Benefits and accessing cash - coronavirus advice
The coronavirus outbreak has led to some changes for those already claiming benefits, for those making new claims and those accessing cash. We've outlined some of these changes.
I'm making a new benefits claim, how will it be affected?
You can continue to make new benefit claims, but the claim might be affected, but it will depend on what benefit the claim is for.
- If you’ve recently made a new claim for Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Industrial Disablement Benefit and you’re waiting to hear about your assessment but you haven’t had a date set, then you don’t have to do anything. You’ll be contacted via phone or letter to let you know the next steps. You can find more information about that here.
- If you’re making any new benefits or pension claim, you’ll no longer be able to receive payments through a Post Office card account. Instead, you’ll be paid via a standard account (e.g. a bank account) or, if this isn’t possible for you, via the HM Government Payment Exception Service. Anyone already receiving benefits payments via a Post Office card account won’t be affected.
I already claim certain benefits, how will they be affected?
A few general things have changed that may affect the benefits you already claim. We outline them here but there is more information about specific benefits below.
- If you receive benefits you may not have to attend jobcentre appointments, but you’ll continue to receive payments as normal.
- For anyone already claiming benefits that has a review or reassessment coming up, this may automatically be extended at your current rate. You’ll be advised if you have to do anything by the relevant benefit office. If there are any changes in your circumstances, you should still notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in the normal way.
- If you’re unable to leave your home or have been diagnosed with coronavirus you won’t be sanctioned for not complying with any work requirements as long as you’ve notified DWP for review (e.g. through your online journal for Universal Credit).
Specific benefits: what's changed?
As well as some of the general changes outlined above, there are some changes that specific benefits. Click on the benefit below to find out more.
Council Tax Support
Statutory Sick Pay
New Style Employment and Support Allowance
Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance
I'm worried about accessing cash. What can I do?
Coronavirus has meant it might have been tricky to access your money. However, banks are required, by the Financial Conduct Authority, to help customers who might have difficulty accessing their services or using online banking, for example.
Several banks have proactively contacted older customers to help them get access to cash. But, if you haven’t heard from your bank, there are other options.
Many banks have set up helplines to support older and potentially more vulnerable customers at the moment.
You can find a list of the banks and their numbers here on the Which? website.
However, these helplines are particularly busy at the moment. So while it’s certainly worth giving them a ring, you might have to wait a little to get through. When talking to your bank, you’ll also have to prove you are who you say you are so it’s a good idea to have a recent bank statement handy.
You may have forgotten your PIN or password. But don’t worry, there are other ways to prove your identity, such as confirming any recent transactions.
If you call up and don’t think you’re getting the right help, ask to speak to your bank’s vulnerable customer team. Banks are required to help older and more vulnerable customers.
While not all banks will offer the same services, there are a few ways your bank might be able to help you, which include:
- sending you cash securely through the post
- issuing PIN numbers through the post or via mobile phones to allow a third party to withdraw cash for you
- using the Post Office’s third-party cheque cashing and voucher service (see below).
As well as services from banks, the Post Office all also offering ways to help you access cash.
- Payout Now: A bank will send you (via email, text or post) a voucher that a third party can take to the post office to get cash on your behalf
- Fast PACE: A third party will be able to cash a cheque on your behalf.
If you want to use either service, you’ll have to contact your bank and confirm you want to do so and set up access.
If you have a Post Office Card Account, you can appoint a ‘Permanent Manager’ who can have a card to access cash for you. You can now appoint this person over the phone by calling 03457 22 33 44.
If you already have an account, the DWP might contact you to check you’re able to access payments.
Test and Trace Support Payments
If you're unable to work because you're self-isolating, you might be eligible for a Test and Trace Support Payment of £500. To be eligible you must meet the following criteria:
- Be asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because you've tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has.
- Be employed or self-employed.
- Be unable to work from home and lose income as a result.
- Be receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.
You can still apply if your claim for one of the qualifying benefits has been approved and you made the claim no later than two weeks after your period of self-isolation has ended.