COVID-19 has changed our daily lives in many ways, including our finances.
Find out more about how this new situation affects benefits and other money matters.
If you’re juggling work with looking after someone, perhaps you’re working from home, busier than ever as colleagues are absent, or your workplace may be closed for the time being. Your income may have dropped, so extra benefits can make all the difference.
Where to get help and advice
Our Carer Support Advisors can tell you more about your entitlements to benefits and the payments available, and can help with filling in forms. We can also help if you’ve been turned down for a benefit.
Please get in touch with us to find out more. Call us on 0303 040 1234 or email CarerSupport@actionforcarers.org.uk. You can also text us (SMS) on 07714 075993.
If you can’t work because you or someone in your household needs to be ‘shielded’
Some people are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, so if you need to stay at home for your own sake or because a member of your family falls into that category, you might qualify to be ‘furloughed’ from your job (see below).Or you might qualify for sick pay (you can’t have both). See the government guidance here.
Extremely vulnerable people will have received a letter from the NHS, and you then register online. You are encouraged to register even if you don’t need extra assistance at the moment, and carers can make the registration for the person they’re caring for. Find out about the NHS list of conditions here and the registration process here.
If you can’t work because you’re ‘socially distancing’ because of your caring role
Many more people are ‘clinically vulnerable’, including those over 70 and those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, Parkinsons, or a weakened immune system. There’s a reminder of who’s in this group on the Government website here. In that category, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible. If you have a job, talk to your employer.
If you can’t work because you or someone in your household has symptoms
We’re getting used to the new term ‘furlough’, where your job is supended because of coronavirus. If you’ve been in your job since 19th March or longer, you may qualify for ‘furlough’, under the coronavirus job retention scheme. This must be agreed between you and your employer, and you will be paid 80% of your wages (with an upper limit), which may be topped up to the full rate by your employer.
You can ask whether it’s possible to be to be furloughed; talk to your employer.
This scheme has just been extended and will run at this rate until the end of October, although from August a greater proportion of the wagebill will come from the employer rather than the government. Perhaps more significantly, from August it will be possible for some people to be furloughed part-time, which will enable them to do some work – useful if a business is partially up and running. You can then expect to be paid partly for the work you do and partly from the furlough scheme.
Surrey Welfare Rights Unit has a detailed factsheet covering a range of benefits for employees here.
Many carers are self-employed, especially because of the flexibility it can bring and options for the self-employed are different. The new Government Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is here to help those who work for themselves, based on past years’ trade. It specifically includes those who can’t work because they have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, as well as those who are self-isolating or shielding or whose work has been affected. It’s up and running now: see Government guidance here.
Surrey Welfare Rights Unit has a detailed factsheet covering a range of benefits for the self-employed here.
If your income is reduced as you can’t go to work because your workplace has been shut down, you may qualify for Universal Credit.
If you already receive Universal Credit, do tell them if your circumstances have changed. You may be entitled to an increase. Find out more here.
If you still get Tax Credits, it may be a disadvantage to swap to Universal Credits, so it’s worth getting detailed advice. Citizens Advice can help.
Assessments and interviews for carers
Obviously face-to-face assessments are suspended for the time being and most payments are being rolled on. For example, there will be no new reviews or reassessments for PIP payments for the next 3 months. Some rates, such as Universal Credit have increased.
Free school meals and Child Benefit
Many more people will now qualify for free school meals, and it’s worth claiming whether or not your child is currently going in to school. Instead of a meal, you may receive £15 of vouchers, which you can spend in supermarkets, in person or online.
Some people don’t claim Child Benefit, but don’t forget if your income has dropped, you can claim now even if you haven’t done before. Surrey Welfare Rights Unit explains how and why in their factsheet.
Young adult carers
In the current situation, many young adults are uncertain about their plans. If you’re a carer aged 18-24 and concerned about how you can manage now, and what your future options might be, our specialist Young Adult Carer team is here to support you. You’ll also get to be in touch with other young people who understand your position and you can swap ideas and – when we’re all able to again – meet up.
Where to find out more
Citizens Advice has useful details, on all sorts of circumstances, including what to do about paying your rent: here
Find out more general information on our Benefits and Payments page