Coronavirus – money and essentials

Coronavirus - money and essentials

Find out what is happening with disability benefits like DLA and PIP during Covid-19. Get information on sickness and employment benefits and other financial help and support.

Feeding your family

Doing your food shopping

Some of the difficulties with shopping eased as we moved out of the first national lockdown and things have not been as tricky during the new lockdown from January 2021. THe government has published a road map for how things should open up over the spring but for the time being only essential shops are open.

But anyone who has to self isolate may have trouble as online deliveries can still be hard to book. Generally supermarkets have reduced or cancelled their special shopping hours for vulnerable shoppers and are not bringing these back to the extent they had in the first national lockdown. ‘Which’ have a list of the special shopping times and delivery arrangements at each main supermarket chain. Local stores may have slightly different arrangements. If you still need priority entry, take proof that you are a carer, for example a Carers Card, a letter from DWP that shows you get Carers Allowance or DLA. If you live in Brighton & Hove and your child has a Compass Card you should have had an email with a letter that explains that you are an essential carer to use for this. We suggest you take your Compass Card and Carers Card to show with the letter.

Mask wearing is now a must on public transport, in shops and shopping centres and other enclosed public spaces. There is government guidance about using masks including where you have to wear a mask and who is exempt, including:

  • Children under 11 (masks are optional for 3 to 11 year olds, and under-3s should not wear face coverings)
  • If you have a disability or health condition that means you cannot wear masks, or it would cause you severe distress to do so
  • If you are travelling with someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

View the guidance to check the full list of exemptions.

If you have a child over 11 with a hidden disability it would be wise to carry proof when using public transport or shopping in case you are challenged, for example, your Compass Card or DLA letter.

You can also download a card to print or keep on your phone to easily communicate that you or your child are exempt from the face covering rules. Amaze has created two designs for children and young people to choose from:

card with the words "I am a child or young person with a health condition or disability which means I am exempt from wearing a face mask", with Amaze logo and graphic of a child wearing a mask.Card with the words "I am a child or young person with a health condition or disability which means I am exempt from wearing a face mask" with Amaze logo and graphic of a mask.Press and hold on the image for the option to download to your phone. If you want to print a copy to carry with you, download both designs here [pdf 63kb].

The government has now produced some national exemption badges or cards that can be downloaded onto a mobile phone or printed.

Here is an Easy Read guide to wearing face coverings on the bus [.doc 334kb] from Brighton & Hove Speak Out.

Getting food if you are self-isolating

If you are having trouble getting to the shops because you are self-isolating or you are a single parent and would have to take your child with SEND with you, it is fair enough to ask for help. Lots of new local support networks started up to help look after each other in practical ways during the pandemic and existing voluntary and community groups stepped up to help.

All local support like this is now listed on the Brighton & Hove Covid directory and there is specific information about shopping and food here. This directory is also the place to find out how to contact your local Covid 19 mutual aid group.

East Sussex County Council’s website has a page all about food shopping and delivery during the pandemic. For information about all community help and support in East Sussex you can visit the council’s Coronavirus help and support page.

Some individuals and neighbourhoods are also offering help via a #viralkindness postcard that has taken off nationally. And Amaze has set up a version of this card that enables neighbours to offer particular help to families who have a member with additional needs https://amazesussex.org.uk/amaze_news/amaze-creates-community-help-postcard-to-help-vulnerable-send-families-during-covid-19/

If friends, neighbours or a local group are not able to give the help you need you can contact the Community Hub to ask for help

Brighton & HoveWhat the hub does and how to request help

East SussexWhat hubs can offer and details for each part of the county

These local Community Hubs are there to help people who are having trouble meeting their essential needs during the current crisis because they are vulnerable and isolated. They will try to respond if you are in urgent need and can’t get support from family, friends or neighbours. They can help if you cannot get to the shops or need to know about food banks.

If you are self-isolating for health reasons NHS Volunteer Responders can help you with shopping and fetching prescriptions.

Food banks

If you are having general financial difficulties see the last section on this page.

