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31/03/2020

Coronavirus: Useful links and national guidance  

31/03/2020

Coronavirus: Useful links and national guidance  

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As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reaches over 22,000 across the UK, Brits continue to adapt to a new way of life in a bid to curb the virus.

For many a health crisis of this scale is something they could never have imagined – a scene from international newsreels or a Hollywood blockbuster.

However, as the latest figures show 18,594 positive cases in England, 1,563 in Scotland, 1,451 in Wales and 533 in Northern Ireland it is clear coronavirus is having a deep and lasting impact on communities far and wide.

This week Britain enters its second week of ‘lockdown’ as health professionals and government officials continue to grapple with the global pandemic.

And while we’re all getting used to the concept of social distancing and self-isolation many are wondering how essential daily life – from benefits claims to getting in touch with your doctor – can continue during these unprecedented times.

Here we offer an insight into the national guidance surrounding coronavirus as well as useful links to help you make sure you receive the benefits you’re entitled to during the outbreak.

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Stay home, protect the NHS

With the number of positive coronavirus cases continuing to rise across the UK people are being asked to follow strict new rules to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The new rules say Brits should stay at home and limit social interaction as much as possible to stop mounting pressure on the NHS and save lives as they are reminded, they can spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms.

Government guidelines state people should:

  • not meet others who don’t live with them, even friends or family
  • only go outside for food / health or medical reasons and only go to work if it’s not possible to work from home
  • stay two metres (six foot) away from anyone when outside
  • regularly wash hands throughout the day and when they get home

Further information about coronavirus and the latest updates from the government can be found here.

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What if I’m showing symptoms of coronavirus?

Special measures have been put in place to help prevent the spread of the virus.

If you show symptoms, it’s important to be aware of what you should do next.

NHS and government advice states if you have developed a new cough and / or fever / high temperature you should self-isolate at home from the first sign of illness – even if you think they are mild.

You shouldn’t attend your GP practice, however, should call if your symptoms:

  • get worse during isolation
  • are severe or you are short of breath
  • haven’t improved after seven days

You should also call your GP if your symptoms worsen or you become breathless, especially if:

  • are over 60
  • are diabetic
  • have a weakened immune system or are living with cancer

If you are unable to contact your GP you should call NHS 24 on 111. If you have a medical emergency, you should call 999 and tell them you have coronavirus symptoms.

For NHS advice about the virus, click here.

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I’m unable to work because of coronavirus, can I claim benefits?

If you are unable to work because of the virus because you are ill yourself or because you are self-isolating as a family member has shown symptoms, you can access Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that SSP – which is paid at £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks – will be offered to those unable to work due to the virus.

You will be able to claim sick pay from day one of illness instead of day four as is usually the case.

To be eligible for SSP you must be classed as an employee or an agency worker, and currently, work for a company. You must also earn at least £118 per week.

Gig-economy workers or those on zero hours contacts may be able to access sick pay, however, should also consider alternative support such as Universal Credit.

If you are required to provide evidence to your employer that you have had to self-isolate because you have symptoms of coronavirus yourself, you should download an Isolation Note from NHS 111.

Alternatively, if you are required to self-isolate because a family member is showing symptoms, you can download an Isolation Note here.

If you’re searching for further information about sick pay or are interested in applying, you should visit the government website here.

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What can I do if I’m not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?

For those not able to access sick pay there are alternative benefits available to offer support during this difficult time.

The most popular if Universal Credit – this is an option available to gig-economy workers, those on a zero hours contract and self-employed Brits during the outbreak.

Mr Sunak announced that people affected by coronavirus can access Universal Credit at the same rate as sick pay.

This means those who apply can claim £94.25 per week.

What’s more, 2020 will see the standard allowance for the benefit increase by £1,000 for the next 12 months. Now the standard allowance for a single claimant aged 25 or over is £409.80 – an extra £20 a week for new and existing claimants.

It’s important to note the working tax credit basic element – which had been replaced by Universal Credit for some – will be boosted by the same amount.

For more information or to apply for Universal Credit, click here.

Brits in need of financial support during the outbreak can also turn to contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA).

This is a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit.

ESA is a contributory benefit this means that in order to qualify you must have paid or been credited with enough national insurance contributions in the two full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.

Available to those aged 25 and over who have fallen ill or required to self-isolate, this benefit will pay up to £73 per week.

If you are interested in claiming ESA you should be aware that this payment is being made from the first day rather than the eighth as is usually the case.

More details and application forms can be found here.

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Will coronavirus affect the benefits I currently receive?

The coronavirus outbreak won’t affect benefit payments you already receive but it’s important to be aware of a few changes during this time.

Firstly, you will not be required to attend a jobcentre appointment for three months – this was announced by the government on March 19, 2020. Whilst personal visits are suspended, you will still receive your benefit payments as usual.

If you receive Universal Credit and have been affected by the virus, you should inform your work coach as soon as possible using your online journal.

Are there any changes to health assessments?

During the outbreak, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has suspended all face-to-face assessments for all health and disability-related benefits.

This is to help protect those deemed to be the most vulnerable with pre-existing health conditions.

Anyone with an assessment appointment arranged will not be required to attend and an assessment provider will be in touch to discuss the next steps.

The same applies to those who have made a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB). For those already receiving any of the above, your payments will continue as normal.

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Concerned about debt during the outbreak? You’re not alone

Adjusting to a new way of living and working during the coronavirus outbreak is daunting and can be even more so for those struggling with debt.

If you’re worried about what you owe during the outbreak it’s important to know you’re not alone. This may be a time of self-isolation, but you can find advice and support from our expert advisors. Call 0808 2234 102 for friendly support today.

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