Friday 3rd April 2020
Jen Kelly, Welfare Benefits Advisor at the RAF Benevolent Fund, outlines how recent benefit changes due to COVID-19 could affect RAF veterans and personnel.
Face to face medical assessments and Jobcentre appointments
Until at least 17 June, face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits (including Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some Universal Credit (UC) claims) will be postponed. For some cases, there is the possibility that telephone or paper-based assessments could be carried out instead. In addition, until at least 17 June, face-to-face assessments for War Pensions and the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) will also be postponed.
Until at least 19 June, those already receiving benefits won’t have to attend face-to-face Jobcentre appointments, and those applying for UC won’t have to attend the usual face to face ‘new claim’ interview, although this will still have to be done over the telephone.
The amount of Universal Credit (UC) and Working Tax Credits
In April, as well as the annual benefit uprating (see below), the standard allowance in UC and the basic element in Working Tax Credits are both increasing by £20 per week for one year. This is the case for new and existing claimants.
As an example, this means that for a single UC claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will increase from £317.82 per month to £409.89 per month.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) waiting days
If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for SSP, this can now be paid from day one of illness, rather than day four (which is usually the case). Similarly, if you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for ESA, this can now be paid from day one of illness, rather than day seven (which is usually the case).
April 2020 – The benefit ‘freeze’ is ending
In addition to the benefit changes mentioned above, which are to support people as a result of coronavirus, the normal annual benefit uprating is still happening. For the past four years, many working age benefits have been kept at the same level and have not been increased, which has been referred to as the benefit freeze. Thankfully, this freeze is ending in April, and most benefit rates will see an increase. The government has produced a couple of documents which give the rates of benefits from this April: for benefits, and for War Disablement Pensions.
If you have any questions about any of the above, or about benefits in general, please feel free to contact the Fund on 0300 102 1919 and ask to speak with a Welfare Benefits Advisor.
See also: Military charities