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Newsletters: April 2020

 

April 2020 Newsletter

Welcome to our latest newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information. 

In this issue find out more about:

  • Coronavirus and Benefits Update - recent announcements you may have missed.
     
  • Coronavirus and the Self-Employed
     
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Changes
     
  • On HB and awaiting an increase in Tax Credits - make sure the HB office treat any backpay as savings and not income
     
  • UC not just for those on a low income - many of those on the max £2,500 furlough will be able to claim.
     
  • Free school meals - that can continue after you return to work.
     
  • UC Benefit Uprating - strange results.
     
  • UC and free prescriptions  - the form finally has a tick box for UC claimants!
     
  • Coronavirus and Benefits E-Learning  - free to use.

  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and chocolates for you!

Coronavirus & Benefits Update
Announcements you may have missed.......
  • Self-Employed Income Support Scheme payment to be treated as earnings for benefit purposes - click here.
     
  • JSA and UC work availability and work search requirements suspended for at least 3 months - click here.
     
  • The DWP have suspended recovery of certain debts (not third party deductions) from Universal Credit awards - click here.
     
  • Working Tax Credit award will continue for 8 weeks where a claimant has been furloughed or has seen a reduction in their hours - click here.
     
  • Certain prisoners who are being released early due to the Coronavirus will not fall under the definition of 'prisoner' and therefore be able to claim means-tested benefits (or be included in a claim for means-tested benefits) - click here.
     
  • The new Council Tax Hardship fund will reduce Council Tax Bills by up to £150 for anyone in receipt of Council Tax Support - click here.
     
  • Those getting Jobseekers Allowance will be treated as being capable of work when self-isolating ie due to having Coronavirus, having symptoms or being in same household as someone with Coronvirus or having symptoms. This period will not therefore be counted as a period of sickness and a JSA claimant will not lose entitlement to Jobseeker’s Allowance because of Coronavirus disease.
     
  • Carers will remain entitled to Carers Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring as a result of isolation due to, or infection or contamination with, Coronavirus of either the carer or the person cared for. 
     
  • The part of the Funeral Payment that covers the costs of additional expenses such as flowers, car hire, the funeral ceremony and funeral director charges for making the arrangements increases to £1,000 (from £700) for all deaths on or after 8th April 2020.
     
  • New Job Retention Scheme will open to applications from employers on 20th April 2020 - click here.
Click here for more information on what's changed

Coronavirus & the Self-Employed

On 26th March the government announced details of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. The aim of the scheme is to support the self-employed during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme will provide those who are eligible with a taxable grant, worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. The grant will cover March, April and May and it is expected that it will be paid as a lump sum in early June. 

More details on the scheme and who is eligible here.

How does Universal Credit fit in?

Many people will not be able to manage financially until June. 

If they are already getting Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit they should seek help from a benefit adviser to check if UC could be a better option for them now.

If they are not currently getting Tax Credits or HB, they could try for UC. 

The Minimum Income Floor has been suspended during the Coronavirus outbreak, therefore their UC award will be based on their actual income and allowable expenses.

When they receive the SEISS grant in June, they will need to report the payment and it will be treated as earnings for Universal Credit for the Monthly Assessment Period during which it is received. There will be no need for the DWP to reassess entitlement for March, April and May and there will be no overpayment of UC as a result.

If the claimant has been reporting a loss every month up to then, this can be offset against the grant and only the difference will be treated as earnings. More on this here.

For many, the lump sum SEISS grant payment will mean that the claimant's UC award reduces to nil for that month. It will be important for claimants to be aware that they will actively need to reclaim in order to be awarded UC for the following assessment period.

Some claimants will be affected by the 'surplus earnings' rule – where some of the surplus earnings, due to the SEISS grant, are expected to be used in the following month/s. More on this here.

 

Click here for more information on self-employed and UC
Click here for more information on self-employed and Tax Credits


Statutory Sick Pay changes

The Statutory Sick Pay Regulations have been amended due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

  • SSP is payable from day 1 (instead of from day 4) to employees who are 'self-isolating' or 'shielding' due to the Coronavirus.
  • Those who are 'self-isolating' because they or a member of their household is displaying symptoms of Coronavirus (however mild) are deemed to be incapable of work for the purposes of qualifying for SSP.
  • People who have existing health conditions which put them at a high risk of complications from the Coronavirus and who have been advised to 'shield' themselves (ie received a letter from the NHS) are deemed to be incapable of work for the purposes of qualifying for SSP.
More information here...

Coronvirus Briefing - have you seen version 4?

Click here
On HB and awaiting increase in Tax Credits?
 

The basic rate of Working Tax Credit has increased from 6th April. For 2019-20 it was £1,960 but it has increased to £3,040 for 2020-21. The larger than originally planned increase is part of the government's package of help due to the Coronavirus pandemic. (The standard allowance in Universal Credit has a similar increase - see below).

