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COVID-19 Q&A

As the coronavirus situation continues to dominate the news, we have answered some of the key questions the RAF Family may have. If you have a question which is not covered, please send it to advice@rafbf.org.uk and we will continue to update this page with commonly asked questions.

Please note that government guidance and advice in relation to coronavirus is changing on a daily basis. This page was last updated on 9 March 2021.

Questions on benefits

 

Q1: Will I be able to claim any benefits if I can't work because I have coronavirus, or because I am following guidance to stay at home (self-isolating, not just social distancing)?

You might be entitled to Contractual Sick Pay (which will depend on your employer) or Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if: you have coronavirus; are following guidance to self-isolate (unless the only reason you are self-isolating is because you have recently entered or returned to the UK); or you live or work in an area with local or national restrictions in place (including advice to shield) and you have been advised to shield because you're at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. If so, SSP can be paid from day one of illness rather than day four (which is usually the case). For further information visit: gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay.In Wales, it has been announced that social care workers in Wales will have their SSP topped up to the level of their normal wages if they have coronavirus or are required to self-isolate. This scheme in Wales is due to run from 01 November 2020 until 31 March 2021. For further information on this scheme in Wales, visit: gov.wales/covid-19-statutory-sick-pay-enhancement-scheme.

If you are not entitled to SSP you might be entitled to 'New-Style' Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. This is a benefit for those who are unable to work due to health reasons and who have a sufficient NI contribution record. If so, this can be paid from day one of illness rather than day seven (which is usually the case). For further information visit: gov.uk/employment-support-allowance.

If you are not entitled to SSP or ESA, or if you need additional help on top of one of these, you might be entitled to Universal Credit (UC) which is a means-tested benefit. If you claim UC you will have to sign something called a 'claimant commitment' which outlines what work related requirements you need to meet to be paid the full amount of UC. For further information visit: gov.uk/universal-credit. It is very important to note that if you (or your partner) are already getting any of the following benefits or tax credits: Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Working Tax Credits or Child Tax Credits, we would advise you not to claim UC and instead to speak with a benefits advisor to get a benefit check, to work out your best options financially. This is because if you claim UC, all of these benefits or tax credits that you (or your partner) get will stop, and you will not be able to re-claim them, which might make you worse off financially.

If you are on a low income, you might be entitled to Council Tax Reduction/Support, which is a means-tested scheme administered by local councils. For further information on your local scheme, visit your local council’s website.

If you want to speak with a benefits advisor to get a benefit check you can contact the Fund on advice@rafbf.org.uk or 0800 169 2942. Alternatively, you can search for local organisations which offer benefits advice on this website: advicelocal.uk. If you would like to use an online benefit calculator, we have a free one on our website (provided by the charity Turn 2 Us), which you can see here: rafbf.org/benefitscalculator.

If you are already getting benefits, please see Question 3 below.

Q2: Will I be able to claim any benefits if I can't work at the moment, or have lost my job, due to the coronavirus situation?

If you are a jobseeker you might be entitled to 'New-Style' Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). This is a benefit for those who are looking for work and who have a sufficient NI contribution record. For further information visit: gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance.

If you are not entitled to JSA, or if you need additional help on top of this, you might be entitled to Universal Credit (UC) which is a means-tested benefit. If you claim UC you will have to sign something called a 'claimant commitment' which outlines what work related requirements you need to meet to be paid the full amount of UC. For further information visit: gov.uk/universal-credit. It is very important to note that if you (or your partner) are already getting any of the following benefits or tax credits: Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Working Tax Credits or Child Tax Credits, we would advise you not to claim UC and instead to speak with a benefits advisor to get a benefit check, to work out your best options financially. This is because if you claim UC, all of these benefits or tax credits that you (or your partner) get will stop, and you will not be able to re-claim them, which might make you worse off financially.

If you are on a low income, you might be entitled to Council Tax Reduction/Support, which is a means-tested scheme administered by local councils. For further information on your local scheme, visit your local council’s website.

If you want to speak with a benefits advisor to get a benefit check you can contact the Fund on advice@rafbf.org.uk or 0800 169 2942. Alternatively, you can search for local organisations which offer benefits advice on this website: advicelocal.uk. If you would like to use an online benefit calculator, we have a free one on our website (provided by the charity Turn 2 Us), which you can see here: rafbf.org/benefitscalculator.

If you are already getting benefits, please see Question 3 below.

