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Welfare Rights/Benefit Advice

Coronavirus - Benefit Advice. Frequently Asked Questions

ACHA understands that this is a very challenging time for our tenants. Our trained Welfare Rights Officers are keen to discuss with you the support available in your particular situation.

If you contact your local housing office a referral will be put through to our Welfare Rights Officers who will call you with a telephone appointment, where your concerns can be addressed.

You can also find useful information on Argyll and Bute Council's website about the benefits you can claim if you have been made redundant/laid off or are self-isolating or ill due to COVID-19 (or caring for someone who is?)

With all but essential workers having to stay at home there are a lot of changes to people's personal circumstances and changes in the support available. We've listed below some helpful advice and guidance around questions you might have during this difficult period. Please click on the links below to be taken to sources for more information

If you are worried about a change in circumstances due to loss of earnings, please contact our Welfare Rights Service; on 0800 028 2755, through your local housing office or at welfarerights@acha.co.uk. We can assist with income maximisation and tenancy sustainment issues. It is important you keep in touch with ACHA if you are experiencing problems paying your rent.

In recognition that not all work can be carried out at home the government has introduced the Coronavirus Retention Scheme. This enables employers to claim 80% of the salary costs for their employees who are not able to work from home. This scheme includes all employees including those on zero hour or variable hour contracts.

1) I cannot work due to the coronavirus, am I entitled to claim any benefits?

If you are unable to do home working and not being paid through the Coronavirus Retention Scheme there are a number of benefits you may be eligible for including Universal Credit, Council Tax Reduction, Statutory Sick Pay, New Style Employment and Support Allowance or New Style Job Seekers Allowance.

if you are unable to claim online you can call:

  • Universal credit - 0800 328 5644
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance – 0800 328 5644
  • New Style Job Seekers Allowance – 0800 055 6688

For a full list of benefits you may be entitled to go to https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits and https://www.socialsecurity.gov.scot for benefits that have been devolved to Scotland

2) How do I make a claim to Universal Credit (UC)?

Our Welfare Rights Officers will be able to assist you with this, they can be contacted on 0800 028 2755, through your local housing office or by email at welfarerights@acha.co.uk

Claims can be made online at https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit, you will need to have an email address. If you are unable to complete an online claim, please contact Universal Credit on 0800 328 5644. This phone line is very busy at the moment with increasing numbers of people applying for Universal Credit. Here is a useful step by step guide . This includes information you will need to have at hand to submit your claim for universal credit.

You can apply for Council Tax Reduction through Argyll and Bute Council’s Tax Reduction and Benefits Enquiry line on 01546 605512. You can use this link to claim council tax reduction

3) When will I receive my first Universal Credit payment?

One month plus one week from the date of claim. e.g. for a claim made to Universal Credit 18th March, the first payment will be made 25th April. Any subsequent payments would be paid on the 25th of each month.

4) I have no money to keep me going until I get a payment from Universal Credit. What do I do?

You can claim an advance from Universal Credit – there is currently a backlog with this but requests are being processed as quickly as possible by the Job Centre. It is important to remember that advance payments must be paid back. Payments will be deducted from your ongoing award of universal credit on a monthly basis. If you are struggling financially another alternative is making an application for a crisis grant, using these links Crisis Grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund through Argyll and Bute Council.

If you are struggling to buy food you can contact your local community food organisation to request a food parcel.

5) Will I need to attend the Job Centre for any claims I make to benefits?

At the moment no face to face assessments are being carried out for any benefits. If you are claiming Universal Credit you should keep in touch with your work coach through your online journal.

6) I am self-employed and due to the current situation have no work, what can I claim?

If you are self-employed through the coronavirus (COVID-19) the government has made provision to assist the self-employed through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. This scheme, if eligible will provide you with a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. It is anticipated that the first payments will be made by June 2020. HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. Please note if you have not submitted your income tax Self-Assessment Tax Return for the tax year 2018-2019, you must do this by 23.04.20

Meantime you can claim Universal Credit .

If you have paid sufficient national insurance contributions you may be eligible for New Style Employment and Support Allowance or New Style Jobseekers Allowance

if you are unable to claim online you can call:

  • Universal credit - 0800 328 5644
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance - 0800 328 5644
  • New Style Job Seekers Allowance – 0800 055 6688

7) I work a zero-hour or variable hours' contract, am I entitled to claim my benefits?

Coronavirus Retention Scheme - If you are a zero hours or variable hours worker you are entitled to receive 80% of your average salary (calculated over a period no more than 12 months) or your salary for the same month last year – whichever is the highest

If you are unable to do home working and not being paid through the Coronavirus Retention Scheme there are several benefits you may be eligible for e.g. Universal Credit, Council Tax Reduction, Statutory Sick Pay, New Style Employment and Support Allowance or New Style Job Seekers Allowance.

For a full list of benefits you may be entitled to go to https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits an https://www.socialsecurity.gov.scot for benefits that have been devolved to Scotland

if you are unable to claim online you can call:

  • Universal credit - 0800 328 5644
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance – 0800 328 5644
  • New Style Job Seekers Allowance – 0800 055 6688

8) I am currently on Universal Credit and my income has reduced/stopped. How will Universal Credit know?

It is important to make sure that you advise Universal Credit about any changes to your circumstances that may affect the amount you are awarded. You can do this by updating your online journal online journal detailing how and when your circumstances changed.

You can ask for an advance until your Universal Credit is adjusted but remember any advances will be recovered by deductions from your ongoing Universal Credit award.

Please remember to update your online journal with your annual rent increase as soon as possible to make sure you continue to receive the correct housing costs.

HOUSING BENEFIT

9) I am on partial housing benefit due to my earnings, but my income has reduced/stopped. How do I make up the difference to pay my rent?

Contact Argyll and Bute Council and advise them of your change in circumstances. If you are not able to complete the online form you can contact them on 01546 605512 or benefitsgeneralenquiries@argyll-bute.gov.uk. Your entitlement to housing benefit will then be amended to reflect your change in income. If your income reduces, your entitlement to housing benefit will usually increase. If income stops please contact ACHA’s Welfare Rights Service; on 0800 028 2755 or at welfarerights@acha.co.uk

10) I am in receipt of Personal Independence Payment/Employment and Support Allowance and I completed a review form recently. Will I be called in for a face to face medical assessment?

The Department for Work and Pensions has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits. If you already have an assessment appointment arranged, you do not need to attend. Your assessment provider will contact you to discuss your appointment and explain the next steps to you.

11) I feel like my situation is critical, I have no one to assist and I don't know where to turn for help.

Contact our Welfare Rights Service; on 0800 028 2755, through your local housing office or at welfarerights@acha.co.uk. One of our Welfare Rights Officers will contact you as quickly as possible to discuss your situation and provide you with any necessary advice or available assistance.

12) Useful Advice and Links

ACHA will continue to update their Think Money/Benefits Advice page as new information becomes available.

Partnership Action for Continued Employment (PACE) have produced a Facing Redundancy booklet that you may find useful. If you are worried about the short-term impact of COVID-19 on your employment, then you can contact the Pace Helpline on PACE helpline on 0800 917 8000.

We recognise that this is a very stressful time for people and that there can be a long waiting time for calls to help lines etc. You can find a range of useful information on the following websites.:

https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/coronavirus/claim

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

To see the Welfare Rights Services in your area, please see the related publications on the right hand side of the page.

A Step by Step Guide to applying for Universal Credit

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