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 reviewed this information page on Tuesday 16 February
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.
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 their household has been told to self-isolate
- a Job Retention Scheme (furlough) to help people keep their jobs (has been extended across all four nations of the UK until end of April 2021)
Statutory Sick Pay
Where shielding is paused, you won't be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay if you have MS and are classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. But it’s different if you've been told to shield in your local area, such as when a new lockdown has been called (like the one brought in for England on 5 November 2020).
If you’re ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and restrictions say you’re advised to work from home but you can’t do this, speak to your employer. You might qualify for the Job Retention Scheme (furlough). You should have been sent a letter telling you to shield. Use this with your employer (or the DWP) as evidence you can’t work outside your home.
If you don’t qualify to be furloughed, you can claim Statutory Sick Pay. You should get this as long as you meet the usual requirements for this benefit.
If you have caring responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, and this means you can’t work, then you can be furloughed by your employer. This includes employees that need to look after children.
This is true as long as you were on their payroll before the end of October 2020. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t furloughed earlier, or your employer hasn’t used the furlough scheme before. This applies to all four nations of the UK. If you’re unable to be furloughed, you can claim SSP.
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.
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.
- Read more about Statutory Sick Pay on the UK government website
- Read more about business support on the UK government website
Help for self-employed people
If you’re getting less work or no work because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you might be able to claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Unfortunately it doesn’t apply to freelancers, contractors and newly self-employed people.
Businesses can now apply to banks for government-backed support loans until 31 January 2021.
Can I get financial support if test and trace means I have to stay off work?
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 England and Scotland you can’t claim for self-isolation that started before 28 September. In Wales, can only backdate claims to 23 October.
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.
The payments have different names across the UK. In England ask for the Test and Trace Support Payment. In Scotland, ask for the Self-isolation Support Grant.
In Scotland, from 7 December 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.
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 from 7 December, 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
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
- Read more about financial help on the UK government website
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
- 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
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 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]).
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 reviewed this information page on Tuesday 16 February
Help prevent outdated information sharing
We're constantly updating our information on coronavirus. So if you want to share it, please link to the page directly rather than quoting or summarising what we’ve said.