This page is targeted at housing professionals. Our main site is at www.shelter.org.uk

Benefits and income

This content applies to England & Wales

This page contains information on measures introduced to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and options for those whose benefits and income have been affected.

Universal credit (UC)

Self-employed people who need to claim universal credit (UC) because of COVID-19 illness or self-isolation will not be subject to the minimum income floor. [1] It means that the award for the time they are affected by Covid-19 will not be based on assumed earnings where they exceed the actual income from self-employment.

It is possible to receive up to one months’ advance payment of UC without having to physically attend a job centre.

From 6 April 2020, the standard allowance of UC is going to increase for 12 months.[2] More information is available on Gov.uk.

Suspending third party deductions from UC
The DWP has suspended some third party deductions (TPD), including repayments of rent arrears, until 10 May 2020. This could put tenants whose UC is subject to an automatic deduction for rent arrears at risk of eviction. If a suspended possession order has been made, a missed payment could amount to a breach of the terms of the order. Tenants in this situation should:

  • contact the landlord and arrange to repay any money that would normally be subject to a TPD for rent arrears 
  • evidence the payment and if the payment is not successful, their attempts to make it
  • update their UC journal to note the fact that a TPD for rent arrears was suspended without a warning.

Housing benefit (HB) and local housing allowance (LHA)

From 1 April 2020, the local housing allowance (LHA) rates will increase,so that they cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in each area.[3] Detailed information on the increase in LHA rates is available on Gov.uk.

LA Welfare Direct 4/2020 contains information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), including how the schemes work and who is eligible to apply, and confirms that for the purpose of calculating the claimant's entitlement to housing benefit:

  • income obtained from employer under the CJRS is to be treated as earned income and this continues to be based on the number of hours the employee normally works
  • income obtained under the SEISS is to be treated as taxable income received from self-employment and is part of the self-employed income assessment for the tax year in which it is received.

General  information about help with housing costs, including the housing cost element of universal credithousing benefitlocal housing allowance and discretionary housing payments, is available in the Benefits section.

Housing benefit for prisoners on temporary release
Prisoners on temporary release due to the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for housing benefit, provided they meet the standard HB eligibility criteria. The HB Circular A8/2020 clarifies that the amendment to the HB regulations enabling prisoners in these circumstances to claim HB will last eight months from 13 March 2020.[4]

Changes to jobcentre appointments

From 19 March 2020, in person appointments for existing claimants, including assessments for the purpose of disability-related benefits, have been suspended. Claimants already in receipt of benefits will continue to receive them but do not have to attend the jobcentre in person. At the moment, claimants are advised not to attend the jobcentre unless directed to do so, or unless exceptional circumstances occur.

Further advice and resources

General information on pandemic-related changes to claims for benefits and a step-by-step guide to claiming universal credit are available on Gov.uk

Where an employee cannot work because they have COVID-19 and/or are following the government’s advice to self-isolate, they may be entitled to sick pay through a company scheme, or may be able to apply for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). As of 13 March 2020, there is no waiting time, meaning that SSP is available from the first day of absence.[5] Citizens Advice have published a guide to benefits entitlement for those affected by coronavirus that includes more information about SSP and other hardship options for those unable to work or continue self-employment as a result of COVID-19.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published a collection of guides for members of the public whose income has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including information on what benefits are available and how to claim them:

The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing on various forms of financial help available to households whose finances have been affected by the pandemic, which includes information on welfare benefits, help with the cost of living, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has produced an overview of changes to benefits introduced to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Debt charity Step Change has published guidance on debt and coronavirus that outlines what assistance may be available for people unable to meet their financial obligations, including paying their rent or mortgage, because of the coronavirus.

Information about financial assistance and grants that may be available to those whose income has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is also available from Turn2Us.

For details about hardship options for homeowners, see Mortgage payment problems. Information about emergency measures for tenants is available on the Protection for tenants page.

[1] reg 2 Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020/371; reg 4 Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (Coronavirus Disease) Regulations 2020/289.

[2] reg 3 Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020/371.

[3] reg 4 Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020/371.

[4] para 14 of reg 7 The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 SI 2006/213 and para 14 of reg 7 The Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/214, as amended by Social Security (Coronavirus)(Prisoners) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/409; HB Circular A8/2020.

[5] reg 2 Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (Coronavirus Disease) Regulations 2020/289.

Back to top

Essential links