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Out of Work Before Coronavirus

Read our answers to frequently asked questions by people who were out of work before coronavirus

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I was unemployed before Coronavirus

Will I see my money increase because of coronavirus?

All benefits are going up a little bit this April but the extra support because of coronavirus is only for people who are getting Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit.

People who get Severe Disability Premium can’t claim Universal Credit. Everyone else can claim Universal Credit if they want to.

You might like to use our Benefits Calculator to see how much better off you would be on Universal Credit. However, don’t forget that the extra money is only in place for one year. 

If you live in private rented accommodation and the housing element of your Universal Credit or your Housing Benefit doesn’t pay your full rent, you might find the bit you have to pay yourself will go down. This is because Local Housing Allowance rates have been reassessed. 

I’m on Universal Credit. When will I see the extra coronavirus money?

You should see an increase in your standard allowance, and, if it applies to you, your housing element in any payments that are due on or after 13 April 2020 (If you are paid Universal Credit monthly. If your Universal Credit is paid twice a month, your payments are calculated slightly differently.)

The increases in the other elements won’t be paid until the first full assessment that starts on or after 6 April 2020. So the soonest you would see any increase in those elements would be in payments due on or after 12 May 2020 (If you are paid Universal Credit monthly. If your Universal Credit is paid twice a month your payments are calculated slightly differently.)

I’m worried about looking for jobs in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. What can I do?

From 30 June, people are expected to go back to looking for jobs, and they can be sanctioned if they don't comply with their claimant commitment.

If you had a claimant commitment before coronavirus but you don't think you will be able to comply with it any more, you should leave a note on your journal asking for your commitment to be reviewed and explaining why you don't think that you can comply with it any more.

If you had a claimant commitment before coronavirus and you do think you can still comply with it, then you should resume doing whatever it is you had agreed to in your claimant commitment and keep evidence that you are doing so.

If you didn't have a claimant commitment before coronavirus, then you don't need to do anything right now.


I’m staying at home but I am worried about what I can do if I have to go to a health assessment

All face-to-face assessments for benefits have been cancelled. You will not have to go to an assessment during the coronavirus outbreak. 

If you have made a new claim and haven’t been assessed yet, your assessment will be done based on paper evidence. 

If your claim is due to be renewed or reassessed, this has been postponed. If your claim is due to expire, it will be extended. 

My food shop is more expensive and I am struggling. What can I do?

We know that with less choice at the moment about where you shop or what you buy, your food shop might be coming to more than it normally would.

Having children home all day and needing to be fed might also be increasing your food shopping costs.

If you have school age children who were getting free school meals, contact your children’s school for vouchers to pay for food for your children. These vouchers will be available in the Easter holiday as well as in term time. 

If you have school age children who weren’t getting free school meals, check whether you should be entitled to them. If you are, make an application to your local council then contact your children’s school for vouchers to pay for food.

Food banks are still running at the moment. They might have changed their usual processes, so get in touch with your local food bank and find out how to get help.

We know getting to a food bank can be a worry. If you are concerned about needing to go out to get to the food bank or you can’t get there because of reduced public transport services, contact your council to get in touch with a local network of volunteers who may be able to help you.

Something has gone wrong with my benefit claim. How do I get it fixed?

The Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP’s) phone lines are really busy dealing with new claims right now. 

This can mean that if something goes wrong on your claim you can’t get anyone’s help to fix the problem.

If you are receiving Universal Credit and you have an online claim, put a message in your journal and someone from the jobcentre should phone you back. It might take a few days.

If you are claiming other benefits, you will need to keep trying to contact the DWP. Don’t give up.

A lot of advice organisations are still giving advice by phone, email or web chat, so you can still get advice on resolving problems with your benefits. 

I’m struggling with my rent. What can I do?

If you can, you should keep paying your rent.

If you usually pay your rent in cash, you should get in touch with your landlord to agree how you should pay while we all have to stay at home.

If you do fall behind with your rent, you can’t be evicted right now but the rent arrears will still be a problem when the suspension of evictions ends.

If you’re behind on your rent, get in touch with a debt advice organisation and get help coming up with a realistic payment plan.

I’m worried about my utility bills going up now we’re home all day because of coronavirus. What can I do?

No one on a credit meter for gas or electricity should be disconnected during the coronavirus outbreak.

If you can’t afford your bill, you should get in touch with your utility provider and let them know that you are struggling. Some utility companies are asking people to only phone them if it is an emergency, so use the information on your utility company’s website first, if you can. 

People on prepayment meters for gas or electricity are being offered extra support to help them stay connected but different companies are giving different kinds of help. Look on your utility company’s website or call them.

For more information, see the Citizens Advice website information on problems with prepayment meters (This link's information is relevant to England. Make sure you look at the information relating to the country you live in as details may vary. If you click in the box that says England on the page, you can choose a different country.)

You might also like to check whether you can save money by changing utility suppliers

See also our Water Schemes information and Energy Schemes information

I am struggling to keep up with debt payments. What can I do?

If you have debts, get in touch with your creditors and ask them if you could suspend payment. Lots of lenders have special policies in place to help people who are affected by coronavirus.

From 14 April 2020, you can ask for a three month payment holiday on credit card debts and personal loans. This will not affect your credit rating.

From 14 April 2020, you can ask your bank for a £500 interest free overdraft facility on your current account. The overdraft will be interest free for three months. If you are already overdrawn by less than £500 you won't be charged any fees. 

From 24 April, you can ask for a three month payment holiday on car loans.

From 24 April, you can ask for a one month payment holiday on pay day loans.

From 24 April, if you have pawned any of your possessions you can ask for a three month extension on repayments before the items you have pawned are sold. 

From 24 April, if you have any items on rent-to-own, you can ask for a three month payment holiday.

Everyone knows this is a stressful, difficult time for a lot of people. There is a lot of support out there but if you don’t ask for it you won’t get it. 

I'm an unpaid carer and I'm struggling. What help can I get?

If you get Carer's Allowance, you can carry on getting it during temporary breaks in caring. You can also carry on getting it if you have shifted to providing care over the phone or through the internet. 

If you live in Scotland, you will get an additional payment of Carers Allowance Supplement in June. This will be in addition to the payment you would ordinarily have received in June. So, in total you will get £460 Carers Allowance Supplement in June. This is not available to people in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Carers in Scotland can also access personal protective equipment (PPE) by contacting their nearest carers' centre.

Lots of carers are struggling because they have lost some of the support they usually get from social care. You can find specialised information and access to support from Carers UK.

It’s hard to find free things to do all day. I think I am spending more than I should be. What can I do?

It is really easy to fall into a habit of spending because we are bored or spending money to cheer the children up.

Especially when everything feels wrong and strange, it can feel like our normal budgeting rules don’t apply.

Everyone is feeling anxious because of coronavirus and people who were already stressed before this might be feeling like they have even less resilience to cope with it all.

It is fine to ask for some help around this. Mind have put together some guidance on maintaining your mental well being while we all have to stay inside. You might like to use this guidance.

If you feel like you need more support than this, get in touch with your GP and ask for help.

It is important to keep control of your budget, even while everything feels so strange. You could use a budgeting tool to see what you are spending and whether you need to cut back.