COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives in many ways, including our finances.
Find out more about current effects on benefits and other money matters.
If you’re juggling work with looking after someone, your workplace may be closed, or your job under threat. Many people are working fewer hours, and whether you’re working or not, it’s worth making sure you’re not missing any support you’re entitled to. Your income may have dropped, so extra benefits can make all the difference.
The information below is COVID-related. Please also see our general benefits and money advice page.
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.
Surrey County Council
Shielding measures have now come to an end in England, so the situation has changed where someone is classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. They are still advised to be extremely careful. You can’t now get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) on the basis of being advised to shield, as that no longer applies. Someone may be eligible for SSP or ESA if they can’t work because of their health, either due to coronavirus or other health reasons, subject to meeting the conditions.
We’re still encouraged to work from home where possible, so that may be an option if there’s someone very vulnerable in your household, and the furlough scheme is also still in place. See government guidance 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, Parkinson’s, or a weakened immune system. For more details see our Coronavirus page. 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
If you can’t work because of symptoms or confirmed coronavirus, you should be entitled to statutory sick pay. Find out more government guidance here. You may be asked for proof by your employer. If you don’t qualify for statutory sick pay, you may qualify for New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
If you can’t work because you’ve been told to isolate by Test and Trace
If you are contacted by Test and Trace, you are obliged by law to isolate. Some people will be able to work from home, but if you cannot go to work and have a low income, you may qualify for a Test and Trace payment of £500 from your borough council. Surrey County Council’s website has the details.
The government has now extended its furlough scheme until the end of September 2021. It means some employees who cannot currently do their job, or whose hours have been reduced still receive up to 80% of their pay. Your employer applies for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) and contributes only the Employer National Insurance and Employer Pension Contributions (government pays the rest, although the employer will contribute a proportion from July). The Job Support Scheme which was to have replaced furlough is paused, and the Job Retention Bonus for employees kept on after being furloughed is now delayed.
If that leaves you with a very low income, you might qualify for new-style Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit.
Charity Working Families have very helpful guidance for carers who work, and furloughing.
Many carers are self-employed, especially because of the flexibility it can bring and options for the self-employed are different. The Government Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is for people who work for themselves, based on past years’ trade. It’s been extended to September and more people will now qualify as it now applies to those who’ve started working for themselves more recently: see Government guidance here. The eligibility rules are the same as before, but you can still claim, even if you didn’t claim in the last round. The business loans scheme has also been extended.
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. The temporary £20 increase, introduced during the pandemic, will continue to the end of September.
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 Credit, so it’s worth getting detailed advice. Citizens Advice can help. A one-off increase for those on Working Tax Credit was announced in March.
If you are over state pension age and on a low income, you may qualify for Pension Credit.
Assessments and interviews for carers
Face-to-face assessments are suspended for the time being and most payments are being rolled on.
Free school meals and Child Benefit
Many more families will now qualify for free school meals. Of course, children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 can get free school lunches anyway, but certain people are entitled to free meals for older children. And if those older children are off school because of coronavirus, they should get a meal provided by the school to have at home. Getting free school meals can be a useful qualification for other support too, so if you qualify, it’s worth applying whatever the age of your children. Citizens Advice explains how it all works here.
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 meet up online.
Where to find out more
Citizens Advice has useful details on all sorts of circumstances, including what to do about paying your rent: here.
Surrey County Council’s website has details on financial help during coronavirus: here.
Find out more general information on our Benefits and Payments page