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COVID-19 Benefit Advice

With the government estimating that a fifth of the working age population could be off work due to the spread of the virus over the next few months, they are going to put in place temporary measures to help people access money. Please note due to the fast-changing situation regarding COVID-19, this advice may become outdated. Therefore, always check the websites linked below or contact our Welfare Benefit Officer, Aisha Nadeem on 0131 444 1200 for further advice.

We have put together some additional information on benefits in a PDF you can access here.

For information about the changes the government has brought in to support people who are already claiming benefits, need to claim benefits, or are at risk of losing their job as a result of Coronavirus, see the government's new Employment and Benefits Support site.

If you are in employment and are looking for advice, please visit our 'Advice for Tenants in Employment' page by clicking here.

Here are some common questions and answers that you may find of help.

I am self-employed and self-isolating, what help can I get?

If you have paid NI contributions for the last 2 years you may be able to claim the New Style ESA. You can find more information here. You should be able to claim from day one. You may also be entitled to Universal Credit due to reduction of income and for housing cost if renting. The minimum income floor will not apply. To make a claim, click here.

If you are self-employed and already claiming Universal Credit, then the 'minimum income floor' for the universal credit benefit will be removed. If you've been running your business for a year or longer when you claim universal credit, the Government works out your benefit payment based on the minimum income floor. If you earn more than the minimum income floor you get less universal credit, while if you earn less than the minimum income floor you currently don't get any extra money to make up the difference.

Removing the minimum income floor means that some claimants will get extra money to make up for lost earnings, if they decrease due to the coronavirus.

HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help self -employed  in financial distress due to tax liabilities to agree a Time to Pay Arrangement. If you run a business or are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice: 0800 0159 559.

I'm self-isolating and my work has said they will pay me statutory sick pay (SSP), but this is all. I'm going to struggle to manage, is there anything else I can claim?

If you currently don’t get any benefits at all then you will need to make a claim to UC. You can make a claim here online. 

However, if you are currently claiming tax credits and or housing benefit, these benefits will stop, and you may get less benefit in the long run. If you are claiming these benefits then it is best to get further advice from the Benefits Officers.

I'm on a zero-hour contract, am I entitled to sick pay?

Agency, casual and zero-hours workers can get SSP if they meet the eligibility conditions. This means you must earn an average £118 per week. If you earn less than that you may be able to claim the New Style ESA and/or Universal Credit.

My pay from work has dropped and I'm really struggling. I've been told that if I make a claim for Universal Credit, I can get an interest free loan within days. Is this true?

Someone who makes a new claim for Universal Credit can receive an Advance Payment. How much they receive depends on their income and personal circumstances.  An Advance Payment is an interest free loan and you pay it back over 12 months – the repayments are taken out of your Universal Credit award before you receive the payment. If you are not are currently getting any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit, then you may have nothing to lose.  However, if you are getting them, then as soon as you make a claim for Universal Credit these benefits will stop, and you will not be able to get back on them.

I'm struggling to pay my rent, what help can I get?

You may be able to claim Universal Credit/housing benefit (dependent on age and type of housing) if your income has reduced. If you already get some housing benefit towards your rent but are still struggling, you may be able to claim Discretionary Housing Payments.

I have applied for Universal Credit, but I have no money right now. What should I do?

If you are struggling and in crisis then you can apply for grants through the Scottish Welfare scheme, they can provide you with small grants to assist you while wait for your payment. Contact your local authority for the Scottish Welfare payment.

I have received my Universal Credit, but I have a deduction because I have an extra bedroom, what should I do?

The bedroom tax is fully covered in Scotland. If your Universal credit shows a deduction due to a bedroom, then you need to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to make up the shortfall. You can claim through your Local Authority.

I've just been laid off and I've made a claim for Universal Credit. But, my outgoings are going to be much higher than my income, what can I do?

Make sure you claim Council Tax Support to help you with your Council Tax bill. If you pay rent and so have a Housing Costs Element included in your Universal Credit award, you can also try for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your Local Authority. Think about what bills/expenses you can cut down – there’s lots of useful information online. Speak to a Money Adviser who can help you renegotiate debt repayments and draw up a realistic budget. Contact your Local Authority and ask if they can provide any help through their Scottish Welfare Assistance fund. You could also contact your local Food Bank to see what help they can provide. You could also contact your local Food Bank to see what help they can provide.

I am self-employed and can no longer work, what can I apply for?

As announced if you have completed tax returns for the last three years, you will be eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. If you have less years trading but had made tax returns, they will use these to average what you earned. However, this scheme will not be available till June, and HMRC will contact you directly if you qualify. However, if you require immediate help and do not claim existing benefits, then you must make a claim for Universal Credit. Also, a claim to help with your council tax which can be made to your local authority. If you are in a crisis then please contact the Scottish Welfare fund which is also administered by your local council.

I have already made a claim for help through the Scottish Welfare Fund, can I make another if I'm still struggling?

Yes, the restriction for three claims per person in a year has been removed. This means people will be able to claim help though the Welfare Fund as long as they require, and will be able to make repeated claims. Please get in touch with your local council for further information.

I am worried about my council tax, can I get help with that?

You might qualify for help, to find out please contact your council, or visit their website for further information.