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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: 19 February 2021

Latest update

As of February 2021, regional restrictions and lockdowns are in place across the whole of the UK. This is an evolving situation, and the most up to date information can be accessed via the links below.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable across the UK are asked to take extra precautions to protect themselves. Shielding has been reintroduced in some areas for those who remain on the shielded patients list. Across all four nations, adults who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to go to work if they cannot work from home.

The situation remains that most children with cystic fibrosis (CF) are no longer classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, though a small number remain on the shielding list on medical advice.

Planning for phased reopening of schools across the UK is underway. The dates schools are expected to remain closed vary and are subject to review. View the education guidance across the UK.

The Government's furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021. The Government food parcel scheme has now ceased; however, some of the support measures in place for those who were shielding (such as the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme in England) continue to deliver food and medication where needed.

Read the latest general guidance and shielding guidance across the UK:

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 pandemic.

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 rights Q&A

Things continue to change quite rapidly. The effect of COVID-19, the Government’s response and issuing of guidance, and the existence of and application of employment legislation is under constant review. While we are trying to navigate the options available for employees, it is complicated and it is impossible to produce advice that applies to everyone, in all circumstances, that will be valid at all times. The explanation below is based on the Government’s latest sets of published guidance as at the date of publishing. This page may be reviewed if and when the guidance changes. Where possible, it will also relate to Wales and Scotland. This page will be updated as and when new guidance is released.

This page is intended to offer general guidance, not legal advice.

I have CF/I live in the same household as someone with CF. What are my rights?

The legislation referenced 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 CF Trust.

England 

On Tuesday, 5 January 2021, the Prime Minister announced a further national lock down in England. Prior to that, England had operated a five-tier system of alert levels. Those who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable were advised to shield once again. Further, as was the case in March 2020 and November 2020, people with CF were advised to work from home and where that was not possible, they were advised against going into the place of work.

Read the full guidance from Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care on shielding.

Under the section headed “Work”, the guidance states as follows:

“You are strongly advised to work from home because the risk of exposure to the virus in your area may currently be higher. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work.

You may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role or change your working patterns temporarily to enable you to work from home where possible.

If you need support to work at home you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.

If you cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April 2021. You should have a conversation with your employer about whether this is possible.

As you are being advised not to attend work, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The formal shielding letter you receive will act as evidence for your employer and the Department of Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and may be eligible for SSP or ESA. Members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home, in line with the wider rules set out in the national lockdown guidance.”

As a clinically extremely vulnerable person, unable to work because of the protective steps suggested by Government and in line with Public Health guidance, you are eligible to be placed on furlough, but the decision is ultimately up to your employer. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will run until 30 April 2021.

The Government’s guidance for employers, entitled “Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”, which was updated to take into account the latest period of lockdown and shielding instructions, states as follows:

If your employee’s health has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other conditions

Your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed, if they are unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours because they:

  • are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance
  • have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household”

The guidance goes on to provide clarity to employers by confirming the following:

“Employers can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees. An employer does not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand or be closed to be eligible to claim for these employees”.

In summary, your employer can furlough you if you are a clinically extremely vulnerable person. It doesn’t have to, but given the very clear guidance set out above, an employer who chooses not to furlough someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will find it difficult to justify its actions.

Looking closer at the law, as most people with CF are likely to fall within the definition of a disabled person, within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010, an employer who insists on an employee with CF returning to the work place when furlough is available as an alternative, runs the risk of its actions being in breach of its obligation to make reasonable adjustments and doing so is likely to constitute disability discrimination. An employer may struggle to objectively justify its position. If this has happened to you, you should seek independent legal advice as soon as possible. The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and your CF Centre should be able to provide you with sufficient information to share with your employer to make them aware of your disability.

If you have CF and you have been absent from work on long term sick, your employer can still place you on furlough leave. This is confirmed in the Government guidance that has been produced for employees entitled “Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”, which states: 

“Your employer can furlough you if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus or off work on long-term sick leave. It is up to your employer to decide whether to furlough you”.

