Fighting for what is ours
Workers without a guarantee of sick pay make up an important ‘front’ in the current struggle: for them, their immediate choice is continue to work or starve. While the date from which workers who are entitled to claim statutory sick pay has been moved forward to include “the first day of illness,” in most cases statutory sick pay only entitles workers to a short period of full wages (usually two weeks). As the crisis may necessitate workers take longer breaks from work due to self isolation, their own illness or so as to nurse loved ones, we need to be making demands that extend beyond the government’s current offer, which does little to benefit workers. See our section on workplace organising.
For those currently out of work, or soon to lose their employment because of this crisis, the situation is desperate and confusing. The nature of the benefits system, with its slow and punitive assessment process, ensures many who are entitled to “out of work benefits,” do not receive them in good time; and when they do they are way below what is adequate to live upon.
Benefit claimants have a long history of organising in the UK, forming claimants unions to fight for what they and others are entitled to. In recent years this tradition has been eroded, due in no small part, to a right wing media agenda demonising those who are out of work or in receipt of benefits. As the weeks and months unfold expect to see the re-emergence of the claimants movement.
Please note that since government policy is constantly changing, some of the resources linked below may not be updated immediately to reflect the latest changes.
General demands and campaigns
Labour’s economic plan: “Wages, Welfare, and Wellbeing”—proposals from John McDonnell
N244 forms—to apply to set aside or vary a judgment, or suspend an enforcement process
The government has announced emergency legislation to suspend all new evictions from social and private housing for at least 3 months. No new possessions through applications to the court may start during this period. This does not address evictions and possessions already in progress.
Landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus have been offered a 3-month mortgage holiday, but they are not obliged to pass this on to tenants. At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances. The government is asking landlords to show compassion but not mandating any rent holidays.
The government has widened the Pre-Action Protocol on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit; this will encourage landlords to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in in order or resolve disputes.
As of 20 March, the government introduced further measures, which included raising the Local Housing Allowance to 30% of market rent. Since this still comes up short, organisations representing renters and some Labour MPs are continuing to call for a rent holiday.
The government has announced a 3-month holiday on mortgage payments for homeowners who need it, including landlords.
All charity staff and volunteers delivering key frontline services, including services for homeless people, have been granted key worker status. These organisations will be increasingly overstretched and require whatever support you are able to give.
Apply online for Universal Credit here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit.
You can claim Universal Credit if you are working, including self-employment.
If you need help covering housing costs, you should apply for UC. The amount of rent UC will help you with depends on your age and the local housing allowance; search for your entitlement here: https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/.
As of 19 March, the government has made a number of changes to benefits, which include:
- No face-to-face appointments for health assessments or at Jobcentres will be required for 3 months from 19 March 2020. See the government press release on face-to-face appointments.
- The minimum income floor for new Universal Credit claims has been suspended for the duration of the outbreak, meaning that the self-employed who are suffering from Coronavirus or are required to stay at home will be treated the same as employees.
- ESA payments due to coronavirus will be made from day 1, rather than day 7.
- Statutory Sick Pay will be payable if you have to stay at home, not just if you are infected, and you will get it from day 1 (not day 4).
- They have not yet abolished the 5-week wait. It is possible to get help through a repayable advance payment.
As of 20 March, the government made further changes, which include:
- An increase in the standard allowance for Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 for the next 12 months.
- The Local Housing Allowance has been increased to 30% of market rent in all areas of the country.
- Self-employed workers, who are ineligible for Statutory Sick Pay, can now access in full Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to SSP for employees: £94.25 for up to 28 weeks now payable from day 1 (not day 4).
- They have still not abolished the 5-week wait. It is possible to get help through a repayable advance payment.
New Style Jobseekers’ Allowance
You can apply for this if you have paid enough national insurance contributions; you can check them here: https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits. It is not affected by your savings or your partner’s job.
Employment and Support Allowance
This is a benefit if you are too unwell to work. Contribution-based ESA (also called New Style ESA) is only available if you have paid enough national insurance contributions in the last few years; you can check them here: https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits You can check your eligibility for ESA by ringing 0800 055 6688 (or textphone 0800 023 4888).
Social security FAQs
Coming soon as the government publishes more details
If you have a question please fill out this form and we shall endeavour to research the answer.