Your donation will make a difference:
Cystic Fibrosis Trust
Forum

Financial support and welfare advice during coronavirus

We know this is a worrying time for the cystic fibrosis (CF) community, and many have questions and concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may affect them. We have tried to provide some answers to the frequent questions we’ve received to our helpline below. It’s important that people also seek advice from their CF team to support their decisions.

Last updated: 30 September 2020

Latest update

Shielding has been paused in most of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 31 July and in Wales from 16 August. Since the pausing of shielding, those who had been shielding have been able to return to work (though are advised to continue to work from home where possible), providing their workplaces are ‘COVID-secure’. Further information on what a COVID-secure workplace means can be found in the ‘Work’ section below.

The Government food parcel scheme has now ceased, however Government support is still available for those in local lockdown areas who are still shielding. In addition, some of the support measures in place for those who were shielding (such as the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme) continue to deliver food and medication where needed. Those who will still need help with shopping, medication or essential supplies are advised to call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm).

Find more information on the current shielding guidance across the UK.

All those who were shielding are advised to follow the following guidelines:

  • You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low.
  • You can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, while keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre, plus other precautions.
  • Continue to wash hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace.

We have tried to provide some answers to the frequent questions we’re hearing on our helpline below. It’s important that people also seek advice from their CF team to support their decisions.

If you or your children are struggling to cope with worries about the virus, visit our page on mental and physical health during the COVID-19 crisis.

Work

ACAS has provided some useful guidance for employees and employers, which is quite general but is also very clear and straightforward.

In terms of how this applies to people with CF, cystic fibrosis can be defined as a disability and this means that someone with CF has the right to request ‘reasonable adjustments’ (for example, to request to work from home if possible due to the shielding guidance). We would suggest discussing this with your employer. You can read more about CF at work, and find general information to explain the condition to employers, here.

When talking to your employer about how the coronavirus outbreak affects you, it is a good idea to provide information about CF from an official source (you could use our information above), show your employer the link to the Government's guidance on protecting those who are ‘extremely vulnerable’ and that this specifically mentions CF, and show them the UKCFMA’s latest advice on our website. You may be asked to provide medical evidence, in which case you could discuss the letter or text messages you will have recently received from the Government, advising you to follow the shielding guidance.

If you are worried about the financial implications of being unable to work, please speak to your CF specialist social worker or contact our Helpline, who can provide information on benefits and our welfare grant programme. The helpline can also arrange for you to have personalised advice from our Welfare and Rights Advisor or our Welfare Officer, who can support you to understand your rights and the options available. Further information about this can be found below.

For advice about Carers Rights at work, visit carers UK.

An important part of understanding your employment rights is knowing whether you are employed or self-employed. You can find useful definitions on the ACAS website.

Employment information relating to shielding

As you will no doubt be aware, the effect of COVID-19, the Government’s response and issuing of guidance, and the existence of and application of employment legislation is changing regularly. It is complicated and it is impossible to produce advice that applies to everyone, in all circumstances, that will always be valid. The information below is intended to be general guidance not legal advice and will be reviewed regularly and subject to change as there are further developments. 

I have CF/I live in the same household as someone with CF. Now that shielding has been paused, what are my rights in relation to returning to work and what do I need to do?

The legislation relied on this page is relevant to England, Wales and Scotland. Employment law in Northern Ireland is quite different from that in England, Wales and Scotland. If you are based in Northern Ireland, please speak to your CF team for details of the Advice Space service, which is co-funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

In March 2020, people with CF were identified as extremely clinically vulnerable and were placed on a list of people who were required to shield. Whilst shielding was ongoing, those employees and members of their household fell within the category of employees who could be furloughed by their employer, allowing their employer to receive funding under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, shielding was paused from 31 July 2020. In Wales, shielding was paused from 16 August 2020. Local lockdown provisions may be put in place from time to time and those provisions may include specific guidance in relation to shielding.

Whilst shielding has been paused, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme remains in place (albeit on a reducing scale) until 31 October 2020. From 1 July 2020, employees on furlough leave, or those who had been placed on furlough leave during the relevant period, were transferred to flexible furlough leave.

