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.
We updated this information page on Friday 28 January 2022
If your circumstances have changed during the pandemic, there are new ways to get financial help. And if you get any benefits already, it’s worth checking if anything has changed.
On this page:
- Can I still access the Job Retention Scheme (furlough) scheme?
- Can I claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
- Can I get financial support if test and trace means I have to stay off work?
- Help with essentials if you claim council tax support
- Can I claim Universal Credit?
- Can I claim Carer's Allowance?
- How does COVID-19 affect benefit applications and assessments?
- Remember you're not alone
The Job Retention Scheme (furlough) to help people keep their jobs ended on 30 September 2021. But you might still be able to get Statutory Sick Pay.
As well as the usual access to SSP, because of COVID-19 you might be able to get it if:
- you can’t work because you’ve been told to self-isolate
- you can’t work because your paid job is caring for someone at home, and their household has been told to self-isolate
If you’re not entitled to SSP, you might be able to claim Universal Credit, New Style Job Seekers Allowance or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.
Ask about occupational sick pay first
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is arranged through your employer. Talk to them first about occupational sick pay, because that's more generous, but if you’re not eligible for that, you can apply for SSP.
If you’re “clinically extremely vulnerable” or “highest risk”
If you're considered "clinically extremely vulnerable" ("highest risk" in Scotland), there might be times when you're specifically told to "shield" (stay at home) by a doctor or by local COVID-19 restrictions. You should receive a letter explaining that. You can use this with your employer (or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) as evidence you can’t work outside your home.
Help if you're self-employed
You can’t get Statutory Sick Pay for self-employed work. And the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has ended. But you might be able to get other government support for your business.
In England, Wales and Scotland, if you’re told to self-isolate by the test and trace service you might be able to get a support payment of £500, to help cover lost earnings.
In Scotland, you might also be able to claim if your child under 16 is asked to self-isolate – if you’ll lose income because need to look after them.
The payments have different names. In England ask for the Test and Trace Support Payment. In Scotland, ask for the Self-isolation Support Grant. In Wales, it's the Self-Isolation Support Scheme.
In Northern Ireland, this payment won’t be available, but you might be able to get other financial support if you’re told to self-isolate.
Do I qualify for test and trace support?
To qualify, you have to be employed or self-employed. You have to be unable to work from home, and show you’ll lose earnings because you’re self-isolating. You also have to be getting one of these benefits:
- Universal Credit (in Scotland, you can also qualify if you’re eligible for this, even if you don’t claim it)
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-related ESA
- Income-based JSA
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
If you qualify, you’ll get the payment on top of any Statutory Sick Pay or other benefits you have.
- your notification from NHS Test and Trace
- a bank statement
- proof of employment or evidence of self-employment
- proof you get one if the benefits listed above
To apply in England for the Test and Trace Support Payment, contact your local council. You can apply online or by phone.
To apply in Wales for the Self-isolation support scheme, contact your local council. You can only apply online.
To apply in Scotland for the Self-isolation Support Grant, contact your local council. Your local council may contact you to offer help, advice and assistance for self-isolating. You can also call the National Assistance Helpline on 0800 111 4000.
In Northern Ireland, find out more about extra financial support from the NI Direct website
If you're claiming council tax support, your council might be able to reduce your bills, and help if you're finding it hard to cover essentials like food, clothing or utility bills
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 Department for Work and Pensions (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.
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 2020, 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
- If you’re in Scotland, find out more about financial support and other help for carers
If you need financial support, make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to.
At the start of COVID-19, the UK government extended awards and reassessments for some people’s health and disability benefits. And face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits, including for new claims, were suspended since the first lockdowns.
But they've started again for some people’s PIP assessments and Work Capability Assessments (for Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance). You could have had a letter inviting you to a face-to-face appointment any time from May 2021.
Most assessments will still happen by post or over the phone, but you could be asked to attend a face-to-face one. All assessment centres should follow strict COVID-19 safety rules.
If you have a phone assessment, you can ask to have someone else on the call at the same time to support you. They can do this from their own phone wherever they are.
If you have questions or concerns about how you’ll be assessed, 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 [email protected]).
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.
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.
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