Claimants should receive their increases any time between 9th April and 14th May.
This means that claimants will receive some of the increase from 6th April 2020 in arrears.

Where a claimant is in receipt of Housing Benefit these arrears payments should be treated as capital and not as income.

HB Circular A7/2020 confirms that:
'
This means that in cases where HB claims do not see...the increased rate to the basic element of WTC applied to individual claims within the same benefit week, overpayments are not created.'

Click here for more information

UC not just for those on a low income
Furloughed workers who have been used to living off their wages might assume that there is no other help available to them while they are getting 80% of their earnings….but some will be entitled to a top-up of Universal Credit, so it is always worth checking!

As long as they meet the basic eligibility rules (eg they don’t have savings of more than £16,000, are not registered for the Tax Free Childcare Scheme, they are not affected by restrictions for some people who are not British citizens etc) they might be entitled. Universal Credit is calculated based on a claimant's / family’s ‘needs’ and their income and savings. So furloughed workers should get a benefit check to see if they could be eligible.
Click here for some figures and illustrative examples
And don't forget our UC calculator - here.
Coronavirus and Benefits

E-Learning

Have you taken the course yet?
Click here

Free School Meals
Families on Universal Credit whose earnings have dropped may find that they are now entitled to free school meals.

If their earnings have fallen below the limit to qualify, they can apply via their local authority or school.

It is worth noting that in England and Wales, once a family becomes entitled, they will remain on free school meals until the end of the child’s current stage of education (i.e. primary or secondary) even if their earnings increase above the limit or their UC award ends! 
You can find more information on this here.

Some families who have seen a drop in earnings (or who currently have no earnings) will still be getting Working Tax Credit. The government has relaxed the rules so that claimants can continue to be treated as working their normal hours for 8 weeks – we await further information on what will happen after that.

Those who are still getting Working Tax Credit will not qualify for free school meals, apart from claimants who are in the 4-week run-on (at the end of a WTC award) or those in Scotland who also get Child Tax Credit and their income is under £6900pa.

So, one of the factors to consider when thinking about whether to move to UC sooner rather than later could include whether they might qualify for free school meals - which would be from their second UC monthly assessment period onwards as the first MAP would have to have to show earned income below the limit to qualify.

Claimants should be encouraged to seek specialist benefits advice before moving from Tax Credits (or other legacy benefits) to UC – there is a lot to consider!

Whilst schools are closed for most pupils due to the Coronavirus pandemic, help in lieu of school meals is being provided in alternative ways, such as vouchers. Info here.

UC & Benefit Uprating
 
Both the Universal Credit Standard Allowance and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates are increasing more than originally planned. This is part of the government's package of help due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The general rule in Universal Credit - when there is a change in the Regulations - is that the change takes effect from the beginning of the claimant's first Monthly Assessment Period after the change takes place. This ensures that no-one benefits from the change for a period before the change was legally in place.

However, Regulations have been introduced that allow the increase in the Standard Allowance and LHA rates that took effect on 6th April 2020, to apply to a claimant's UC award from the beginning of the Monthly Assessment Period in which this change occurred.

But the normal rules will apply to all the other benefit rates changes.

So any UC assessment made between 7th April - 5th May will be calculated using the 2020/21 Standard Allowance and LHA rates (for those claimants living in private rented accommodation) but with all the other Elements based on the 2019/20 rates.

Example
Joseph gets Universal Credit. His Monthly Assessment Periods runs from the 18th of one month to the 17th of the next.
He lives in a social rented house with his 16 year old son.
When his Universal Credit is assessed on 17th April it will be based on the 2020/21 Standard Allowance, his rent as at w/c 13th April, and the 2019/20 Child Element.

 
More on how UC is assessed and the different elements - here
Have you seen
our new

Coronavirus and Benefits Summary Sheets?

here

UC & Free Prescriptions
 
New prescription forms should now be in use that include a box to tick if you are on Universal Credit and meet the conditions for getting free prescriptions.

For the last three years those UC claimants eligible for free prescriptions were advised to tick that they were on Income-Based JSA - which resulted in many people receiving £50 fines when they had done nothing wrong.

Hopefully the new form will help. But not all UC claimants can get free prescriptions - only those who are not working or whose earnings - during their most recent UC assessment period - were less than £435, or less than £935 if their benefit includes an element for either a child or a limited capability for work, will qualify.


Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank

 
Every month we give you the chance to win £50 for your local food bank
The winner will be selected at random and can nominate a food bank of their choice to receive a £50 cheque from us, and they will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

Well done to our March  winner - Amber from Halton Housing - a £50 cheque is making its way to her chosen food bank.

To enter this month's competition, just email your entry to us by Friday 8th May 2020 for your chance to win.

This month's competition question -

Register offices are closed to the public at the present time, so births cannot be registered.
Is the following statement true or false?

This means that no new claims for Child Benefit can be made until the Coronavirus lockdown is lifted.


Find your answer here

email your entry to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

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