COVID-19 (2021)

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Universal Credit

Universal Credit

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Impacts on Universal Credit

Updated: 27 April 2021

Coronavirus and claiming benefits

Keep updated with how the Coronavirus is impacting Universal Credit

The DWP have created a dedicated page which provides information about coronavirus and claiming benefits. Please check this page regularly for updates on the arrangements the Department for Work and Pensions is making to support those who are affected by coronavirus.

IMPORTANT: If you’ve made a claim for benefits recently make sure to answer your phone as Job Centre staff are working around the clock to process claims – including weekends and evenings. They could call from an 0800, unknown, private or unnamed number so please answer the call.

New Universal Credit claims - Don’t call the DWP, they will call you

People making new claims for Universal Credit will no longer need to call the DWP as part of the process. Instead, a bolstered frontline team will proactively call claimants if they need to check any of the information provided as part of the claim.

The DWP are asking people to avoid calling if they can to free up the staff to make the calls and advise that most of their services are available online and can be accessed 24/7.

Job centre appointments – January 2021

Jobcentres will remain open, as they have throughout this pandemic, to provide essential services and support to those who we cannot help in any other way, including homeless people

Jobcentres will be open from 10am to 2pm to help keep staff and customers as safe as possible in the latest phase of this pandemic. Members of the public entering a jobcentre, unless exempt, will be required to wear a face covering.

They will ensure that this support continues to be delivered in line with the latest government and PHE guidance – such as maintaining social distancing and rigorous cleaning regimes - keeping our colleagues and customers safe.

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible.

Work Coaches will be empowered to support customers through the best and most appropriate channels - whether online, by phone, or in person - with jobcentres remaining open to help those who need extra support and are unable to interact with us on the phone or digitally.

Their Work Coaches will continue to deliver employment support programmes such as the Job Entry Targeted Support (JETs) scheme, by phone or through online channels.

Face-to-face assessments for disability benefits remain suspended.

If you think you might be entitled to a health and disability benefit, you should contact them as soon as possible to make a claim in the usual way.

For existing customers, payments will continue as normal. Anyone who has a change in their needs should contact them immediately so they can ensure you are receiving the correct level of support.

On 3 November 2020, they also confirmed that the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for self-employed customers claiming Universal Credit in England, Scotland, and Wales has been extended to the end of April 2021. This means that self-employed customers on Universal Credit will receive a payment that reflects their earnings at this difficult time.

If you are already claiming Universal Credit are think you may have been affected by Coronavirus, you must contact your JCP Work Coach as soon as possible, by:

  • using your online journal, or
  • calling the Universal Credit helpline 0800 328 5644

Find out what you can do if you are struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Use this GOV.UK service to find out what help you can get if you are affected by coronavirus. You can use it for yourself or someone else.  You can find information about:

  • feeling unsafe
  • going in to work
  • paying bills or being unemployed
  • getting food
  • having somewhere to live
  • mental health and wellbeing

DWP Updates

Work Capability Assessments remain suspended (8/2/2021)

The DWP has confirmed that to protect vulnerable claimants during the pandemic, face-to-face Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) remain suspended.

The DWP are continuing to increase the number of assessments over the phone and increase in the number of Limited Capability for Work and Fit for Work decisions, to ensure claimants receive the correct benefit entitlement and labour market support as quickly as possible, and reduce the time those who may be entitled to a higher award have to wait for their assessment. Find out more about:

New winter package to provide further support for children and families (9/11/2020)

This weekend the Government announced that children and families will get extra support this winter, with local councils given new funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items.

  • £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter
  • Holiday Activities and Food programme to be expanded, covering Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021
  • Healthy Start payments set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021
  • Suite of measures represents long-term plan to help tackle poor health, hunger and education.

We will provide more updates when available.  You can find out more on

Universal Credit - Minimum Income Floor for the self-employed (6/11/2020)

The Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit (UC) claimants will remain suspended until the end of April 2021, extending a vital lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people.

The further suspension means that self-employed people will continue to receive financial support from UC based on their current actual earnings. This provides additional protection for those who experience a drop in earnings due to the impact of COVID-19.

For further information, please visit GOV.UK.  This support is in addition to the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme announced on 2 November.

Update: Claimants must attend telephone health assessments (6/11/2020)

When telephone health assessments were introduced for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) earlier this year, an easement was put in place so that Fail to Attend (FTA) and Fail to Participate (FTP) actions did not take place as a result of someone not attending a scheduled telephone assessment.