Some families who had adhered to the shielding guidelines, might have been excited about the prospect of returning to some form of normality after essentially placing their lives on hold for several months. Some families will no doubt have found the prospect of returning to working life extremely difficult and stressful.

Any employer who attempted to force an employee to return to the workplace prior to 1 August 2020, did so against the shielding guidance put in place by Public Health England. It is very likely that, in doing so, the employer placed the health and safety of that employee at risk. If this happened to you, you should seek independent legal advice in relation to your specific circumstances without delay.

When shielding was paused, a number of things happened:

  • Some employers may have required their employees to come back to work immediately. An employee who had been furloughed because they, or a member of their household had been shielding, was not able to continue on furlough leave after shielding was paused, unless they fell under one of the other qualifying categories.
  • Some employers may have allowed their employees to remain on flexible furlough leave. An employer was only able do this if the reason for furlough was that the employer could not maintain its workforce because its operations had been affected by coronavirus. Employers who chose to keep its employees on flexible furlough leave may keep this under review. 

Flexible furlough leave remains an option until the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closes on 31 October 2020. From 1 September 2020, employers were required to contribute to the employee’s wages, reducing the percentage that an employer could recover from the Government to 70%. This reduces further to 60% from 1 October 2020. These changes, in themselves, may prompt employers to review their plans.

The employer’s guidance entitled “Check if you can claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”, which was updated on 28 August 2020, can be found here.

From 1 November 2020, the Job Support Scheme will become available for employees who are able to work at least one-third of their normal working hours. Employees do not have to have previously been placed on furlough to benefit from the Job Support Scheme. This may offer some reassurance to employees who are worried about their level of income once the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme closes. Please see below for further details about the Job Support Scheme and eligibility.

Now that shielding has been paused

If you were originally furloughed because you were shielding, or living in the same household as someone who was shielding and the other qualifying categories do not apply, flexible furlough leave is not available unless and until shielding returns. The Government Guidance entitled “Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”, which was updated last on 28 August 2020, still references shielding employees:

“If your employee is:

  • unable to work because they are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay at home with someone who is shielding)
  • unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), including employees that need to look after children

They can be furloughed as long as you previously placed the employee on furlough before 30 June and submitted a claim for them by 31 July.”

If the guidance changes and you are advised to shield again before 31 October 2020, your employer can place you back on flexible furlough leave, for the duration of that shielding period. This will be available if you qualified for flexible furlough the first time around.

This is confirmed in the Government’s guidance entitled “Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19” updated on 29 September 2020:

“You could be advised to shield again if the situation changes and there is an increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

Your name will be kept securely on the shielded patient list by NHS Digital. We will write to you if the advice changes. Any national changes will be reflected in this guidance.”

For those who remain on flexible furlough

Flexible furlough is available if your employer is closed or cannot maintain its workforce because its operations have been affected by coronavirus. Under the flexible furlough scheme, employees can work part time.

If you have been asked to work part time by your employer, it is important that you reach an agreement that those hours should be from home wherever possible. Even though shielding has been paused, it remains the position that where an employee is able to work from home, they should be permitted to do that.

In its guidance entitled “Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19”, the Government states:

“You can go to work as long as the workplace is COVID-secure, but should carry on working from home wherever possible.”

The Government’s message on home working has been consistent in its guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. This guidance was last updated 29 September 2020.

On 22 September, the Prime Minister announced in relation to the general population, that the Government was “once again asking office workers to work from home if they can.”

So, what do I do now?

