Last updated: 6 May 2021
Changes to benefits as announced in the March budget
Universal credit and working tax credit
In April last year the government introduced a temporary weekly increase of £20 for people receiving Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits. This ‘£20 uplift’ was designed to support those struggling through the Coronavirus pandemic and was due to be in place for one year until the end of March 2021. However, it has now been extended until September this year.
The Working Tax Credit (WTC) uplift will be replaced with a £500 one-off payment that is intended to cover six months of extra support for existing claimants. If you were in receipt of Working Tax Credit on 2 March 2021 you should already have automatically received your £500 payment.
If you receive WTC and your working hours have reduced as a result of Coronavirus (including your role being furloughed) you will continue to be treated as working your normal hours and do not need to report your change to HMRC.
Universal credit advance payments
You can apply for an advance payment of Universal Credit (UC) to help you get by while you are waiting for your first payment.
The advance payment is a loan that will have to be repaid from your future UC payments until the advance is fully paid back. The time that you have to repay this has now increased from 12 to 24 months.
This has now reduced from 30% to 25% of your standard allowance. These changes were originally due to come in from October 2021. Also announced in the budget was the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from your Universal Credit payments.
Universal credit deductions
Also announced in the budget was the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from your Universal Credit payments. This has now reduced from 30% to 25% of your standard allowance. These changes were originally due to come in from October 2021.
Work and pay
We understand people having to self-isolate may have concerns about whether they will get paid while they are away from work. Here is the government advice on what you need to discuss with your employer. Statutory sick pay and other financial support is available.
Job retention scheme update
The Government has announced that the job retention scheme will continue until 30 April 2021.
For more information visit GOV.UK.
If you receive Tax Credits and are unable to work your normal hours due to Coronavirus you don’t need to tell HMRC about changes to your working hours until eight weeks after the Job Retention Scheme closes at the end of April 2021.
You will have to tell HMRC if you have any permanent changes - for example if:
- you're made redundant or lose your job
- you've stopped being self-employed because you weren't getting any work
- your hours change permanently
For more information visit GOV.UK.
Help for people who are self-employed
Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) update
The Government’s self-employment income support scheme has also been extended. Those eligible will be able to claim a third grant which will be up to 80% of average monthly trading profits capped at £7,500.
For more information see the SEISS section below or visit GOV.UK
If not eligible for the job retention scheme people may be able to claim Universal Credit depending on individual or family circumstances.
From 30 March 2020, the way Universal Credit is worked out for claimants who are self-employed has changed due to Covid-19. Payments are no longer calculated using an assumed level of earnings called the ‘minimum income floor’.
Mortgages and credit cards
Mortgage holidays and credit card forbearance will be available for those who are struggling. Contact your bank to discuss.
The mortgage payment holiday scheme was extended until 31 March 2021.
For more information visit the FCA website
Gas and electric pre-pay meters: If you are having problems topping up due to social isolation or having financial difficulties please contact your utility provider. If you are not sure who your supplier, use Find My Supplier.
Help with housing costs (rent and council tax): If you are struggling to pay your rent, please contact your landlord urgently. There is also information further up this page on the council tax hardship scheme and information below on claiming benefits.
Water bills: Southern Water has expanded the support available for customers during the current pandemic. This includes three-month payment breaks for any customer impacted by the virus, automatic renewal of support tariffs so customers don’t need to worry about reapplying, and accepting referrals to its priority services register from councils, emergency services and Citizens Advice. The best way to contact Southern Water is via email or through its website.
If you are worried about money or are struggling now, please read our full update on coronavirus and benefits.