Accessing welfare benefits

If your ability to work has been impacted and you now need to access welfare, there are a number of ways we are providing support:

  • Providing Statutory Sick Pay to anyone who falls ill, or has to self-isolate, due to coronavirus from day one.
  • If you are not eligible to receive sick pay, for example because you have lost your job, you can apply for Universal Credit (UC) and/or apply for contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Let me assure you that even though we are experiencing a higher volume of applications for UC and ESA than usual, the system is standing up to the challenge, with 105,000 new claims registered in one day. 10,000 staff at the Department for Work and Pensions have already begun redeploying to frontline roles to support new claims, and while the system has faced additional pressures, such as longer than usual online queues, they are working around the clock to ensure people can get the support they are entitled to, with no need to attend a jobcentre in person.

I am also conscious that people who are required to stay at home, because either they or a member of their household is displaying coronavirus symptoms, may need financial support, and quickly. We have made Employment Support Allowance for new claimants payable from day 1, and advance payments of Universal Credit are also available for new claimants, depending on their circumstances. The amount someone will receive under UC will, in many cases, be higher than the level of Statutory Sick Pay, as the system is designed to reflect an individuals’ circumstances, for example whether they also require support with housing or childcare costs. The government has also increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit to reflect the ongoing crisis, meaning an extra £1,000 over the course of the next year.

As you can appreciate, this is a fast-moving situation and the Government’s advice is regularly updated. I would strongly encourage you to check gov.uk/coronavirus for the latest information.