If none of the government schemes for the employed and self-employed can help, and you find yourself in need of financial support please explore the various benefits below.
Universal credit is a benefit that is available to many employed and self-employed workers, either if you're on low income of if you're unemployed (including if you were on a higher income, but that income has now either stopped or been reduced).
A few things to bear in mind:
- In the current crisis, the Government has increased the standard allowance AND removed the minimum income floor (which benefits the self-employed).
- From Monday 6 April, if you're single and 25 or over, you can get a monthly standard allowance of up to £409.89 (both new and existing claims). Over a year, that's £4,918. Before the crisis, this yearly allowance was £3,813.
- You may get more or less than the standard allowance dependent on you and (your co-habiting partner's) earnings, whether you've got children, and other factors.
- If you or your partner have combined savings of more than £6,000 you'll get less universal credit, and if your household has got savings of £16,000 or over you won't be eligible for universal credit at all.
Use our 10-min benefits calculator to check what you might be entitled to.
NEW UNIVERSAL CREDIT STANDARD MONTHLY ALLOWANCES
Single and under 25
Single and 25 or over
In a couple and you’re both under 25
In a couple and either of you are 25 or over
Housing element of universal credit
The biggest change to universal credit is the amount of housing benefit you can claim. This has been frozen since 2016, but from April 2020 the housing element of universal credit will be unfrozen, meaning both those who rent and those who own their property could be eligible to more money. The Chancellor has said that housing benefit will cover the bottom 30% of market rents in any particular area.
The housing element of universal credit can be used to cover:
- your rent;
- the interest on your mortgage; or
- any service charges you may pay.
The Chancellor has said that housing benefit will cover the bottom 30% of market rents in any particular area.
How to apply?
You can apply for universal credit online.
If your application is successful, you’ll get your first payment after around five weeks.
Employment and support allowance (ESA)
Both employed and self-employed workers can apply for this if:
- you are directly affected by coronavirus;
- you are caring for a child who is ill with coronavirus; or
- you are self-isolating according to Government advice.
To be eligible you must have paid enough national insurance contributions in the last two to three years (see full eligibility criteria – national insurance credits also count).
As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government is changing the rules so you're eligible to claim ESA from the first day of sickness/self-isolation rather than the eighth, as previously. This change has been announced but hasn't kicked in yet (the Department for Work and Pensions can't tell us currently when it will, but when it does the new rule will be backdated to Friday 13 March).
Employment support allowance (ESA) can now be claimed from the first day of sickness, but only in cases where households are ill or self-isolating – so unfortunately you can't just claim it because your child's school is closed and you have to take time off to care for them.
You can get up to £73/week – the amount won't be affected by either you or your partner's savings or income, though if you get a private pension worth more than £85/week it'll be reduced.
Given that payments are made fortnightly in arrears, claimants who meet the criteria should actually receive their first payment after around two weeks.
Compatibility with other benefits?
It is worth checking you're claiming all the benefits and support you're entitled to.
- ESA can be claimed alongside universal credit.
- It CANNOT be claimed alongside statutory sick pay, maternity pay, or jobseekers’ allowance.
- Unfortunately, you won't be able to claim extra benefits if you're self-employed and need to take time off work to look after your children because schools are closed. You can only get help with childcare costs if you're using a registered childcare provider, rather than caring for your kids yourself.
- It is worth checking you're claiming all the other benefits and support you're entitled to, which could include seeing if you can claim universal credit or checking if you can take a mortgage payment holiday or delay energy bills.
Working tax credit
For most people, however, working tax credit has been replaced by universal credit.
If you're still on the old benefit system, however, and receiving working tax credits the amount you can claim is set to increase. From Monday 6 April, the basic element of working tax credit will increase by £1,040/yr (£20/week) to £3,040/yr.