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 last updated this page on Wednesday 14 October
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, the Job Support Scheme, 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 (this scheme runs until the end of October)
- a Job Support Scheme to help people keep their jobs (this starts on 1 November)
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.
When shielding is paused, people will no longer be eligible for SSP because they’re ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. This doesn't apply if they've been told to continue to shield in certain local areas. Your council will have details of any local restrictions. Find your council at gov.uk
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.
Can I get financial support if test and trace means I have to stay off work?
In England 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. You can’t claim for self-isolation that started before 28 September.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, the details of similar support haven’t yet been announced. We’ll update when we know more.
The payments have different names in England and Scotland. In England ask for the Test and Trace Support Payment. In Scotland, ask for the Self-isolation Support Grant.
How you qualify for them is very similar. 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
- 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.
To apply in England for the Test and Trace Support Payment, contact your local council. You can apply online or by phone. You’ll need:
- your notification from NHS Test and Trace
- a bank statement
- proof of employment or evidence of self-employment
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.
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 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.
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
How will coronavirus affect benefit applications and assessments?
If you need financial support, make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still accepting claims for sickness and disability benefits. The UK government is extending awards and reassessments for some people's health and disability benefits.
Face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits, including for new claims, have been suspended for the time being.
The DWP is gradually restarting reassessments for PIP and DLA. They’ll be done on paper or by phone. You don’t need to do anything unless you’re contacted by the DWP.
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]).
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.
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 last updated this page on Wednesday 14 October 2020
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