If you are being asked to return to work, the following may apply to you:

Employees who have CF and were on furlough because of shielding are not able to benefit from flexible furlough leave unless their employer identifies them as eligible under a qualifying category. If the employer is closed, or cannot maintain its workforce because its operations have been affected by coronavirus, it can choose to furlough you. If you were too ill to return to work when shielding was paused, and you are on long term sick leave, or if you are on or you have just returned from parental leave, your employer, can continue to furlough you. You should talk to your employer to see what your options are. Further information is available here

Employees who were placed on furlough leave and transferred to flexible furlough leave because they live in a household with a child who has CF and was shielding: You might have already returned to work. You might have been told that you are required to return to work shortly. Your child’s health and individual childcare arrangements will determine whether you can safely return to the workplace or not. You may wish to:

  • read through the statement by UKCFMA referenced later on this page;
  • talk to your employer and request an explanation of the measures that it has taken or intends to take to ensure that the place of work is COVID-safe. You can also request a copy of its risk assessment;
  • start discussions with your child’s CF centre in relation to any possible risk to their health, if you return to your place of work; and
  • ask for input from your child’s CF centre in determining whether the measures put in place by the employer to make the workplace COVID -safe are enough to safeguard your child against the risk imposed by COVID-19 as a result of their cystic fibrosis.

Employees who have CF or who live in a household with a person who has CF (but who does not require childcare) and were placed on furlough leave because they were shielding: You might have already returned to work. You might have been told that you are required to return to work shortly. Your health or your loved one’s health will determine whether you can safely return to the workplace or not. You may wish to:

  • read the statement by the UKCFMA referenced later on this page;
  • talk to your employer and request an explanation of the measures that it has taken or intends to take to ensure that the place of work is COVID-safe. You can also request a copy of their risk assessment;
  • discuss the risk to your/ their health if you return to your place of work with your CF centre. Where the concern relates to someone in your household, they could involve you in a joint discussion with their CF centre; and
  • ask for input from the CF centre in determining whether the measures put in place by the employer to make the workplace COVID -safe are enough to safeguard the risk imposed to health, by COVID-19 as a result of cystic fibrosis.

Employees who have CF (or live in a household with someone who has CF), who remain on flexible furlough leave because their employer is closed or cannot maintain its workforce because its operations have been affected by coronavirus are not required to do anything unless you are asked to return to work by your employer. It is still the employer’s choice as to whether it allows an employee to remain on flexible furlough leave.

Technically, people who were shielding until it was paused, may have been required to return to the workplace on 1 August 2020 (17 August in Wales), whilst a colleague has remained on flexible furlough leave. Whilst this is unfair, it is possible under the current rules. A person with CF will almost certainly be entitled to request reasonable adjustments. More information can be found in our employment factsheet. Funding to facilitate reasonable adjustments may be available via the Access to Work Scheme.

In all cases, if you have CF or you live in a household with a person who has CF who was shielding, and you are concerned about the risk of exposure and infection of COVID-19 or bringing the virus into your household by attending your place of work, you need to communicate your concerns to your employer in writing, explaining your circumstances.

You should provide clear information about CF, including information provided by the CF Trust and if possible, medical evidence from a relevant CF centre. It is important that you clearly explain that, because of your/your loved one’s CF, you/they have been identified by Public Health England as clinically extremely vulnerable and whilst shielding is not currently required, working from home should be permitted wherever possible. Further, you should explain that by travelling to and attending your place of work you are exposing yourself/ your loved one to the virus by potentially bringing it back into the home, placing them in serious and imminent danger, that can only be averted by staying at home with them, on the flexible furlough scheme or by working at home.

Shielding has now been paused, in most places, for some time. Public Health England has stated in its guidance that it is safe for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, who have been shielding, to go to work themselves if that work place is COVID-secure and to enter the wider public arena by visiting shops and mixing with more people socially. Therefore, convincing an employer that you cannot attend your place of work is a higher hurdle to clear and is likely to get more challenging as things improve.

What is COVID-secure and is it safe enough?

The first question to ask is whether your place is COVID-secure and the second is, whether “COVID-secure” is enough to protect you/ your loved one, given individual circumstances as a result of their cystic fibrosis.

