Coronavirus Benefits Advice
The government has announced several changes to certain benefits over the past two weeks, as a direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Some of the changes are outlined below:
Local Housing Allowance
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is a rate that is used to calculate how much Universal Credit or housing benefit you receive if you rent your home. LHA rates increased to what is known as ‘the 30th percentile’ on 1 April 2020. This means that three out of every 10 properties should now be affordable to someone who needs to claim housing benefit or universal credit (housing element) – without having to top them up with their own money. The government had already issued April 2020’s LHA rates but some of these have now increased as a result of the anticipated impact of the Coronavirus. See the new increased Covid-19 LHA rates on our website.
From 6 April 2020 the government is increasing the standard allowance for Universal Credit (UC) and the basic element of Working Tax Credit (WTC), by around £20 per week. This means for UC the standard element will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month. This is for one year only at the moment.
Currently there is an earnings disregard within Housing Benefit (HB) of £17.10 per week (this is where some of your earnings are not taken into account when calculating your payment).
The additional earnings disregard within HB will increase from £17.10 per week to £37.10 per week to balance this out. This will be for pensioners and working age applicants. This means that the additional £20 per week income received will not mean a drop in your Housing Benefit entitlement
Council Tax Reduction Scheme
Legislation does not allow us to amend our Council Tax Reduction scheme (CTR) after 11 March in any given year. Therefore we are unable to make any changes to account for the COVID-19 outbreak. The government is, however, giving all local authorities a ‘hardship fund’ of money and have instructed local authorities to give every CTR applicant who qualifies for support, up to an extra £150 off their 2020-21 council tax bill. You will not need to apply for this extra £150. It will be automatically applied to your account by mid May 2020.
You will qualify for support if you have applied for CTR and your council tax bill shows ‘Council Tax Reduction’ on it, coupled with letters explaining how your entitlement has been calculated. If you did not qualify for CTR but are suffering financial hardship you can make an Exceptional Circumstances Payment claim.
The government has announced that companies can temporarily lay off their workers or put them on ‘furlough’ and they will still receive 80% pay. If you are in receipt of CTR or HB, if you let us know about your drop in income we can adjust your claim accordingly. You can notify us online. If you are in receipt of Universal Credit please advise the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of your decrease in income via your online journal.
The government has announced similar measures (receiving 80% pay) for the self-employed. If your income has dropped you can notify us online and we will amend your claim accordingly. If you are in receipt of UC please advise the DWP of your decrease in income via your online journal.