This information is for Northern Ireland only, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales visit the GOV.UK website.
Depending on your situation, you might be able to get additional financial support from the Department for Communities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Access to Work
Face to face appointments for Access to Work (NI) have been temporarily suspended.
Payments to participants on the programme will continue to be processed by a limited number of available staff and contingencies have been put in place to ensure this continues.
The programme works with a number of key stakeholders who provide support to Access to Work (NI) participants and subsequently this may change the level of support available to all participants due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Appointments at Jobs & Benefits offices
All appointments at Jobs & Benefits offices have been postponed. Nobody will have to visit Jobs & Benefits offices at any stage of making a new claim, except in exceptional circumstances.
If you are already receiving benefits, you will continue to receive payments. Payments will still be processed as usual.
You will not be penalised as a result of a postponed appointment.
Carers will continue to be paid Carer’s Allowance when they have temporarily ceased to care for a severely disabled person due to either of them self-isolating or being infected with coronavirus.
During the COVID-19 pandemic emotional support can also count towards the 35 hours a week you spend caring for someone who is ill or has a disability.
Cross Border Workers and COVID-19
Cross border workers who are temporarily laid off (furloughed workers) during the Covid-19 pandemic should stay on their employer’s payroll and be paid during this period of time.
The employer can then claim the appropriate rate from the Government Department.
If the employee has been made wholly unemployed then ‘normal rules’ apply i.e the claimant must claim benefit from the country where they are resident.
In effect a Cross Border worker from N Ireland who had been working in the Republic of Ireland must make a claim to Universal Credit - www.universal-credit.service.gov.uk
A Cross Border worker from the Republic of Ireland who had been working in N Ireland must make a claim via their local Intreo Centre - applications can be made online at www.mywelfare.ie
Employment and Support Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) offers support and financial help so you can do suitable work if you are able to. Find out more about how to apply.
There is temporary removal of the seven waiting days if you are making a New Style ESA claim. If you need to self isolate you will be treated as being ill and do not need to go to a GP.
All Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) appointments at assessment centres have been postponed.
To claim ESA contact the ESA Centre.
Extra financial support
Financial support may be available if you are in a financial crisis or need support including:
- Discretionary Support
- Universal Credit Contingency Fund payment
- Short-term Benefit Advances
- Sure Start Maternity Grants
- Budgeting Loans
- Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant
To help support people during the COVID-19 pandemic the Department for Communities has put in place a non-repayable grant payment to assist with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate.
If you are eligible to receive an award, it will be calculated based on your circumstances.
If you require assistance with short term living expenses from any one of these 3 provisions you should complete the Discretionary Support form.
If you use this form you do not need to ring the Discretionary Support Freephone line, someone will contact you.
Measures have been put in place to support social and private renters as well as those experiencing homelessness.
An agreement is in place with all social housing landlords (Housing Executive and Housing Associations) that any social housing tenant facing difficulties paying rent during the Covid-19 pandemic will not be evicted.
More information can be found on the Department for Communities website.
How the Department for Communities will get in touch
If you are claiming benefits a Work Coach will communicate with you via your on-line journal, by phone and will reschedule appointments for a later date.
If you are self-employed
You must stay at home if you or a member of your household has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
You do not need to go into a Jobs & Benefits office to apply or get a payment.
You do not need to get an isolation note from NHS 111.
From 6 April 2020, the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed and will last for the duration of the outbreak.
You will not need to attend the Jobs & Benefits office to demonstrate gainful self-employment.
If you have to stay at home because of coronavirus and you need a note for your employer, contact NHS 111 Online
If you have to stay at home but feel well enough to work, ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note. You can also use this service for someone else.
If you are in work and not claiming benefits, work on a short term contract or a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay.
The law is currently changing so that if you’ve been ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) since 13 March 2020 and you’re eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, you will get a backdated payment.
You do not need to go into a Jobs & Benefits office to apply or get a payment, you can apply online and/or by telephone.
You can also apply for these if you are prevented from working because of a risk to public health.
If you are due to sign-on you are excused from signing.
From 30 March 2020 for the next three months, work search and work availability requirements will be removed for new and existing claims to Jobseekers’ Allowance.
New style Job Seekers' Allowance
Universal Credit replaced Jobseeker’s Allowance. However if you have been credited with enough National Insurance contributions, you may be entitled to 'New Style' Jobseeker’s Allowance. You can apply online.
Make the Call
All routine appointments for the Make the Call Service, compliance and benefit review interviews have stopped.
You do not need to attend any medical assessments during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, even if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Personal Independence Payment
All Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appointments at assessment centres have been postponed. To claim PIP, contact the PIP Centre.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
If you cannot work while you’re self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you could get SSP for every day you’re in isolation, from day one.
You must self-isolate for at least 4 days to be eligible.
If you were self-isolating before 13 March because you had symptoms, your SSP will begin from the fourth day.
If you were self-isolating before 13 March because someone in your household had symptoms, you cannot get SSP.
If you currently receive Working Tax Credits please read the information on Gov.uk (external link opens in a new window / tab) before making a claim to Universal Credit
If you already receive Tax Credits and have a drop in your income or are ill because of COVID19 you may be able to continue to claim Tax Credits for a period of time.
For further information please refer to Working Tax Credit or call the helpline below.
If you lose your job, your Tax Credit payments will stop and you will need to make a claim for Universal Credit. You can’t receive Universal Credit and Tax Credits at the same time.
If you are already claiming Universal Credit tell your work coach in your online journal if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). If you do not have an online account, you can call the Universal Credit Service Centre
You’ll continue to receive your Universal Credit payments as normal.
If you’re working while claiming Universal Credit, your payment will be adjusted if you can no longer work due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Tell us about the hours you’re working in the usual way in your online account.
Self-employed people can claim Universal Credit. From 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak.
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in Universal Credit and your Universal Credit payment will be adjusted in response to changes in your earnings.
This means payments will be taken into account in the Assessment Period (AP) in which they are received. In this way UC provides support whilst the claimant has no earnings.
From 6 April 2020, the standard allowance for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 and over) will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.
From 30 March 2020 for the next three months, work search and work availability requirements will be removed for new and existing claims to Universal Credit.
You must still tell us about changes to your circumstances by signing in to your Universal Credit online account .