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DWP Touchbase: CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL 30 March 2020
March 31, 2020
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Access to jobcentres now limited 
Access to jobcentres is now being limited with members of the public only admitted if they are directed to do so with a booked appointment.  Only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access DWP services in other ways will be invited to attend. In the meantime, services should be accessed online and over the phone if required. New claims for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance should be made online. For more information visit the Understanding Universal Credit website. We are taking urgent action to boost capacity, including moving 10,000 existing staff to work on new claims with 1,000 already in place, and will recruit a further 1,500 staff to aid the effort. 
Chancellor gives support to millions of self-employed people 
On Thursday 26 March, the Chancellor announced a package of support for people who are self-employed. Further information can be found on GOV.UK.  
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 
The Government has published further details and guidance for theJob Retention scheme. This includes information on pension contributions. 
Reviews and reassessments for disability benefits suspended for three months 
There will be no new reviews or reassessments across all disability benefits for three months; this includes Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. This measure is effective from Tuesday 24 March and follows on from a previous announcement to suspend all face-to-face assessments for these benefits. For PIP claimants, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed. If an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider. ESA and UC claimants whose cases have already been referred to the provider will be contacted to progress those. Further information can be found in the press release
Stay at Home, Save Lives Public Health England launched its nationwide Stay at Home, Save Lives campaign on Monday 23 March. The campaign gives the most up to date Coronavirus information; detailing the only reasons that someone can The government will look again at these measures after three weeks,leave their home, with the key message of ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’.  The government has introduced three new measures: Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes.Closing certain businesses and venues.Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public. The government will look again at these measures after three weeks. Public Health England has produced a range of materials across print, social, digital, TV and radio that can be shared to get the message across. 
HMRC – change of contact number As people across the UK are staying at home, HMRC have noticed some strain on their network provider. HMRC have now changed their helpline number to ensure those needing help and support can keep reaching their advisers.   The new helpline number is 0800 024 1222 and is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. Calls to the old helpline number will be redirected, but please refer customers to the new helpline number where possible. 
DWP Coronavirus Touchbase special – 23 March 2020
March 23, 2020
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Changes to jobcentre appointments and Universal Credit 
People receiving benefits no longer need to attend jobcentre appointments. People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 19 March 2020. Anyone already claiming Universal Credit who thinks they may have been affected by coronavirus, should contact their work coach using the  online journal, orcalling the Universal Credit helpline.   On Friday the Chancellor announced that the standard rate in Universal Credit and tax credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April.  People applying for Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance or other benefits should not go to a jobcentre but apply for them onlineStay at home, protect the NHS, save lives
Information for employers and businesses 
The government has announced an extensive package of financial measures, including the Job Retention Scheme, a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium enterprises, and deferred VAT and Income Tax payments.  Employers with fewer than 250 employees, will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee. Employers are urged to use discretion about what evidence, if any, is asked for when making decisions about sick pay. If evidence is required, employees can get an Isolation Note from NHS 111 online if they have symptoms, or the NHS website if they live with someone that has symptoms. Coronavirus Business Support The business support website is available to help businesses find out how to access support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the scheme opens and how to apply. Advertising job vacancies For businesses that find themselves needing to increase workforce as a result of the outbreak, such as food logistics, preparation and retail, please remember to post vacancies on Find a Job
Suspension of face to face assessments for sickness and disability benefits 
Face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits has been suspended. This is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus. We will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net. This affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment, those on Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, as well as recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 17 March 2020. The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits. Find out more
£1bn package of additional support for renters 
The Government has announced a package of measures to protect tenants and landlords affected by coronavirus. Renters will receive nearly £1bn additional support, through increases in the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit.  From April 2020, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area. Other measures to protect tenants and landlords include: Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place.No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis.Landlords will also be protected by extending the three-month mortgage holiday to Buy to Let mortgages. 
 As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.   Find out more
The current NHS guidelines on coronavirus, including advice on those who should stay at home  Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do   Online isolation notes launched – providing proof of coronavirus absence from work  Guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision  
COVID-19 Update: Changes to Jobcentre Appointments
March 20, 2020
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The DWP has announced changes to jobcentre appointments, effective immediately.

The updated guidance is online at: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Changes to jobcentre appointments

People receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020.

People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended.

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible.
Jobcentres remain open, and will continue to support people who are not able to use phones and online, including homeless people.