Whilst we cannot answer this for you, we would suggest that you take the following steps to enable you to make a decision that is right for you:

  • Have the discussion with your employer and set out your concerns in writing.
  • Request a copy of your employer’s risk assessment and an explanation of the measures and structures that they have put in place to enable social distancing and allow hygiene infection control measures and their plan for communication to and surveillance of their work force in terms of adherence and detection of symptoms. See further information about risk assessments below.
  • Read the Government’s guidance on what constitutes a COVID-secure workplace for the relevant sector.
  • Assess and plan how you would travel to work and carry out your own risk assessment for the journey. If driving your own car, looking at any risks posed by the practicalities such as how, when and where you would park your car. This risk assessment can be communicated to your employer. 
  • Seek advice from a medical expert, ideally from a relevant CF centre. You should ask for an opinion on whether the key factors identified in the UKCFMA’s statement are satisfied. You should be ready to provide a copy of your employer’s risk assessment or an explanation of the measures it is taking to make the workplace COVID-secure. You can ask for assistance in determining whether the COVID-secure environment is sufficient to protect you / your loved one, given their specific medical history.
  • Read the details of the Access to Work scheme to see whether you or your employer can claim a grant to cover the cost of work place assistance or equipment to enable your employer to make reasonable adjustments over and above what your employer is required to do to make its workplace COVID-secure. 
  • Seek legal advice on your individual circumstances.

Supporting information

The information set out below may assist you to follow the steps set out above.

COVID-secure guidance

The Government guidance as to what COVID secure means is set out in the 8 separate sector specific sets of guidance which can be found here

All sets of guidance were updated on 18 September 2020, and the Prime Minister announced on 22nd September that it is now a legal requirement for workplaces in England to ensure that they are COVID-secure.

Health & Safety Executive

Further, more practical details and example risk assessments can be found on the HSE website.

UK Cystic Fibrosis Medical Association

The UKCFMA issued the following statement on 29 June 2020.

The statement emphasises the importance of people with CF being able to return to safe working environments, with robust measures being put in place to minimise their risk of acquiring infection.
Any person or household member who is concerned that these requirements are not satisfied in their particular circumstances, should seek advice. The balance may change depending on regional restrictions that may be imposed from time to time or an employer’s ability to put robust measures in place.

If you/the member of your household with CF is post-transplant or their condition is severe or unstable, you should follow the UKCFMA’s recommendation and seek assistance from the relevant CF centre and you can address any concerns that you have about your/their health and safety.

Legal principles

The law setting out the rights of employees who have health and safety concerns is complex and the relevant sections of the Employment Rights Act 1996, were not purposely drafted with a pandemic in mind. How they apply in these circumstances hasn’t yet been tested by the Employment Tribunals or Courts and will be subject to interpretation.

However, if you are having this discussion with your employer you need to be aware of the following principles.

Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) protects an employee from suffering a detriment if, in circumstances of danger, which they reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which they could not have reasonably been expected to avert, they leave or refuse to return to the place of work or the dangerous part of the place of work. It also protects those who because of the same reasonable belief take appropriate steps to protect themselves or other persons from danger. Section 100 of the ERA prohibits dismissals under the same circumstances (specifically subsections (1) (d) and (1) (e)).

Further, the communication of concern to the employer is, in itself protected under the provisions that protect whistle-blowers. Under s.43B(1)(d) of the ERA, informing the employer that “the health and safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered” constitutes a qualifying disclosure and protects the employee who raised it against further detriment.

A detriment can include but is not limited to, suspension, reduced or withheld pay, demotion, or dismissal. In taking any of these actions, the employer will expose itself to liability for compensation for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and potential claims of a detriment short of dismissal, constructive unfair dismissal, unfair dismissal or breach of contract. There is an interesting argument about reduction of pay if the employer reduces pay under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. If the employer reduces pay because it is entitled to, because it has authority to lay the employee off in the contract of employment and because it is applying the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, that is fine. If the employer reduces pay following and because of a protected disclosure about health and safety concerns, that is a detriment and therefore shouldn’t happen.

Despite the recent developments, Government guidance remains clear that employees should work from home where possible. When it isn’t possible, social distancing and hygiene measures to achieve infection control should be adhered to in the workplace. If social distancing and hygiene infection control measures cannot be maintained in full, in the workplace, then those operations or activities should only continue if they are necessary for the business to operate. If the social distancing cannot be maintained and those operations or activities continue, they are placing employees at risk of catching COVID-19 and should therefore take all the mitigating actions possible, to reduce the risk of transmission between their employees and/or members of the public.

