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Benefits and accessing cash - coronavirus advice

The coronavirus outbreak has led to some changes for those already claiming benefits, for those making new claims and those accessing cash. We've outlined some of these changes. 

I'm making a new benefits claim, how will it be affected?

You can continue to make new benefit claims, but the claim might be affected, but it will depend on what benefit the claim is for.

  • If you’ve recently made a new claim for Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Industrial Disablement Benefit and you’re waiting to hear about your assessment but you haven’t had a date set, then you don’t have to do anything. You’ll be contacted via phone or letter to let you know the next steps. You can find more information about that here.
  • If you’re making any new benefits or pension claim, you’ll no longer be able to receive payments through a Post Office card account. Instead, you’ll be paid via a standard account (e.g. a bank account) or, if this isn’t possible for you, via the HM Government Payment Exception Service.  Anyone already receiving benefits payments via a Post Office card account won’t be affected.

How will I be assessed during the pandemic?

Whether you already claim benefits and have a review or assessment coming up, or you're claiming for the first time and need to be assessed, your assessment may be face-to-face, over the phone or via video call.

If you require an assessment the DWP will let you know. There's government guidance about safely attending face-to-face assessments, which you can find here.

Specific benefits: what's changed?

As well as some of the general changes outlined above, there are some changes that specific benefits. Click on the benefit below to find out more. 

Attendance Allowance

If you can't return your Attendance Allowance (AA) claim form within the 6 weeks allowed, make a note on the form as to why it's late – for example, if you had to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

You can find more information as well as the number for the Attendance Allowance helpline here.

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Pension Credit
  • If you’ve already claimed your State Pension and there are no children or young people included in the claim you can now claim online.
  • If you haven’t already claimed your State Pension or you are responsible for children or young children then you will need to claim by phone or post.

You can find more information and make a claim online here

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Universal Credit
  • If you’re affected by coronavirus you can now apply for Universal Credit and receive an advance payment without having to attend a job centre.
  • You also don’t need to call the DWP as part of your claim – however, they might contact you if they need to check any information.
  • If you're affected by coronavirus and aren't able to leave your home, you should let the DWP know you won't be able to keep up with your requirement (for example, via your online journal) to avoid this affecting your benefit.

You can find out more about Universal Credit and how to claim it here

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Housing Benefit

If you’ve been unable to get home from a trip abroad within the Housing Benefit rules (returning within 4 weeks – in some cases 26 weeks), then your payments will continue while you’re unable to return.

However, all the usual rules remain in place. You can read more about those here.

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Statutory Sick Pay
  • If you can’t work because of coronavirus and you’re eligible you can receive Statutory Sick Pay straight away, rather than from the fourth day of your illness.
  • You are eligible for this if you’re staying at home on government advice, even if you don’t have coronavirus symptoms.

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I'm worried about accessing cash. What can I do?

Coronavirus has meant it might have been tricky to access your money. However, banks are required, by the Financial Conduct Authority, to help customers who might have difficulty accessing their services or using online banking, for example.

Several banks have proactively contacted older customers to help them get access to cash. But, if you haven’t heard from your bank, there are other options.


Many banks have set up helplines to support older and potentially more vulnerable customers at the moment.

You can find a list of the banks and their numbers here on the Which? website.   

However, these helplines are particularly busy at the moment. So while it’s certainly worth giving them a ring, you might have to wait a little to get through. When talking to your bank, you’ll also have to prove you are who you say you are so it’s a good idea to have a recent bank statement handy.

You may have forgotten your PIN or password. But don’t worry, there are other ways to prove your identity, such as confirming any recent transactions.

If you call up and don’t think you’re getting the right help, ask to speak to your bank’s vulnerable customer team. Banks are required to help older and more vulnerable customers.

While not all banks will offer the same services, there are a few ways your bank might be able to help you, which include:

  • sending you cash securely through the post 
  • issuing PIN numbers through the post or via mobile phones to allow a third party to withdraw cash for you
  • using the Post Office’s third-party cheque cashing and voucher service (see below).

Post Offices

As well as services from banks, the Post Office all also offering ways to help you access cash.

  • Payout Now: A bank will send you (via email, text or post) a voucher that a third party can take to the post office to get cash on your behalf
  • Fast PACE: A third party will be able to cash a cheque on your behalf.

If you want to use either service, you’ll have to contact your bank and confirm you want to do so and set up access.

Test and Trace Support Payments

If you're unable to work because you're self-isolating, you might be eligible for a Test and Trace Support Payment of £500. To be eligible you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because you've tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has.
  • Be employed or self-employed.
  • Be unable to work from home and lose income as a result.
  • Be receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit. 

You can still apply if your claim for one of the qualifying benefits has been approved and you made the claim no later than two weeks after your period of self-isolation has ended. 

You can find out more information about this here

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Last updated: Nov 11 2021

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