COVID-19 Policy Update 18 - 24 April

Read the Coronavirus update from our policy team for 18th - 24th April which includes information on social security changes, free training info, health updates and more.

Contents

Social Security Changes, Announcements, Information
  • Official DfC Announcements
  • Update on UC
  • Consent / Signature on Claim Forms
  • Guidance on New-style ESA, Including for COVID-19
  • Looking Out for Each Other
  • Coronavirus & Government Services Information from NI Direct
Free Advice NI Training – Updated for COVID-19

Health Updates
  • Informal / Unpaid and Young Carers
  • Advice for Pregnant Women during COVID-19
  • Staying Connected Southern Trust Helpline
  • Community Pharmacy Scheme and Prescriptions Deliveries
  • Community Health and Development Network
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Advice for Safer Shopping
  • Life Here Love Here Small Grants Scheme
HMRC Updates
  • Job Retention Scheme Updates
  • Job Retention Scheme – Extended
  • Job Retention Scheme and NINOs
  • HMRC Webinars
  • Accessing the Government Gateway
Other Information
  • New Online Feature from Credit Strategy
  • Budget Energy COVID-19 Response Fund
  • Updated Food Bank List
  • COVID-19 Advice for Customers
  • Helplines NI
  • Guidance on Funeral Arrangements during COVID-19 Crisis
  • Covid-19 Bereavement Resources

Social Security Changes, Announcements, Information

Official DfC Announcements

Update on UC

  • Claimants new to UC are being asked to claim online where at all possible.  The online process will ask for basic information about personal circumstances and DfC will then verify identity.  They have switched to a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ system now so claimants don’t need to contact them after they’ve completed their online claim.  Those new to UC can find further information and guidance at https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/

Consent / Signature on Claim Forms

Statement from DfC:

“We do clearly recognise the difficulties Representatives may currently have in obtaining the customers’ signature due to social distancing guidance/ self-isolation. A temporary easement has been introduced to support people who wish to make PIP/ DLA / AA / application whereby we will accept the claim form as valid if signed on the customer’s behalf.  It should be endorsed at normal declaration/ signature box with the annotation below:

“On account of the COVID 19 movement restrictions I have obtained consent from xxxxx to complete this form and sign on their behalf. I understand xxxx will be asked to sign this form at a later date – Advice Worker signature, organisation and date”.

As you are aware the normal implied consent arrangements do not allow for a representative to request a reconsideration by phone or in writing on behalf of a customer however in the current circumstances we have introduced a temporary easement and have advised staff that if a representative is acting on the customer behalf and wishes to register a reconsideration then it should be accepted.”

Guidance on New-style ESA, Including for COVID-19

  • More detailed guidance about new-style ESA, including how the benefit works in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance-detailed-guide
  • The guidance provides information about eligibility, how to claim, what to expect from the process, what happens after a claim is assessment, how much to expect, and how to report a change of circumstances, including for COVID-19.

Looking Out for Each Other

Coronavirus & Government Services Information from NI Direct

Free Advice NI Training – Updated for COVID-19

New regulations in the last week or two have made some changes to Carer's Allowance (Breaks from caring), Housing Benefit (Income Disregard rises), Access to Benefits for Temporary Release Prisoners, Social Fund (Funeral Expenses amount rises) and Discretionary Support (Living Expenses for COVID-19 issues).  A free, online course covering this called Benefits, Financial Support and Covid 19 is accessible from http://www.adviceni-learningonline.net/course/index.php?categoryid=20

The link will also take you to COVID-19 specific courses on JSA, ESA, UC, Employment Law and Triage.

Health Updates

Informal / Unpaid and Young Carers

Advice for Pregnant Women during COVID-19

  • Normal maternity services have been temporarily reconfigured and to keep people informed of the changes, the PHA has launched a new Maternity COVID-19 website.  The site also details the sources of support available during the crisis and the alternative service provision provided.
  • The website can be accessed from this link https://www.ni-maternity.com/

Staying Connected Southern Trust Helpline

  • The Southern Trust has set up a helpline for children, young people and families who might need advice and who could be socially isolated due to the current crisis.  The service provides a listening ear, support, guidance and links to services; the number to call is 028-3756-7150; more information is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga4duGdet7I&feature=youtu.be

Community Pharmacy Scheme and Prescriptions Deliveries

Community Health and Development Network

  • The Community Health and Development Network has compiled an A-Z list of definitions and information about COVID-19 and the crisis.  You can read it at https://www.cdhn.org/covid-19-z

Mental Wellbeing

Advice for Safer Shopping

Life Here Love Here Small Grants Scheme

  • The Live Here Love Here Small Grants Scheme will make available funding to community groups enabling them to respond according to local need for people impacted through reduced contact with society.  For groups who want to apply, the details are here https://www.liveherelovehere.org/cgi-bin/generic?instanceID=30

HMRC updates

Job Retention Scheme Updates

The Job Retention Scheme went live at 8am on Monday 20 April and is now open to employers to make a claim.  Employers should apply immediately to ensure payment gets to them by the end of the month.

Job Retention Scheme – Extended

Job Retention Scheme and NINOs

  • When making a claim to the Job Retention Scheme, employers are asked to provide a National Insurance number (NINO) for each employee that they’ve furloughed.
  • But in some cases, they might not have a NINO for all employees and if so, HMRC have issued the following advice:
    • Where an employee has a NINO but the employer doesn’t know it, the employer should make all reasonable efforts to establish it, including by making use of the RTI NINO Verification Request submission if appropriate.
    • Where an employee does not have a NINO and the employer has less than 100 furloughed employees, they can contact the COVID-19 helpline on 0800-024-1222 and the claim can be processed over the phone; if the employer has 100+ furloughed employees, they’ll have to provide a payroll or employee reference number for any employee without NINO in their file upload.

HMRC Webinars

Accessing the Government Gateway

HMRC has the following advice for people experiencing difficulty accessing the system because they don’t have an active PAYE enrolment.  In order to make a claim they’ll need to:

Other Information

New Online Feature from Credit Strategy

  • Credit Strategy has launched the Covid-19 Tracker, a dedicated website section for all members covering related announcements from government, regulators, lenders, service providers and trade bodies.  Access the website here https://www.creditstrategy.co.uk/covid-19

Budget Energy COVID-19 Response Fund

  • Budget Energy NI have launched a £50K Covid-19 Response Fund aimed at supporting their customers during the current crisis.  The fund is now open for applications and will provide a one-off £50 credit to customer accounts or top-up code for Keypad meters.  Applications will be assessed on a first-come basis and will close when the £50K has been allocated.  To apply for the fund, customers are asked to complete an online application form which can be accessed at www.budgetenergy.co.uk

Updated Food Bank List

COVID-19 Advice for Customers

Helplines NI

  • Helplines Network NI is a single point of access to NI Helplines telephone numbers and websites.
  • The Network currently includes 30 member organisations delivering over 30 helplines that provide a variety of vital support services including information, advice, counselling, a listening ear and befriending.
  • See the full list of helpline organisations here www.helplinesnetworkni.com

Guidance on Funeral Arrangements during COVID-19 Crisis

Covid-19 Bereavement Resources