How has Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your benefits and Job Centre appointments?

From Thursday 19th March 2020, all face-to-face conditionality appointments in jobcentres have been suspended for three months. This includes weekly and fortnightly work search reviews in Universal Credit and Job Seeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance (new style and legacy) and Income Support work-focused interviews.

 

Already receiving benefits?

You will continue to receive your benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the job centre in person have been suspended for at least 3 months.

 

Making an application for benefits?

You can still make applications for benefits online. The monthly payment cycle means new claimants will have to wait five weeks for their first payment. Loans or advances are available, which can help ease the financial pressure of the waiting period. You can apply for Universal Credit here.

If you complete the online application, but then struggle to get through on the telephone when trying to book yourself in for an initial interview, please be assured that the job centre will call you back to make sure you are offered an interview date as they will be reviewing and tracking all new online claims.

 

Disability Benefits

Reviews and reassessments for disability benefits have been suspended for the next three months, starting from Tuesday 24th March 2020. Claimants will continue to receive their benefits as normal.

What this means?

  • There will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months – this includes Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended for the next 3 months including for any new claims.
  • PIP claimants, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed. If an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider to discuss how this will be taken forward.
  • ESA and UC claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take this forward.
  • Where awards are due to expire, we will be extending end-dates so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate during this period.

This suspension will be kept under review and extended if necessary. If people experience a change in their needs they are still encouraged to contact the DWP to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.

 

Increased Allowance Rates

From April 6th 2020 the government is increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year.

Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit customers and to existing Working Tax Credit customers.

For example, the allowance for a Universal Credit customer who is single and aged 25 or over will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

 

Local Housing Allowance Rates

From April, Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will be increased and will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area. This will apply to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element customers, and to existing Housing Benefit customers.

 

Additional advice and information:

People are being urged to use online services before turning to the telephone for help with their benefit claim, with access to job centres limited for the most vulnerable.

https://www.gov.uk/contact-jobcentre-plus

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk (citizens advice) 0344 411 1444

Shahnaz Choudhury, Employment Specialist

Shahnaz worked in employee engagement before transitioning into career coaching. After completing her Masters in Organisational Psychology, she supported HR teams to get the best out of their workforce and developed a passion for resilience at work, stress management training and individual coaching.