People already claiming Universal Credit who think you may have been affected by coronavirus, must contact their JCP Work Coach as soon as possible.

By:

  • using your online journal, or
  • calling the Universal Credit helpline
Face-to-Face Health Assessments for Benefits Suspended Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
March 16, 2020
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Claimants on disability benefits will no longer be required to attend face-to-face assessments. The change also covers health checks for Universal Credit.

From Tuesday 17 March, face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended for 3 months. 

In summary, the following is happening:

  • Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be suspended for the next 3 months effective on Tuesday 17 March 2020.
  • This is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase.
  • We will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.
  • It affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment, those on Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits.
  • Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17 March onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.
  • We expect this measure will be in effect for the next 3 months but we will be regularly reviewing the position in line with Public Health advice.
  • No further action is required by any claimant as a result of this change. They will be contacted with advice on next steps.

You may find the following links helpful:

DWP press release regarding this announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-to-face-health-assessments-for-benefits-suspended-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

The current NHS guidelines on coronavirus, including advice on those who should stay at home.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Department for Work and Pensions: CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL UPDATE 13th March 2020
March 13, 2020
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Department for Work and Pensions logo
Coronavirus support for employers, benefit claimants and businesses 
Following announcements in the Budget, we are making temporary arrangements for those impacted by coronavirus. Please share this information with your members, frontline workers and clients. Information about coronavirus and claiming benefits is available on Understanding Universal Credit.   
For people already claiming support 
Special arrangements will be in place for people in receipt of benefits who cannot attend reassessments or jobcentre appointments because they are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus. Claimants who cannot attend a reassessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit will continue to receive their payments while their assessment is rearranged. People who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a Fit Note.
When claimants tell us in good time that they are staying at home or that they have been diagnosed with coronavirus, they will not be sanctioned. We will review their conditionality requirements in their claimant commitment, to ensure they are reasonable. Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness. 
For people who need to make a new claim for financial support 
We understand people who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support. Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a jobcentre.The seven waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants suffering from coronavirus or required to stay at home will not apply, so it will be payable from day one.
Employees and self-employed people 
To make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from coronavirus or to prevent its spread, changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay and how Universal Credit supports self-employed claimants. People who cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness. We intend this measure to apply retrospectively from 13 March.Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on Government advice, not just those who are infected, this measure will apply from 13 March. Employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a Fit Note from their doctor. This is currently under development and will be made available soon. Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected. 
Businesses 
The Government wants to ensure businesses are supported to deal with the temporary economic impacts of an outbreak of coronavirus. Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to two weeks per employee.  

For more information visit the following websites: Understanding Universal Credit for more information about claiming benefits Guidance for employers and businesses     
Employment Rate is at a Record High of 76.5%
February 20, 2020
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By the Department for Work and Pensions.

The UK jobs market continues to boom, as the first set of employment figures since leaving the EU show the number in work has reached a new record high.

Employment rate statistic

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics saw the unemployment rate remain at its lowest since 1974, while the number of UK nationals in employment grew by over 2.3 million since 2010 to reach just over 29 million. The total number in work climbed to just below 33 million.

And there was more good news, with overall wage growth continuing to outpace inflation for a 23rd month, giving British workers a well-earned pay rise.

The number of ethnic minority workers reached a record high, while there are a further 1.4 million more disabled people in work than in 2013, with more than 16,000 employers signed up to the Disability Confident Scheme.

Employment has risen in every region and nation of the UK since 2010, and in the wake of the government’s newly-announced transport funding, jobseekers and commuters will be better connected to places of opportunity.

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP said:

As we embark on a new chapter as an independent nation outside the EU, we do so with a record-breaking jobs market and business confidence on the rise.

With wages still outpacing inflation, UK workers can expect their money to go further as we look ahead to a decade of renewal. The upcoming Budget will steer us on that course, further driving our levelling up agenda – so we can all share in the country’s prosperity.

Cabinet Reshuffle
February 13, 2020
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Universal Credit Rollout Delayed Again – to 2024
February 4, 2020
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Full rollout of universal credit, the government’s flagship welfare reform, is being delayed again, adding £500m to its overall cost, the BBC has learned.

Officials say not enough people are moving to the benefit as they are “scared” to move to universal credit. 

The system was meant to be fully live by April 2017, but the new delay will push it back to September 2024.

People queue at job centre

The welfare delivery minister, Will Quince, said claimants would not lose money as a result of the change. 

