Your questions on benefits and COVID-19, answered

Throughout the last week, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been answering your questions on benefits and how they are affected by the current coronavirus lockdown.

To leave you more time to productively work from home, care for your loved ones or binge that show you’ve been wanting to watch, we’ve rounded up the best of this week’s answers in one place.

Taking place between 3pm and 4pm on different days of the week, the question and answer sessions have been split into different topics.

You can get involved with the next session on Twitter by tweeting your questions, once the hour is over the DWP will endeavour to answer the most-asked questions using a thread of tweets.

How to claim benefits without calling the phone line:

During this uncertain time the DWP is receiving an unprecedented number of calls regarding new or existing benefits claims. In an effort to ensure new claimaints get their benefits on time, the DWP has redeployed 10,000 staff and will recruit more.

Since last Thursday (19 March), more than 47,000 new claims have been registered to Universal Credit.

With a huge increase in claims during this time, pressures on these services is inevitable. To save both you and the DWP time, you can go online to start a new claim.

For Universal Credit click here, for Employment and Support Allowance click here, and for Jobseekers Allowance click here.

Normally you would have to attend an appointment to receive certain benefits, during the coronavirus outbreak this is not the case.

Your application and account can both be managed solely online during this time. If you have recently received a text about an upcoming appointment this was an error and you don’t have to attend.

If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and have been affected by coronavirus, contact your work coach as soon as possible. You can do this using your online journal.

Health assessments:

Due to an increased number of applications, Universal Credit users are experiencing extended waiting times to be verified, the DWP are working to improve this situation as quickly as possible.

There has also been delays on the phone and longer waiting times, as advised above the easiest and fastest way to make an application is online – you should only call when directed to do so.

For at least the next three months there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all benefits, this includes Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment. This is in an effort to safeguard potentially vulnerable claimants.

You don’t have to do anything to ensure your payments continue, at this time this will happen automatically.

If you have made a claim but don’t have a date for an assessment, you don’t need to do anything. You will be contacted by telephone or letter to let you know what will happen next.

Making a benefits claim for the first time:

If you are making a benefits claim for the first time, the easiest way to do this is online. Some applicants have told the DWP that they are unable to verify their identity online, if you are having this issue you can call the Universal Credit helpline for support. The helpline is free from most landlines.

Once you have made your application you won’t have to attend an appointment, you can manage your account through your online journal.

If you have made a claim for a benefit but don’t have a date for an assessment, you do not need to do anything. You will be contacted by telephone or letter to let you know what will happen next.

If you are applying for benefits due to having coronavirus or staying at home on Government advice, you can get an isolation note by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor.

Usually, you can only claim Universal Credit if you’re aged 18 or over, but some people aged 16-17 can get it depending on circumstances. You usually won’t be able to claim if you’re in full-time education or training, but people with certain circumstances can still apply.

At Enable we endeavour to update all information where possible, but it is always best to seek official advice from the Department for Work and Pensions if you are concerned about benefits.

Have these answers helped you? Connect with Enable on TwitterInstagram or Facebook using #EnableCommunity to start a discussion.