If you are still employed but your employer can't keep paying you during this time, then your employer might have accessed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allows employers to put their employees 'on furlough'. This scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021. For further information visit: gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme .

If you are self-employed and your income has been negatively impacted due to coronavirus, then you might have accessed the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. This scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021. For further information visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/self-employment-income-support-scheme-grant-extension/self-employment-income-support-scheme-grant-extension.

Q3: If I already get benefits or tax credits, will they change if my income has dropped due to the coronavirus situation?

If you already get benefits or tax credits, you should let the relevant departments know if you have stopped working or if your income has changed.

The government announced that Working Tax Credits could continue for people who were temporarily working reduced hours because of coronavirus and for people who had been furloughed because of coronavirus, as long as they were still considered to be employed or self-employed. The government said this would be the case until the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closes. In addition, if you are off work sick and claiming SSP, ESA or are self-employed and this is the reason you cannot claim either of these, you should continue to be treated as working your normal hours for Working Tax Credit Purposes for up to 28 weeks. In terms of the amount of Working Tax Credits, the government had increased Working Tax Credit rates by £20 per week during 2020/2021, and although this increase will end in April 2021, the government have announced that this will be replaced by a one-off payment of £500. Those eligible for this payment should be contacted by text message or letter in April 2021, and this payment should be made by 23 April 2021. For further information visit: www.gov.uk/guidance/new-one-off-500-payment-for-working-households-receiving-tax-credits.

If you are getting Universal Credit (UC), your benefit will be re-calculated if your income has dropped. In addition, the government had increased the UC standard allowance by £20 per week during 2020/2021, and have now announced that this increase will continue for six months from April 2021. Finally, if you are claiming UC and are self-employed, the 'Minimum Income Floor' requirements have been temporarily relaxed, until the end of July 2021, and while these requirements will be gradually reintroduced from August 2021 UC work coaches should have the discretion to not apply them on an individual basis if they consider that someone’s earnings continue to be affected by coronavirus.

If you want to speak with a benefits advisor to get a benefit check you can contact the Fund on advice@rafbf.org.uk or 0800 169 2942. Alternatively, you can search for local organisations which offer benefits advice on this website: advicelocal.uk. If you would like to use an online benefit calculator, we have a free one on our website (provided by the charity Turn 2 Us), which you can see here: rafbf.org/benefitscalculator.

Q4: I have claimed Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Will I have a face-to-face assessment?

If you have made a new claim for PIP, or another sickness or disability benefit (such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance, ESA or UC in certain circumstances), face-to-face assessments were initially suspended until around the end of June 2020, and this suspension is still in place. What should happen instead is that your claim will still be referred to an assessment provider, who should be in touch regarding your claim, and you will likely be asked to attend a telephone assessment instead.

Q5: I have claimed under the War Pensions scheme, or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. Will I have a face to face assessment?

If you have made a new claim for a War Pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, face-to-face assessments were initially suspended until around the end of June 2020, and this suspension is still in place.

If you have claimed under the War Pension Scheme, what will likely happen is that you will be sent a self-assessment form to complete alongside a primary health care factual report form for your GP to complete.

If you have claimed under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, Veterans UK advise that a self-assessment form shouldn’t need to be completed, and instead: if you are still serving, the majority of your medical information is already held electronically and so this can be accessed; and if you have been discharged, your GP will likely be contacted.

Q6: I look after my mother and get Carer's Allowance, however I have had to self-isolate due to having symptoms of coronavirus and so have not been able to provide care. Will I lose my Carer's Allowance?

The government announced two temporary measures to help those getting Carer's Allowance.

Firstly, if you get Carer's Allowance but cannot care for the person you normally look after because either one of you are affected by coronavirus (so if either of you have it, or are following guidance to self-isolate because of it), your entitlement to Carer's Allowance won't end. This is the case until 12 May 2021.

Secondly, providing emotional support will count towards the 35 hours of care per week required to be entitled to Carer's Allowance.

Q7: What is the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment?

In England,if you've been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace because you have coronavirus or because you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has coronavirus, then if you meet the eligibility conditions, you might be entitled to a one off payment of £500 through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. Local authorities will be administering this scheme, so you should contact your local authority for further details. For further general information visit: gov.uk/government/publications/test-and-trace-support-payment-scheme-claiming-financial-support/claiming-financial-support-under-the-test-and-trace-support-payment-scheme.