The backroom discussions leading to the latest delay were recorded by a BBC team whose series, Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State, starts on Tuesday. 

The new benefit, which replaces six existing payments, has been beset by problems, with claimants having to wait at least five weeks for the payments to start and many reports of people falling into debt, and having to resort to food banks as a consequence.

On top of that, advance payments of the benefit, introduced to help people through the five weeks with no money coming in, have been blamed for putting claimants into debt. That’s because once the benefit finally comes through, payments are reduced to pay off the advance. 

Changing circumstances

Claimants are meant to transfer onto universal credit when they have a change of circumstances, such as moving in with a new partner.

The film-makers were allowed access to meetings inside the Department of Work and Pensions, and officials are seen pondering what to do when they realise fewer people are reporting changes of circumstances and therefore being transferred to the new benefit, than expected. 

One programme shows Bolton mum Paula struggling to feed her family when her first universal credit payment comes in at just over £500 for a month, because of deductions to pay off the advance she took during the five-week wait.

She ends up resorting to a food bank. “I have just got myself into one big mess and I have lost control over everything,” Paula tells a debt counsellor.

“I am in debt up to my eyeballs and it’s not going to go away.”

The counsellor tells her: “Any customer on universal credit, we already know that you’re standing on the back foot. 

“If you don’t have money saved up already or you don’t have backup of family who can support you, you will fall into taking an advance payment.” 

She added that benefit deductions to pay off the advance, leave people “constantly trying to catch up”. 

‘Scared’

Neil Couling, the senior civil servant in charge of the rollout for the past five years, is filmed telling a Whitehall meeting: “We’ve got a lot of anecdotal evidence of people being scared to come to universal credit. 

“It’s a potentially serious issue for us, in terms of completing the project by December 2023, but I’m urging people not to panic.”

But a few weeks later, in September 2019, he decides to delay full rollout to September 2024, putting £500m on the bill. 

“Three, six or nine months, it doesn’t matter – the headline will be: ‘Delay, disaster’,” he says

“I would say, ‘Go safe, put the claimants first, and I’ll take the beating.'” 

‘Hugely embarrassing’

Despite the problems, Mr Couling says he believes that once universal credit is fully implemented, it will be successful and regarded as “the right thing to do”. 

“This is the system that will form the bedrock of social security for the next 30 years.”

He expects universal credit to continue to grow, with 2.6m people already on it by September last year: “Right now there’s no way I can put the brakes on and stop.

“I have to keep going to the destination or you have to set me a different destination, because there’s 2.6m people, and if we get something wrong we could disrupt their lives and they’ve got no alternative. There’s no alternative bank they can go to get help. We are the payer of last resort.”

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood, called the news “hugely embarrassing” for the government and called for universal credit to be scrapped. 

“Universal credit was supposed to be its flagship social security programme. 

“Instead we now find that it is being forced to delay the full rollout because the public have so very little faith in it and many are actually afraid of it,” said Ms Greenwood. 

The government says universal credit was always intended to be introduced slowly. 

It is “the biggest change to the welfare system in a generation, bringing together six overlapping benefits into one monthly payment and offering support to some of the most vulnerable people in society”, said Mr Quince. 

“It is right that we revisit our forecasts and plan, and re-plan accordingly, ensuring that the process is working well for people on benefits.”

DWP TOUCHBASE: EDITION 139
February 3, 2020
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This edition of Touchbase includes information on:   

  • pension increases for people living in the EEA or Switzerland
  • EU Settlement Scheme
  • Universal Credit
  • how to claim the New Style Employment and Support Allowance
  • Intensive Personalised Employment Support
  • Disability Confident
  • Local Housing Rate increases
  • Cold Weather Payment
  • Hospitality Works 2020

DWP Touchbase 139

Survey: Have Your Say: Employment Data Lab
January 23, 2020
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DWP would like to invite you to complete a short survey designed to support the development of an exciting new service called the Employment Data Lab.

The Employment Data Lab will be a service provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is designed to enable the evaluation of employment related interventions carried out by third party organisations, such as yours. 

The survey asks for information about the people your organisation works with and the interventions you carry out in order to ensure that the service best meets the needs of you, its users.  It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete, and you have the option to keep your responses anonymous.  

The survey is open until 31 May 2020. A link to the survey can be found here:

https://getinvolved.dwp.gov.uk/analysis-divisions/cb562cb9/consultation/subpage.2019-09-16.7625813652/