These pieces of legislation will become increasingly important in the coming months.

We don’t currently know how the Employment Tribunals will apply s.44, s.100(1)(d) and s.100(1)(e) of the ERA to issues involving COVID-19. The key will be to be establishing that there was a risk of serious and imminent danger. It may be that Tribunals take the view that whilst we are dealing with a declared pandemic, there will be a constant risk of serious danger and that risk will always be imminent. Alternatively, the Tribunals may consider a more holistic approach to the medical risk, taking into account the environmental factors, workplace risks and the individual medical circumstances of the person at risk. Each case would then be assessed on its own, very individual circumstances.

Job Support Scheme

On 24 September 2020 the Government announced the introduction of the new Job Support Scheme. A fact sheet was published later that day which explains, in brief, how the Job Support Scheme will work. Further details will be made available within the coming weeks.

In summary, the Government will provide a top-up to wages being paid by employers from 1 November 2020 for a period of six months. In order to be eligible, employees must be working at least one-third of their normal working hours (from home or in the workplace) and being paid for that work as normal. Of the remaining two-thirds, the Government and the employer will each pay 33%, meaning that an employee would receive 77% of their normal wage. The Government’s contribution will, however, be capped at a maximum of £697.92 per month.

As with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, in order to be eligible, employers must have a UK bank account and operate a UK PAYE scheme.

The scheme is available to all small and medium sized enterprises. Large businesses will only be eligible to participate in the scheme if they can prove that they have been adversely affected by the crisis and suffered a fall in turnover. Such businesses will be subject to a financial assessment test.

Employees who began work on or before 23 September 2020 will be eligible, provided that they are not serving notice on grounds of redundancy. They must also be working a minimum of 33% of their usual hours and being paid for that work as normal. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t previously been furloughed.

The Government’s factsheet can be found here.

What else can I do?

Parental leave

Parental leave is a form of statutory unpaid leave available to some working parents. The total amount of unpaid leave that can be taken per child is 18 weeks and this can be taken up to the child’s 18th birthday. The right to parental leave is limited to employees who have been continuously employed for a period of not less than one year, who have, or expect to have, responsibility for a child. 

Some employers may offer enhanced, contractual parental leave which could include payment during some or all of the leave. It is therefore important to check your employer’s existing policies.

Time off for dependants

Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take necessary action to deal with situations affecting their dependants. The right applies to employees only but covers all employees irrespective of length or service, working hours or whether the employment is permanent or on a fixed term basis.

The right provides that an employee is entitled to take reasonable time off where it is necessary:

  • to provide assistance if a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
  • to make care arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured;
  • in consequence of the death of a dependant;
  • to deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant; or
  • to deal with an unexpected incident which involves the employee’s child during school hours.

Given that schools have now reopened, this is becoming less relevant. It will become more relevant if you are involved in a local period of lockdown and school closure.

The Government guidance on this entitlement can be found here.

Under what circumstances can I claim SSP?

If you are, yourself displaying symptoms of COVID–19, or someone in your household is displaying symptoms, you will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for 14 days from the date on which the symptoms first started or until you are well enough to return to work.

If you are contractually entitled to receive company sick pay, you will be entitled to company sick pay, in accordance with your employer’s sick pay scheme. If you are in a household where someone within that household is displaying symptoms, and you are isolating, you may, potentially, be entitled to receive company sick pay, but it will be at your employer’s discretion. This is because you, as an individual are not actually sick. If you go on to experience symptoms yourself, you will then be entitled to company sick pay. It is important that you keep your employer up to date on your circumstances.

If you are extremely clinically vulnerable and you live in a local lockdown area or you work in a local lockdown area but live outside it, you can claim SSP. You will be required to provide evidence to your employer that you are extremely clinically vulnerable. You can find further information on the NHS website, under the Government's Job Retention scheme guidance or the Government's guidance on statutory sick pay.

Can I request that my employer makes reasonable adjustments to allow me to work from home?