This has now changed and the ESA and UC telephone assessment appointment letters will make it clear that claimants must attend their telephone appointment. FTA and FTP action will apply, e.g. benefit may be stopped (ESA) or entitlement change (UC), for those who have been issued with this letter and fail to attend or participate in their appointments without good reason.

Furlough extended until the end of March 2021 & increased support for self-employed (5/11/2020)

The furlough scheme that pays 80% of the wages of people who cannot work because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has been extended until the end of March 2021.  Plus, the next self-employed income support grant will also increase from 55% to 80% of average profits - up to £7,500.  Find out more on the website.

Extension of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) support for those impacted by COVID-19 (16 October 2020)

The DWP has announced an extension of ESA for those impacted by Covid-19. This means that ESA will remain available from day one to people with coronavirus or who have to self-isolate until 12 May 2021
The extended regulations remove the seven ESA waiting days, and treat claimants as having Limited Capability for Work without the requirement for fit notes or a Work Capability Assessment. This applies to both new style and legacy ESA new claims and ensures that support is provided as early as possible to those who are affected by Coronavirus.

Applying for ESA

  1. Make sure you follow the right process do you get the correct benefit you are entitled to.
  2. There are 3 different types of ESA - ‘new style’, contributory and income-related.  The type you get depends on your circumstances and it is important they check your eligibility on before making an application.  Check here:
  3. Once you have established which type of ESA you are eligible for, you need to follow the correct application process to make sure you get the money they are entitled to as smoothly as possible: Claim here:

  • Plans set out to support pupils eligible for free school meals (19/03/2020)

    Children eligible for free school meals will be offered meals or vouchers as an alternative if they can no longer attend school due to coronavirus measures

  • Government agrees measures with energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19 (19/03/2020)

    Proposals agreed to ensure vulnerable customers who may fall into debt remain supplied with energy while in self isolation.

  • Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters (18/03/2020)

    Government announces radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. Expired 21 September 2020.

  • Coronavirus and claiming benefits
    This page provides information about coronavirus and claiming benefits. It will continue to be updated. Please check this page regularly for updates on the arrangements the Department for Work and Pensions is making to support those who are affected by coronavirus.

  • £3.2 million emergency support for rough sleepers during coronavirus outbreak (17/03/2020)

    Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announces £3.2 million emergency funding to help rough sleepers to self-isolate.

  • Don’t miss out, claim Child Benefit by phone or post (07/04/2020)

    Parents of new-borns will still be able to claim Child Benefit despite the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). Even though General Register Offices remain closed for now, parents can still claim Child Benefit without having to register their child’s birth first to ensure that they do not miss out.

  • Support towards funeral expenses (14/04/2020)

    Financial support helping families meet the costs of funeral expenses such as coffins and funeral directors’ fees has increased from £700 to £1,000. The change, announced in November 2019, came into effect on 8 April 2020. It means that the maximum amount families can claim for these type of costs will rise by 43 per cent. This payment is on top of existing allowances that pay for other funeral costs, such as burial or cremation fees.

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (24/04/2020)

    The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now open for applications. Employers can claim online for a grant for 80% of their furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month. A simple, step-by-step guide is available for employers on GOV.UK.

  • Job Retention Scheme update (18/05/2020)

    The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme will be extended for four months until the end of October. After July, greater flexibility will be introduced to the scheme, allowing employers to move out of it in a measured way that protects people’s incomes and helps support furloughed employees as they return to work. This will run for three months from August through to the end of October. During this period, employers currently using the scheme will have more flexibility to bring their furloughed employees back to work part time.

  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance online claims (24/04/2020)
    You can now apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance online, where you are not already claiming Universal Credit. Making an application online instead of over the phone should be a lot quicker. However, if you are not able to use the online service, you can continue to make an application over the phone and the normal reasonable adjustment process continues to apply for those who need it, for example using Braille or large print communications. If you have applied for Universal Credit, or are already receiving Universal Credit, you should sign in to your Universal Credit account and use your online journal to inform your work coach or case manager about applying for New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

  • New video service for deaf claimants accessing Universal Credit (24/04/2020)

    Universal Credit claimants can now access British Sign Language interpreters as part of a free video relay service (VRS). Over the coming months VRS will be further extended into all DWP services. VRS is already available for British Sign Language (BSL) people who claim DWP disability benefits as well as Access to Work. VRS enables BSL people to contact DWP via a BSL interpreter. The customer uses a video link accessed through their own computer, smartphone or tablet. The interpreter will then speak to a DWP agent relaying the conversation by phone. There is no need for anyone to be in the same location and the customer does not have to book the service in advance. This means that the customer and DWP agent can have a telephone conversation in real time

  • Benefits information available via WhatsApp (18/05/2020)

    People can now access the most up-to-date benefits and support information via their smart phones, using WhatsApp. The service, which can be accessed by sending ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to 07860 064 422, has been launched by the DWP to help combat the spread of incorrect information and to make the correct information easily accessible.

