package of financial support to help self-employed workers through the current health emergency.
- If you are self-employed then you may be able to apply for a grant worth 80% of your average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month.
- Initially this will be made available for three months, and paid in one lump-sum payment. Payments are being made from May 2020.
- The scheme is open to some self-employed workers with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19, or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
- The scheme has been further extended for three months and an additional payment will be paid in August. The August payment will cover June, July and August and will be 70%of usual profits up to £2,190 per month
If you are eligible for a grant HMRC will contact you directly with more information. You can read more about the Self-employment income support scheme.
Furlough scheme (Job Retention Scheme)
If you and your employer agree to keep you employed when the business is temporally shut down, or capacity is greatly reduced, the scheme allows you to continue to be paid 80% of your wages up to a cap of £2,500 a month. Your employer can choose to top up your earnings to your full normal pay. You can also request to be furloughed if you are self–isolating. More information is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.
Please also visit the ACAS website for more information on the Furlough Scheme, including if you are having difficulties accessing the scheme or being paid: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/furlough-scheme-pay.
Accessing emergency funds
The council may be able to assist those experiencing exceptional financial strain by applying for a one off payment through the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme. Residents do have to meet eligibility criteria to be able to access the payment and the application has to be completed on behalf of the resident by council staff.
Information about financial support is available by calling 020 7974 4444 (option 9) or the Financial support for residents page on the council website.
Visit the Camden Council website for further information about benefits, including Universal Credit, housing benefit and council tax support
Citizens Advice provide more information about benefits