Only individuals with a qualifying disability (under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010) can request reasonable adjustments. Unfortunately, you cannot request adjustments because of someone else’s disability. You can request that changes are made in order to make the workplace COVID-secure.

The information contained above is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice will vary, depending on an individual’s specific circumstances. This information has been produced by the Employment Law Department of Richard Nelson LLP.

Financial support

With shielding being paused, there have been some changes to the benefits rules and procedures. We have also added some important dates if you’re claiming under the income support scheme for Self-Employment.

It is very difficult to give general benefits advice, as your entitlement depends on many things, like who you live with, if you have a partner in employment, your savings situation, and your National Insurance record.

Another major factor is whether you have a good relationship with your employer, and if you are entitled to any contractual sick pay. Your employer can also get support.

Sometimes there are difficult decisions to make, and while we don’t always have the answers, we can support you and make sure you are well informed to make your own decisions weighing up practical arrangements, finances and risks to health.

If you are currently receiving any legacy benefits (see below), we would stress the importance of seeking specialist advice rather than following what has been reported in the press about claiming Universal Credit, as this could mean you are at risk of losing something else you receive.

Legacy benefits are:

  • Child tax credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • Income support
  • Working tax credit

Here are answers to some more specific questions that you might have about financial support and benefits:

I am self-employed and am therefore not able to earn. What could I claim? 

The Government set up a scheme to support you if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to COVID-19. This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months.

Find out more about eligibility and how to access the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) here.

If you’re eligible and your business has been adversely affected, you needed to make your claim for the first grant on or before 13 July 2020.

This scheme is being extended. If you’re eligible for the second and final grant, and your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020, you’ll be able to make a claim from 17 August 2020. You can make a claim for the second grant if you’re eligible, even if you did not make a claim for the first grant. Find out more about the extension to the scheme.

If you are self-employed, you may also be able to claim support through the Welfare system. What you can claim will depend on your personal circumstances and your means/savings. You may be able to claim New-style Jobseeker’s Allowance, New-style Employment and Support Allowance and/or Universal Credit. However, please seek specialist advice before making any claims.

If you already get benefits like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, tell the office paying you that you can't work because you're sick or unable to work due to the shielding guidance. You might be entitled to more money while you're off work.

If you are going back to work, you will need to let them know.

I am employed and not going to work. What could I claim?

If you are employed and are on sick leave, you may be able to get contractual sick pay or Statutory Sick Pay.

In the UK, those who are deemed to be incapable of work by reason of coronavirus now also includes a person who:

  • is defined in public health guidance as extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of an underlying health condition; and
  • has been advised, by notification sent to, or in respect of, that person in accordance with that guidance, to follow rigorously shielding measures for the period specified in the notification.

However, shielding has now been paused and people with cystic fibrosis have been told they can return to work (if they cannot work from home0, providing the workplace is COVID-secure. This means that people with CF are no longer eligible for Statutory Sick Pay due to shielding.

You can read Government legislation on SSP legislation here.

You might still be able to get SSP after shielding has been paused if you can’t work from home and it’s not safe for you to go to work. You’ll need a fit note from your doctor to give to your employer.

If you are extremely clinically vulnerable and you live in a local lockdown area or you work in a local lockdown area but live outside it, you can claim SSP. You will be required to provide evidence to your employer that you are extremely clinically vulnerable. Further information can be found in the Work section (above).

Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £120 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, may be able to able to claim Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

What you can claim, if you have no income, will depend on your personal circumstances and your means/savings. You may be able to claim New-style Jobseeker’s AllowanceNew-style Employment and Support Allowance and/or Universal Credit. However please seek specialist advice before making any claims.

I have a Jobcentre appointment but have been advised to stay at home.

People receiving benefits did not have to attend Jobcentre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020. However, from 1 July 2020, claimants can make an appointment to see their work coach at a Jobcentre if they can’t get the help they want online or over the phone.

People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible.

Jobcentres were open to support people who were not able to use phones or the internet, including homeless people. From 1 July, Jobcentres are further opening up, with appropriate safety measures in place for COVID-19, to enable them to safely see more claimants. Work Coaches will be working with claimants to start to help them in their work search and creating and agreeing their Claimant Commitment.