  • Information on furlough (18/05/2020)

    The DWP have updated our Employment and Benefits Support site with information about furlough. The page offers straightforward information about what furlough is, eligibility, how furlough interacts with benefits and guidance and signposting on taking alternative work while furloughed.

  • Access to Work – new measures to support customers (18/05/2020)

    To ensure disabled people remain supported in work through this period the DWP have introduced new measures for Access to Work. These include:

    • prioritising new applications from critical workers and those starting work within the next 4 weeks
    • extending the timeframe to submit claim forms to 9 months
    • extending Support Worker awards that are coming to an end, by 6 months
    • accepting employer and support worker signatures via email
    • delivering workplace assessments and Mental Health Support Services via telephone or accessible alternatives.

  • Information about claiming Universal Credit when you are in receipt of legacy benefits (18/05/2020)

    If you're already getting a legacy benefit like tax credits, and you move to Universal Credit, you won’t be able to go back – watch their animation on Facebook to find out how this could affect your benefits.

  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (18/05/2020)
    HMRC are contacting customers who may be eligible for the new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.  The scheme will allow customers to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500, equivalent to three months’ profits.  People can check if HMRC think they are eligible for the scheme by using the new online checker. The checker also gives the date from which they can make a claim.

  • Pension Credit online service (18/05/2020)

    The DWP have introduced a new service so pensioners can now apply for Pension Credit online. This will supplement the existing telephone and postal claim services. It will enable customers to make a claim without having to leave home to post forms or wait to get through on the phone – helping them also to adhere to social distancing and shielding measures.  To ensure security for customers any personal information will be sent direct to DWP. They will also only pay people into the verified account that they get their State Pension paid into.

  • Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme is now live (2/6/2020)

    If you’re an employer with fewer than 250 employees, you can now claim for Coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). You can also speak to your tax agent about making claims on your behalf.

  • Concerned how COVID-19 might affect your pension? (2/6/2020)

    Then read this new DWP guide for common sense information and support.

  • Tell Us Once service – support to help sort out a loved ones affairs following bereavement (2/6/2020)

    If you have suffered the loss of a friend and family member, the ‘Tell Us Once’ service helps you inform central and local government departments, as well as a range of public sector pension schemes, alleviating the need to contact different people across a range of organisations at a time when you are most vulnerable. The Registrar can provide you with a unique reference number when you register the death or obtain an interim death certificate. You can then access the service via telephone or online.

  • BSL Video Relay Service (VRS) expanded to Jobseeker’s Allowance & Income Support (9/6/2020)

    The DWP have rolled out VRS to Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. Customers can make a call to DWP via a British Sign Language interpreter using a video connection. The service will be rolled out to more service lines later in June.

  • New British Sign Language (BSL) videos - coronavirus and benefit changes (15/06/2020)

    DWP have produced a range of BSL videos on coronavirus and benefit changes, including new content for Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay.  
    You can view these videos on the DWP YouTube Sign channel:  More Videos about Access to Work, PIP, Carer’s Allowance and Child Maintenance will be added soon.

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) update (03/08/2020)

    From the 1 August there were the changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) from 1 August 2020. The scheme will no longer fund employers’ National Insurance (NI) and pensions contributions. Employers will have to make these payments from their own resources for all employees, whether furloughed or not. Further information can be found on GOV.UK.

    HMRC has also published guidance for anyone who has claimed too much or not enough from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

  • Shielding and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) update (03/08/2020)

    From the 1 August, individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable are no longer be required to shield. This means those who are unable to work from home but can work on site should do so, providing the workplace is COVID-safe.

    Employers are encouraged to help their employees to transition back to work safely and support them to follow strict social distancing in the workplace.

    Individuals will no longer be eligible for SSP based on being clinically extremely vulnerable.

    If shielding guidance is reintroduced, either in the case of local lockdowns or nationally, and individuals receive a notification advising them to shield, they will be eligible to receive SSP again if they meet all eligibility criteria.