The Scottish government has announced a similar £500 payment. For further information visit: gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-test-and-protect/pages/support-grants.

The Welsh government has announced a similar £500 payment. For further information, visit: gov.wales/self-isolation-support-scheme.

The NI government doesn't have a specific £500 payment, but has a self-isolation grant payable via the Discretionary Support scheme. For further information, visit: nidirect.gov.uk/articles/extra-financial-support#toc-2.

Questions on housing and schools

 

Q8: I'm worried about being able to pay my rent, is there help available?

If you are worried about being able to pay your rent, you should make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to, as some can help with rent payments. There are some questions above which are about benefits.

If you still feel unable to pay your rent, you should speak to your landlord, to see if you can come to a manageable agreement.

If you have tried the above avenues, but are still in temporary financial distress, we might be able to offer some assistance. For further information visit: rafbf.org/how-we-help/request-our-help-today, or you can call 0300 102 1919.

For information on housing, including current eviction rules:

If you need legal advice, we now offer access to such advice through a telephone helpline service called Law Express. Law Express would be able to advise on your rights and options. To use the service please contact 0300 222 5703 or legal.advice@rafbf.org.uk.

If you are in rent arrears, you can search for local organisations which offer debt advice on this website: advicelocal.uk. Alternatively, you could contact one of the national debt charities such as StepChange or National Debtline.

Q9: I'm worried I'm not going to be able to pay my mortgage, is there anything I can do?

If you are worried about being able to pay your mortgage, you should make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. There are some questions above which are about benefits.

If you still feel unable to pay your mortgage, you should speak to your mortgage lender, as your mortgage lender may be able to offer a payment holiday where this is needed due to coronavirus, or may be able to offer another way of helping if a mortgage holiday is not an option for you.

If you have tried the above avenues, but are still in temporary financial distress, we might be able to offer some assistance. For further information please visit: rafbf.org/how-we-help/request-our-help-today, or you can call 0300 012 1919.

If you need legal advice, we now offer access to such advice through a telephone helpline service called Law Express. Law Express would be able to advise on your rights and options. To use the service please contact 0300 222 5703 or legal.advice@rafbf.org.uk.

For online housing advice and guidance:

If you are in mortgage arrears, you can search for local organisations which offer debt advice on this website: advicelocal.uk. Alternatively, you could contact one of the national debt charities such as StepChange or National Debtline.

Q10: What is the situation with schools??

For information on the situation with schools:

In England, visit the government website.

In Wales, visit the Welsh government website.

In Scotland, visit the Parent Club website.

In NI, visit the NI government website.

Other questions

 

Q11: This whole situation is really affecting my mental health, what support is available?

With coronavirus dominating the news and social media, we might find that our mental health is affected.

For members of the RAF Family who are in need of some extra emotional support, our Listening and Counselling Service is open and providing counselling via telephone or video calling. For further information visit: rafbf.org/how-we-help/veterans/emotional-wellbeing/mental-wellbeing or email support@rafbf.org.uk. We also now provide access to a 24-hour emotional support helpline run in partnership with Vita Health. The helpline is run by trained counsellors, so even if you only have ten minutes, you can call and speak to someone who can support you at any time of the day or night. To find out more please call 0300 222 5703.

Those serving in the RAF, and their partners, can access a Headspace membership. Headspace is a meditation app which has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and improve sleep.  To request a membership please visit: rafbf.org/headspace-request-form.

There are some websites which give useful information on looking after your mental wellbeing:

Q12: This whole situation is really making me feel isolated, what support is available?

The websites on Question 11 touch on connecting with others, which can be a real help if you are feeling lonely or isolated.

RAF veterans might be interested in our telephone friendship groups, which connect members once a week over the telephone. For further information visit: rafbf.org/how-we-help/veterans/relationships/telephone-friendship-groups.

In addition, we are carrying out regular Check and Chat calls to isolated veterans.

Q13: I think I am getting all of the money/benefits I am entitled to at this time but I am still really struggling financially, can the RAF Benevolent Fund help me?

We may be able to provide temporary financial assistance, please take a look at our website for further information, please visit: rafbf.org/how-we-help/request-our-help-today, you can also call 0300 012 1919.

Q14: Where can I find medical advice and guidance on coronavirus?

We cannot provide medical advice and guidance, but please visit the following websites:

Q15: Where can I find further information?

We hope that you have found this information helpful. For the most up to date information on all areas/issues related to coronavirus, visit the following websites:

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