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COVID-19 Information Hub

Coronavirus & Claiming Benefits – Support for Individuals

On 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a package of support for businesses and individuals affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. This included advice concerning those who may find themselves having to turn to the State to support them through the benefits system. Please read on for a summary of advice issued by the government and our own supplementary commentary, analysis and guidance.

Updated 22/04/20

Government guidance:

Help for those who are temporarily sick with the Coronavirus will usually be met via Statutory Sick Pay (covered elsewhere in this series). Where this is not available, or you are made redundant and not retained under the ‘furloughed workers’ scheme, or your income falls below certain thresholds, or your personal circumstances are such that you are prevented from working, then the government may be able to help via the Universal Credit benefits system.


This very much depends upon your personal situation. A good starting point if you are financially affected by Coronavirus is to go to the click here to visit the government pages.

Although the government have relaxed some of the eligibility criteria, your level of income and capital (savings, investments & property) may affect your entitlement to Universal Credit. Essentially, you may be eligible if:

  • you’re on a low income or out of work
  • you’re over 18 (although some limited exceptions apply if you’re 16-17)
  • you’re under the State Pension age
  • you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
  • you live in the UK

How to access the scheme

You will need to:

  • visit the following this link to decide if you are eligible for Universal Credit
  • once eligibility has been established, visit the government page to begin the process of making the claim

Your first payment may take up to five weeks to arrive. You may be able to apply for a Universal Credit advance to help you manage during this initial period.

If you have been working for the last two to three years either as an employee or as a self-employed worker, have been making/credited with National Insurance Contributions (NICs), and are now unable to work due to illness, a long-term health condition or disability, you may be able to claim the ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This may be claimed either alone or in addition to the Universal Credit.

The ESA is normally payable fortnightly and is not affected by your level of savings, nor whether or not your spouse/partner is in work.

Click here for further information.

Kirk Rice commentary:

The government is keen to ensure that help is available for anyone who unexpectantly finds themselves in financial difficulty because of the Coronavirus. Whilst the Universal Credit system has come in for some serious stick in the past; it may well be vital in helping an increasing number of people during this crisis. The Employment and Support Allowance offers an alternative or even an additional route to gain financial help.

You should be aware that if you are eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, any grants made via that scheme will count as income for the purposes of your Universal Credit claim. You will be required to notify the Universal Credit team of the grants paid to you and potentially repay some, or all, of the Universal Credit paid out to you where the grant received pushes you over certain income thresholds. With this in mind, and because of the time lags involved in both schemes, it may make more sense to wait for HMRC to make payment of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant before you apply for Universal Credit, if you are financially able to do so.

In addition to Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Statutory Sick Pay, you should remember that if you have children and have been repaying Child Benefit in the past because either you or your partner has income over £50,000, or stopped claiming Child Benefit altogether because you or your partner had income over £60,000, and you now face redundancy or a cut in wages, then you should re-examine your Child Benefit claims in the light of your new situation.

Visit the government website child benefit page to notify HMRC of any changes to your circumstances that might affect your entitlement to Child Benefit.

We’ll be updating this page for the answers as and when they become available, so please, do check back regularly for further information.

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