28 March, 2020
Miscellaneous changes to social security in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak
New regulations in force from 30 March 2020
New regulations have been issued that provide for miscellaneous changes to social security in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
In force from 30 March 2020, the Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020 (SI.No.371/2020) provide -
- for the Secretary of State to have discretion to apply a number of measures in relation to the minimum income floor (that applies to self-employed claimants in universal credit), including reducing it to a lesser amount or to zero, delaying making a determination that a person is in gainful self-employment, treating a person as not being in gainful self-employment, extending a start-up period, or exempting a self-employed claimant from a requirement to seek work or be available for work;
- for modification of the amount of the standard allowance in universal credit in relation to 2020/2021 (although the temporary increase will not apply for the purposes of calculating transitional protection in relation to a claimant who is moved to universal credit under managed migration);
- increasing local housing allowance (LHA) rates in the private rented sector by seting rates in line with the 30th percentile of local rents for each bedroom size up to a maximum of four bedrooms (subject to national maximum caps in London), with determinations replacing those made on 31 January 2020 and taking effect for the 12 months beginning on 1 April 2020;
- for an increase in the housing benefit income disregard that applies where a person is entitled to working tax credit, or works for a specified minimum number of hours per week, from £17.10 to £37.10 for 2020/2021(to take account of the temporary increase being made to the basic element of working tax credit);
- that work search requirements for claimants of universal credit or new style JSA are not imposed for a period of 3 months, and that any existing work search requirement no longer applies so that the requirement to be 'able and willing immediately to take up paid work' no longer applies;
- for claimants who have an award of old-style JSA to be treated as available for work and actively seeking employment for at least the next 3 months;
- for any period during which a JSA claimant is infected or contaminated with coronavirus disease, is in isolation or is caring for a child or qualifying young person in their household who is infected, contaminated or in isolation, to not count towards a period of sickness that might otherwise have led to them losing entitlement to their JSA; and
- for carers (in England and Wales only) to retain their entitlement to carer’s allowance if they have a temporary break in caring as a result of isolation due to, or infection or contamination with, coronavirus disease of either the carer or the person cared for.
Corresponding provision in Northern Ireland is made by the Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 (SR.No.53/2020)
NB - in relation to the minimum income floor, the government has said that 'from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak. New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.'
SI.No.371/2020 and SR.No.53/2020 are available from legislation.gov.uk