Brighton & Hove Food Partnership have information about to get hold of food if you are struggling because of the Coronavirus. This includes how food banks are operating now and information about free or low cost delivery services for groceries or meals: https://bhfood.org.uk/coronavirus-update/

Food banks in East Sussex are changing how they operate during the crisis so check before you try to use one. You can get an up to date list of East Sussex food banks on the ESCIS website

Free School Meals
The government announced at the start of the pandemic that they would put in place support for children eligible for free school meals who were not at school to get their meal. This was extended to cover the summer holidays. It stopped once schools returned in September but now we have a new national lockdown from January 2021, there is a fresh scheme to make sure children not in school can get a free meal or equivalent. Schools can work with their existing caterers to provide deliveries of food parcels or use a new national voucher scheme. Your school should let you know what they are doing.

In November the government announced (after a public campaign) a more flexible form of help for low income families via local councils rather than schools for the winter period. This means they have said they will not extend free school meals over the school holidays as they did last summer. But at Easter and in the summer holidays there will be holiday activities with food for children eligible for free school meals. These should include suitable activities for children with SEND. When we know how you will be able to find out about these and book places, we will add that here.

Please beware of scams. Schools will NOT ask you for bank details.

DLA and PIP

New claims

The DWP are still taking new claims for DLA and PIP as usual and there are no changes to eligibility criteria or rates. You can phone/email the Amaze helpline for advice and help if you are in East Sussex or Brighton & Hove. It may take a bit longer for us to help, but don’t miss out on these valuable benefits by delaying starting a claim. If you have started a PIP claim and you are worried you can’t get it back in time do ring the DWP to ask for an extension.

Renewals and reassessments

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the government announced  that there would be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits for three months from March and that this would be kept under review and possibly extended. This included DLA and PIP, as well as Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance. From May onwards the DWP sent out letters to say that claims coming up for renewal were being extended for six months. Some people receiving this letter had already sent in their claim. If so, the DWP will process this claim eventually. You won’t have to fill out the form all over again in six months time. But many of these extensions are now coming to an end and the DWP is sending out review packs. Don’t ignore this. Contact the DWP and ask for more time if timescales feel really tight.  The same applies if your older young person is already on PIP and gets a PIP renewal pack.

If your child is getting DLA and due to turn 16 soon, you should still get asked to claim PIP. Do not ignore this invitation as you don’t want a break in your DLA award. Do ask for extra time to complete the pack if you need it, but you will still need to get it done soon.

If you were due to ask for your child’s claim to be reassessed because of a change in circumstances, for example to get the mobility component when your child turns five, you can still do this.

You can continue to phone/email the Amaze helpline for advice about reviews and reassessments.

Face to face assessments

The DWP have stopped all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits including PIP for the time being. If you or your young person have a scheduled appointment, you do not have to go to this or make contact. The assessment provider will contact you. Assessments are being carried out on paper or by phone.

The suspension of reviews and face to face assessments will be kept under regular review and extended if necessary. If there is a change in your child or young person’s needs you should still contact the DWP to ask for review, so that you will get a backdate if you are successful when this is eventually carried out.

Reconsiderations and appeals

If you do not agree with the decision about your DLA or PIP claim, be aware the timescales for requesting a mandatory reconsideration or lodging an appeal are short and have not changed. If you need extra time to get advice do contact DWP and ask for more time given the current crisis.

You can continue to phone/email the Amaze helpline for advice about reconsiderations and appeals.

Appeal hearings Since 20 March 2020 all appeals have been dealt with on paper or by a telephone hearing. If you have an appeal hearing the tribunal service will contact you to let you know what is happening. If your appeal hearing is less than a week away and you have not yet heard you should call them.

Carer's Allowance

The government has changed the Carer’s Allowance rules so that a break in caring can be ignored if it is caused by either the disabled person or their carer having Coronavirus symptoms, so don’t worry if this is the case for you.

If your income has dropped at the moment it may be time to claim Carer’s Allowance. Check if your child gets the relevant rates of DLA or PIP to claim Carer’s Allowance if you are now under the earnings limit of £128 per week after deductions.

