May 2020 – Benefit Changes made as a result of Coronavirus

Following on from the article last month, changes have also been made to existing benefit provisions.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – from 16 March, anyone who is isolating to prevent infection in accordance with public health guidance is deemed to be incapable of work for SSP purposes. However, it is likely that this only applies to those with the virus or coronavirus symptoms rather than those following government advice about social distancing or where an employer has ceased trading.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – will be available to those not eligible for SSP (for example people who are self employed or do not earn enough) if they are directly affected by Covid 19 or self-isolating in line with government advice, from the first day of sickness without any waiting days.

Universal Credit (UC) – advance payments will be available for those directly affected by Covid 19 or self-isolating in line with government advice, without the requirement to attend a job centre. From 6 April, the minimum income requirements are suspended for all UC claimants for the duration of the outbreak.

Benefit Increases – from 6 April the standard rate of UC and the basic element of Working Tax Credit (WTC) is increased by £20 a week until April 2021.

Other Provisions – benefit claimants affected by Coronavirus will not be required to attend job centre appointments and face to face assessments for sickness and disability benefits are suspended. Job seeking conditions attached to UC or Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) are currently suspended until the end of June 2020.

Those who were due to have their benefits reassessed will continue to receive their payments while their assessment is rearranged – effectively suspending reassessments for three months.

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