  • New Skills Toolkit courses – boost your job prospects (9/02/2020)

    This week more free courses have been added to The Skills Toolkit, with topics including getting the most out of Microsoft Outlook, introductions to finance and bookkeeping and understanding how computer networks operate. The online learning platform is available to everyone and provides easy access to a selection of high-quality digital and numeracy courses, which can help you build up your skills, progress in work and boost your job prospects.

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) eligibility extended to patients who are advised to self-isolate ahead of surgery and who are unable to work as a result  (15/9/20) 

    SSP is paid from day one for employees who are sick or self-isolating due to coronavirus for 4 days or more. Where someone is advised to self-isolate for 3 days prior to surgery, and they are unable to work on the day of the surgery, they would also be eligible for SSP.

  • Extension of furlough and support for the self-employed (5/3/2021)

    The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of September. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.
    The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will continue with a fourth and a fifth grant. More than 600,000 people, many of whom became self-employed in 2019-20, may now be able to claim direct cash grants under SEISS.

  • Universal Credit uplift and advances repayments (5/3/2021)

    The Government has confirmed a temporary 6-month extension to the £20 uplift and a one off payment worth £500 for Working Tax Credit claimants.

    From April 2021, new claimants will be able to spread Universal Credit advances repayments over a 24-month period and the maximum rate of deductions from Universal Credit will be reduced for all to 25%. Reducing the maximum deduction rate to 25% of a claimant’s standard allowance will allow more than 350,000 families with significant debts to retain more of their monthly award for their day-to-day needs.  

  • Face-to-face assessments to resume for health and disability benefits (27/4/2021)

    In line with the latest public health guidance and adhering to strict safety protocols, the DWP plans to begin reintroducing face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits.  People will be invited for their appointments by letter, which will clearly set out what to expect at their appointment.  Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based assessments, and telephone assessments (for Work Capability Assessments and Personal Independence Payments), which will continue to take place where suitable. Find out more here.

Universal Credit  

The Government has introduced the new Universal Credit (UC) welfare benefit, which replaces several existing benefits including Housing Benefit. UC will affect people who are both in and out of work, and of working age.

Although you may not be claiming benefits at the moment, you or a member of your household may have a change in circumstances.

If you’re struggling to make an online claim, contact the UC Helpline on 0800 328 5644 available Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm.

How will I know if I am affected?

You will only be affected if you have a change in circumstances or need to make a new benefits claim and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will advise you of this. 

How do I make a claim?

UC claims need to be made online via which can be completed via Job Centre Plus or at home, using a PC, tablet or smartphone. You can get online at a free digital hub near you which is run by our charitable arm, Torus Foundation. 

To make a claim, you will need:

  • An email address
  • A bank, building society or credit union account
  • You will need to know your weekly rent charge (including service charges if applicable)
  • Your income details and for those living with you (including benefits)
  • Your National Insurance (NI) number and the NI for each family member who are part of the claim

What happens once you’ve made the claim?

  • You will receive a Job Centre appointment to verify your claim - remember to take photo ID (a passport or driving licence), your tenancy agreement and an up to date rent statement.
  • Go online to make an appointment with your Work Coach to agree and sign your ‘Claimant Commitment’. Remember to keep your search for work and journal up to date and regularly check your online ‘to do list’ to see if the DWP has sent you actions regarding your claim.
  • Failing to comply with these UC requirements may affect payments towards your housing costs.
  • If you do not pay your rent to us it could result in action being taken to recover the tenancy.

Is there any financial help while waiting for my claim?

  • You can apply for an advance payment during your interview with the work coach. This advance payment is interest free and you will have 12 months to pay this back, but please note that your UC payments will be reduced during that time to cover the repayments of the advance payment. 
  • If you have any concerns about your rent during this time, please speak to your Rent Officer.

Support Available

Our charitable arm, Torus Foundation can offer you advice on making an online claim by assisting with:

  • Free IT training and access to the Internet, including setting up an email address
  • Advice on setting up a bank, building society or credit union account
  • Employment training and support
  • Signpost to services for budgeting, debt, energy & utility debt and benefit advice
  • Food bank vouchers


Universal Credit Payments

The Monthly Assessment Period will commence one month from the date the claim is made*.

*Based on advice from the Government

Remember to pay your rent as soon as your first UC payment is received.

Talk to us today

If you’re having difficulty, don’t struggle alone. Contact our Welfare Reform Team via 0800 678 1894.