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Accessing Universal Credit and other Social Welfare Benefits

Find out the latest information on claiming benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak

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This page was updated on 5 November 2021.


Government Guidance on support available 

What to do if you were employed and have lost your job What to do if you’re self-employed and getting less work or no work What to do if you’re employed and cannot work due to coronavirus

Summary of key benefits 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there have been changes to the entitlements and related benefits available to support individuals. Please visit the Department for Work and Pensions’ dedicated website for regular updates. In this article, you will find information on eligibility and how to claim.  

If you have lost your job or are working reduced hours you may be able to claim: 

  • Universal Credit(UC)
  • New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (New Style JSA)
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance (New Style ESA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Pension Credit

For information on all schemes see here.  

Additional measures for COVID-19 

In the 2021 Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced the following measures relating to Universal Credit: 

  • The Universal Credit taper rate will be permanently cut by 8% from 63p to 55p.
  • Universal Credit work allowances will be increased by £500 a year by 1 December 2021.

In the 2021 Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced that:

  • The temporary £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance which was introduced in March 2020 for 2020/21 will be extended for an additional 6 months on top of the planned uprating.
  • Working Tax Credit claimants across the UK, may be eligible for a new one-off payment of £500.
  • the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit claimants will continue until the end of July 2021. After 31 July 2021, this will change and the pre-pandemic rules will start to be applied again. 

    This means that Universal Credit will check if you are gainfully self-employed and if so, your payment will be calculated using the Minimum Income Floor. If you already have a claim, Universal Credit will contact you about these changes before they happen. More information is available on the government website.

Since the beginning of the pandemic if you need to claim Universal Credit or New Style ESA because of coronavirus, you will not be required to produce medical evidence to start your claim. Depending on your circumstances you may need to provide medical evidence later. You should begin your online claim as soon as possible. 

If you are affected by coronavirus, you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre. If you are suffering from coronavirus – or have been advised to stay at home in line with government guidelines – and want to apply for New Style ESA, the usual 7 waiting days for new claimants will not apply. New Style ESA will be payable from day one. 

Universal Credit  

Universal Credit (UC) is a monthly payment made for low-income workers or unemployed.  To be eligible, you must be: 

  • Under state pension age
  • Over 18 years old
  • Low or no income
  • Less than £16k in savings
  • Live in the UK

Full Rates for Extra Amounts for Children, Disability or Health Conditions and Rental Housing Costs can be found here.  

You can make your Universal Credit claim online. You’ll need: 

  • Your bank, building society or credit union account details (call the Universal Credit helpline if you do not have one)
  • An email address
  • Information about your housing, for example how much rent you pay
  • Details of your income, for example payslips
  • Details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property that you rent out
  • Details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs

You also must verify your identity online with proof of identity, for example your: driving licence, passport, debit or credit card. DWP will never text or email asking for personal information or bank details. 

If you cannot use digital services at all, Universal Credit applications can still be made over the phone via the Universal Credit helpline: 0800 328 5644.  

It may take up to five weeks to receive the first payment, so apply sooner rather than later. Universal Credit is paid once a month.  

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (New Style JSA) 

To claim this benefit you must be unemployed or working for less than 16 hours per week. This can be claimed with or instead of universal credit. To qualify you must have paid National Insurance for two full years prior. Your personal savings or the income of your partner will not affect your ability to claim, but your pension may be considered. Applicants will need to take reasonable steps to look for work while following the guidance on working safely during coronavirus. For full details on eligibility and to apply for New Style JSA, see here 

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (New Style ESA)  

If you have a disability or illness that affects your ability to work, you may be able to claim this benefit. This can be claimed with or instead of universal credit. To qualify you must have been working and paid National Insurance in the past 2 full years prior. Your personal savings or the income of your partner will not affect your ability to claim, but your pension may be considered. If you are unable to claim Statutory Sick pay, but you or your child is ill, you are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have COVID-19, or you’ve been advised by your doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery, then you may be able to claim this benefit. More information on eligibility can be seen here. 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 

If you have a disability or illness that affects how much you can work, you may be able to claim this benefit. You cannot claim at the same time as Job Seekers Allowance or whilst receiving Statutory Sick Pay; but you can work AND claim this benefit although restrictions apply. Additional information on eligibility can be seen here

Pension Credit 

To qualify for pensions credit you must live in England, Scotland or Wales and have reached State Pension age. You might still be able to get it even if you have savings, have a pension or own your home. Additional information on eligibility can be seen here

Related benefits and entitlements  

If you are eligible for Universal Credit or any other benefit, you may also be entitled to discounts and grants from utility companies. Many are working with customers to provide support. Examples are given below:  


More information is available on the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Support website. For more personalised advice call us on: 0161 237 4128 or email us at: 

The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.


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