Sickness and employment benefits

Statutory Sick Pay and alternatives

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is available for eligible individuals diagnosed with Covid-19 or those self-isolating because someone else in their household as coronavirus.  SSP will be payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals.

You can get an isolation note through an online service from NHS 111. Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate and so cannot work due to coronavirus, because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, or have been told to by the test and trace service.

Low-income workers who who are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace Service, and who are unable to work from home during their period of self-isolation and who lose money as a result, can apply to their local authority for a £500 payment. You can apply if you are employed or self-employed and have claimed at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.

Local authorities also have the discretion to make a payment to workers who aren’t on one of these benefits, but who are on low incomes and who face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.

If you are not eligible to receive sick pay but but your income has dropped due to coronavirus, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance. You may also be able to claim Universal Credit to top up your SSP. Citizens Advice explain who may be eligible and what you can get here.

There have been changes in how to apply and some aspects have been made easier or more generous, for example allowed housing costs. See official government information on coronavirus and claiming benefits here. This has information on new claims and existing ones and covers more than just Universal Credit.

If you are working or were until recently but you are not sure what financial support during coronavirus applies to your particular circumstances, you can use this online guide from CPAG.

Furlough

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (known as furlough) was set up to help people who are employed but could be laid off due to coronavirus affecting their job. It closed to new applications in June and was being wound down , but it has now been extended until 30 September 2021. Government guidance makes clear that those unable to work due to caring responsibilities resulting from Covid-19 can be furloughed by their employer.  See more information and advice for working parents on furlough from Working Families 

Support for the self-employed
If you are self-employed there is a government scheme to help, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. If your income from work is reduced or has completely stopped due to coronavirus, then there may be financial help available, based on 80% of your average profits over a past period, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, and covering a three-month period. This will apply if the majority of your income is from self-employment (where you are not paid through pay as you earn and no one is responsible for paying Class 1 national insurance for you, even if you earned enough). Like the furlough scheme, this is operating again due to the new lockdown period and has been extended until September 2021. Find out more about the extended scheme here including how it works alongside Universal Credit. 

Help with financial difficulties

Emergency funds

If you are really short of money and it is becoming an urgent problem, you can ask the local Community Hubs for help in getting advice, accessing a food bank or fuel vouchers etc.

Brighton & Hovedetails of the hub and how to request help (scroll down for the request help link)

East Sussex: what community hubs do and details for each area of the county

If you get benefits or tax credits and need extra help to get essentials you can’t live without, your Local Discretionary Social/Support Fund may help:

Brighton & Hove local fund

East Sussex discretionary support scheme

Debt, benefits and employment advice

Citizen’s Advice have sound advice if you are struggling with paying your bills due to coronavirus. They can help you with steps to avoid having your utilities cut off or falling behind with rent or mortgage payments. Find out more.

National disability charity, Contact, produces reliable information on benefits and coronavirus for families with a disabled child. 

For working parents of disabled children and coronavirus find out more about your rights at the moment (including around redundancy or return to work) in the information from Working Families 

For local advice:

Brighton & Hove benefits, work and money advice services are all listed here on the local Covid directory

East Sussex families can contact East Sussex Welfare Benefits helpline on 0333 344 0681 or the East Sussex Citizens Advice centres

Family Fund grants
The Family Fund have been given additional money to make more grants this year to families with a disabled child who are on a low income. Visit their website to find out if you may be able to apply. Families can usually apply once a year for a Family Fund grant, but with this emergency funding, those who have not received a grant on or since 1 April 2020 can apply again. Grants are for essential items to make life easier during the ongoing crisis. This can include computers and play equipment as well as household items such as cookers and fridges.

Disclaimer

Amaze has put together this list to try and answer some of the concerns families have expressed to us about how coronavirus will affect them. Our answers were compiled based on the latest advice from trusted sources such as Public Health England, the NHS, Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County council and national or local news outlets reporting the same. Even with the reliability of our sources, we cannot take responsibility for the accuracy of the information or any actions taken as a result.

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