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MS, finance, benefits and coronavirus

Do you have multiple sclerosis or care for someone who has? You might be eligible for extra financial help or welfare benefits during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If your circumstances have changed during lockdown, there are new ways to get financial help. And if you get any benefits already, it’s worth checking if anything has changed.

Statutory sick pay and furlough

The UK government has announced greater access to statutory sick pay and employment support to help people affected financially by coronavirus, including:

  • people who can’t work because they’ve been told to self-isolate
  • people who can’t work because they care for someone at home and the household has been told to self-isolate
  • a job retention scheme (furlough) to help people keep their jobs

If you care for someone you live with, you might be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP) for the total time you have to self-isolate. SSP is arranged through your employer. Talk to them first about occupational sick pay, as that is more generous, but if you’re not eligible for that, you can apply for SSP.

Read more about employment support on the UK government website

We're updating our rights at work information, check back later today.

Benefits and MS in lockdown

Other financial help from the UK government includes:

  • a £20 per week increase on the standard rate of Universal Credit and Tax Credits for one year
  • an increase in the Local Housing Allowance for private renters claiming Housing Benefits
  • if you're claiming council tax support, your council might be able to reduce your bills, and give you hardship support
  • if your child is eligible for free school meals, the school may be able to continue providing meals, or weekly vouchers to use at supermarkets

Read more about financial help on the UK government website

Universal credit

If you’re thinking of claiming Universal Credit, check that’s your best option. It might not be, for example, if you already get tax credits. The Department for Work and Pensions has made a short video to explain it on LinkedIn.

If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit, the DWP will call you to confirm the details once your claim is finished. You don't need to call them for an appointment. If you can't complete a claim for Universal Credit online, you can still call the DWP and make your claim by phone.

Read about claiming Universal Credit on the UK government website

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance is the main benefit for carers. And if you look after someone for 35 hours a week or more, you might be eligible.

On 30 March, eligibility for Carer’s Allowance was relaxed in two ways across the UK:

  • Unpaid carers can continue getting Carer’s Allowance if they take up to 4 weeks off from caring within a 6 month period because they, or the person they care for, gets coronavirus. Or if they have to self-isolate because of it.
  • Giving someone emotional support on the phone or online now counts towards the 35 hours of care needed to qualify for Carer’s Allowance

Find out if you qualify for Carer's Allowance on the UK government website

How will coronavirus affect benefit applications and assessments?

The UK government is extending awards and reassessments for some people's health and disability benefits.

If your award is due to be reassessed, or the fixed term will end, before 23 June, it will be automatically extended for 6 months. You won’t need to attend an assessment. This includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. You should have already had a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to confirm this if it applies to you.

It might not apply if your benefit was awarded through a tribunal. If you’re not sure if your award is being extended, contact the relevant benefit helpline at gov.uk or get in touch with our MS Benefits Adviser (call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000 or email msbenefitsadvice@dls.org.uk).

Face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits, including for new claims, have been suspended until the end of June.

If you’ve claimed PIP and an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed. If you had an assessment scheduled, the assessment provider will contact you to discuss next steps.

If your ESA and UC claim has been referred to the provider, they will contact you to take it forward.

If your condition's changed and you need more support (and aren't already getting the highest award), you can still contact the DWP and ask for a review.

Read about benefits and coronavirus on the government website

We expect these measures will last at least until June. We’ll update this page if there are any changes.

Remember you're not alone

We're here for you. If you’re worried about your MS and coronavirus and want to chat to someone, call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

You can also sign up to our new Keep in Touch service, for a weekly catch up call with one of our friendly volunteers.

If you'd like to talk your worries through online with other people who know MS, visit our Online Community Forum today.

You can join one of our Time to Chat or Virtual Wellbeing sessions and connect online with other people living with MS across the UK. Or you could sign up for an information webinar. We've got plenty to choose from, take a look at our online sessions and see what suits you.

We added this page on Tuesday 12 May 2020

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