If you are already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible. You can do this through your online journal or by calling the helpline.

You can find out more here.

The Government has suspended face-to-face health assessments for benefits. How will this affect me?

From Tuesday 17 March, face-to-face assessments for all claimants on disability benefits were suspended for three months. This temporary move was taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19 and affected claimants of Personal Independence Payment, those on Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Disablement Benefits. The suspension also covers new claims to those benefits.

Anyone who had 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. Take a look at our PIP telephone assessment factsheet (1.046MB) for more information and how to prepare.

This suspension should not disrupt processing of benefits claims or actual payments, and we advise people to keep an eye on updates from the official Government web page.

The DWP has said that the suspension of face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits is to continue.

The Government has suspended all benefit reviews and reassessments. How will this affect me?

From Tuesday 24 March, reviews and reassessments for disability benefits were suspended for three months. All awards and reassessments for health and disability benefits were extended. This included Universal Credit (UC), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

On 6 July, the Government announced that reviews and renewals will be gradually reintroduced.

The DWP will shortly be writing to some PIP and DLA claimants asking them to complete paperwork to resume their reviews, reassessments and renewals; and for PIP cases where paperwork has already been returned, claimants may be contacted by one of the DWP's Assessment Providers.

The suspension of face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits is to continue.

My Claimant Commitment on my Universal Credit says I should be looking for work for a certain number of hours per week. However, I have to stay at home to protect my health/the health of the person with CF that I care for. Will I be sanctioned?

Your Claimant Commitment can be tailored to your circumstances and can also be reviewed and changed if needed at any time, and requirements can be ‘switched off’. Work Coaches have a broad discretion to customise your Claimant Commitment to meet your needs. However, if you have to stay at home under social shielding guidance, or you are a carer, you need to let them know. Find out more information on Universal Credit’s Claimant Commitments or childcare

I’ve been advised to claim Universal Credit if I can’t work due to coronavirus but I’m not sure how I will cope with the five-week wait. Is there any help available?

It is possible to apply for an advance payment of Universal Credit, but this money does need to be paid back. You may be able to apply for a grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, if you meet the criteria. There are also many other charities who offer non-repayable grants to help individuals on low incomes. 

If required you can access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a jobcentre. Find out more here.

The Government will also provide local authorities in England with £500m grant funding to support economically vulnerable people who are impacted by the economic fallout of the virus in their local area. The Treasury expects most of this funding to be used to provide council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes or through complementary reliefs. We do not yet know how accessible this help will be, but we will be monitoring the situation closely.

Please contact our Helpline if you need further information. 

How is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust supporting those in most financial need at this difficult time?

The Trust has always provided emergency grants (as well as a range of other grants) to those in financial need, in order to help everyone with CF stay as well as possible. We are expanding our grant programme to provide more emergency grants right now, to protect the health of those with CF who are facing financial struggles by ensuring they are able to afford the food and basic essentials they need. More information and the grant application form can be found on our emergency grants page.

Our Helpline team are on hand if you have any questions about our grants, and can also put you in touch with our Welfare and Rights Advisor.

Education and early years settings

Schools across the UK began reopening in August and September. Schools have put in place safety measures to minimise the risk of infection. Early years settings, nurseries and pre-schools have also reopened.

The Government guidance for parents / carers about schools reopening can be found here.

The Governments guidance for schools safely reopening can be found here.

Higher education institutions across the UK have also begun to reopen, with restrictions in place and many teaching courses online.

Government guidance on the reopening of higher education institutions and campuses can be found here.

This page is being regularly reviewed and updated as coronavirus advice and guidance changes.

Mental and physical health

Helpful advice on how you can maintain your emotional and physical wellbeing through a range of activities.

The impact on your CF care

Information on how the COVID-19 outbreak could affect your routine CF care, what to do if you contract COVID-19 and other frequently asked questions.

Coronavirus, staying at home and shielding

Important information for people with CF and their loved ones about coronavirus (COVID-19), and what social distancing and social shielding measures you should be taking.