Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Benefits
This page provides information if you are claiming benefits or considering claiming benefits as a result of COVID-19.
This information is for Northern Ireland only, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales visit the GOV.UK website.
Support for heating
You may be able to get other help to heat your home. For further information see:
If you find that you are not eligible for any of the payments above, you may wish to apply for Discretionary Support.
Appointments at Jobs and Benefits offices
All Jobs and Benefits offices are now open for business, primarily on an appointment basis. If you arrive without an appointment, you will be seen at the Welcome Desk, or an appointment will be arranged for a suitable date and time. You will be asked to observe 1-metre social distancing, where practicable, and hand sanitiser, sprays, wipes, and face coverings will be available for the voluntary use of staff and visitors.
If you are asked to come to an appointment, it is important you turn up, as failure to do so may affect your payments.
If you are unable to use the telephone or digital services, an urgent appointment can be arranged in your local Jobs and Benefits office. To arrange an appointment contact the Jobs and Benefits office on 0300 200 7822, stay on the line, and a call handler will connect you to your local Jobs & Benefits office. You should say when booking your appointment if you need interpreting support.
Your work coach will contact you by telephone to discuss what activities you can do to help you move into employment and to offer support.
You will be given notice of your telephone appointment on your Universal Credit journal. It is important that this conversation takes place with you as part of your Universal Credit claim process.
If you're already receiving benefits, you will continue to receive payments. Payments will still be processed as usual.
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.
You can apply for ESA online, by telephone, textphone or posting a claim form.
Extra financial support
Financial support may be available if you are in a financial crisis or need support including:
- Discretionary Support
- Discretionary Support self-isolation grant
- Universal Credit Contingency Fund payment
- Short-term Benefit Advances
- Social Fund Sure Start Maternity Grants
- Social Fund Budgeting Loans
To help support people affected by COVID-19 a non-repayable Discretionary Support self-isolation grant payment has been put in place to help 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're eligible to receive an award, it will be calculated based on your circumstances.
If you're in financial need, help with short term living expenses may be available through Discretionary Support or the Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant or the Discretionary Support self-isolation grant.
If you need help with short term living expenses from any one of these three grants 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 due to Covid-19 will not be evicted.
If you're living in the private rented sector and are receiving Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit, and the amount you're receiving is not enough to cover your housing costs, you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment
If you're a student and suffering financial hardship due to rental payments you can now apply for Discretionary Support. You are also encouraged to contact your landlord or letting agent to discuss flexibility in terms of payments.
More information can be found on the Department for Communities website.
How you will be contacted
If you're claiming benefits a work coach will communicate with you via your online journal, or by phone and will reschedule appointments for a later date.
If you're self-employed
A check will be undertaken to see if you are gainfully self-employed. If so, your payment will be calculated using the Minimum Income Floor.
Discretion will be used when applying the Minimum Income Floor for self-employed people who continue to be impacted by the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic.
If you're employed
If you have to stay at home but feel well enough to work, ask your employer if you can work from home. You can also use this service for someone else.
If you're in work and not claiming benefits, work on a short term contract or a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay.
You do not need to go into a Jobs and Benefits office to apply or get a payment, you can apply online and/ or by telephone.
Jobs and Benefits offices have reopened for the purposes of signing for benefits.
Staff in the Jobs and Benefits offices will be available to Jobseeker’s Allowance recipients to assist and advise on available employment services and make sure that claimants have the support they need.
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
To make sure you are receiving all the benefits, services and support you are entitled to, contact Make the Call and a Benefit Advisor will provide a full assessment of your benefit entitlements.
You should contact Make the Call by phoning 0800 232 1271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you claim Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit, you may need to take part in a Work Capability Assessment. This assesses how your illness or disability affects your ability to work.
If you’re claiming both Universal Credit and new style ESA, you’ll only go to one Work Capability Assessment.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
If you report sick you must tell your employer you're unable to work and ask them to pay you Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). You could lose some of your SSP if you do not tell your employer in time.
If you currently receive Working Tax Credits, read the information on Gov.uk 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 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.
To arrange an appointment, contact the Jobs and Benefits office on 0300 200 7822, stay on the line, and a call handler will connect you to your local Jobs & Benefits office. You should advise when booking your appointment if you need interpreting support.
Help and support
For independent help and advice contact: