The impact of Covid-19 has been, and will continue to bring changes in the Benefits system in the UK, and it will be harder than usual to get through to Job Centres and DWP helplines than usual, as the focus from the department moves to registering new claimants. It’s important that the adult family members who are claiming benefits keep a close eye on their online journal as this will be the primary way in which the DWP will communicate with those claiming benefits.
We have compiled key things to be aware of, and sought clarification from the DWP on key questions Community Sponsorship Groups have been asking.
In person appointments and online journals
- As of 19 March, all in person appointments, reviews and assessments have been postponed at the Job Centre: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-update-benefit-reviews-and-reassessments-suspended - the DWP will be using ‘Trust and Protect’ practices during the pandemic.
- New claimants can currently sign up for benefits without attending a Job Centre in person if they are affected by Coronavirus measures: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses
- Speak to the family about the best way in which you can support them to access their online journal. It may be that in the early days of their claims, you had their permission to access their journal, and, given the extraordinary nature of the times we are in, it may be that you wish to offer this again as a support to the family member/s. Ensure you have their informed permission to have access, and be clear on how long this will be for and what your role is. The Job Centre will be using the online journal to monitor activity for claims so it’s important this is kept up to date.
Access to interpreters
- The DWP have an obligation to provide interpreters for claimants who cannot speak English. If the family you support need interpreters, help them to ask for this through their online journal and telephone support will be arranged. If this is refused, please let Reset know, and we can escalate this for you.
Changes to payments
- From 06 April, the calculation used for universal credit and working tax credit will increase: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/
- If a family member is working, their income may be affected if they are self-isolating, make sure any changes are recorded in their online journals
- For self-employed Universal Credit claimants, the minimum income floor will not be applied. However, claimants must still report their earnings on their journal.
Claimant commitments and applying for jobs
- Some of the family members you support will have their English language classes recognised as their claimant commitment however, most ESOL classes have been cancelled. The DWP will be recognising any type of English language learning as fulfilling this commitment, even if it does not come from a formal college. It’s essential that any form of ESOL learning is recorded in the journal.
- Deciding whether to apply for a job at this time will be a personal decision due to the risks involved at this time. The DWP will consider what is reasonable given the individual circumstances of the claimant. Talk to the family members if they are considering applying for jobs at this time, and offer support should this be required.
Keeping up to date
- The DWP are announcing updates and changes to the benefits system regularly: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/
- Sign up to the Turn2Us newsletter for regular updates on changes to the benefits process: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/About-Us/E-Newsletter