If you live in the same household as someone with CF, your options will vary significantly depending on individual circumstances, including the age of the clinically extremely vulnerable person who live with you, the nature and severity of their CF, the level of care assistance you provide and the risk posed by your workplace, given your working environment, duties, responsibilities and commuting requirements. If your workplace poses a serious and imminent threat of danger to your loved one’s health, because of their CF, you should inform your employer in line with the steps set out below. If your employer agrees to furlough you, it won’t matter if you haven’t been placed on furlough before. In fact, even if your employer has not previously used the CJRS at all, it will still be eligible to benefit from it, as long as it has a UK bank account and uses a UK PAYE scheme. An employer that is affected by the Coronavirus can furlough all employees, on any type of contract, as long as those employees were on the employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 on 30 October 2020.

If the person with CF in your household is a child and you have caring responsibilities resulting from school closure, your employer can place you on furlough leave. If your child’s specific circumstances require them to remain at home when the schools reopen, this provision means that you will continue to be eligible to be placed on furlough leave at that point.

As the CJRS has been a UK wide scheme, the extended CJRS was and remains available to employers in Scotland and Wales, despite the employers being subject to different regional restrictions.

Wales 

The Welsh Government operates a four-tier system of restrictions and Wales is currently at alert level 4 and in lockdown. The Government has also produced similar guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and living in Wales. 

The guidance states as follows:

“You are strongly advised to work from home because the risk of exposure to the virus is significant. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. This is particularly the case for those whose work requires them to be in regular or sustained contact with other people, or where individuals share a poorly ventilated workspace for long periods.

You may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role to enable you to work from home if possible.

If you cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April 2021. You should have a conversation with your employer about whether this is possible.

As you are being advised not to attend your workplace, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). We will be writing to you confirming this advice, but they will take some time to reach you due to the festive period. These letters can be used as evidence for the purposes of claiming SSP. In the interim you can refer your employer to this guidance.

Members of your household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home.”

While the guidance states that members of your household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work, if they are unable to work from home, the CJRS rules will apply and therefore, the points relating to the CJRS set out above will also apply to those household members in Wales who are facing the same circumstances. Specifically, if household members are caring for a vulnerable person within their household.

The decision to furlough an employee who lives with someone who has been advised to shield remains with the employer. Therefore, if you feel it is not safe to return to work but your employer will not alter your role or working arrangements to enable you to work from home and will not furlough you, you must communicate your concerns about workplace safety to your employer.

​Scotland 

On Tuesday 5 January, mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 to a temporary Lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes. Some islands remained at Level 3.
Read more on the guidance produced by the Scottish Government in relation to working and returning to work.

Specifically, it states:

“During lockdown anyone who is able to work from home, must do so”

There is also additional general guidance for workers entitled “Coronavirus (COVID-19): creating and maintaining safer workplaces”, as well as the Scottish guidance on shielding. These state:

“Working in lockdown

You should continue to work from home if you can.

If you cannot work from home, if you live or work in an area in lockdown, you should not go to work. The letter you will receive from the Chief Medical Officer acts as a fit note for as long as lockdown restrictions are in place.

This letter is called a shielding notification and can be shown to your employer without the need for a GP fit note.

Financial help if you cannot work from home

If you cannot work from home, your employer may be able to furlough you through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This is at your employer's discretion. The scheme will continue until April 2021. If your employer furloughs you, you will stay off work but get up to 80% of your normal salary. Your employer will also keep paying your National Insurance and pension contributions.

If you are not furloughed, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (at your employer's discretion), Universal Credit, or other benefits. To find out what benefits you can get, speak to your employer, visit GOV.UK, or contact Citizens Advice Scotland.

Some employers may offer other financial support if you can't work from home, so you should also ask your employer about this.”

Whether you work in England, Wales or Scotland, if you are not placed on furlough by your employer, you cannot work from home and you are being asked to attend your place of work, please follow the steps below.

Communicating your concerns – what do I do now?

If you have CF and you are asked to work in the workplace, despite Government guidance, you need to communicate your concerns to your employer in writing, explaining your circumstances.

The same applies if you live in a household where a member of your household has CF and you have a genuine concern that your attendance at your place of work will pose a risk of exposure and infection which would place the member of your household with CF in serious and imminent danger.

In both cases, it is important that you make it very clear to your employer exactly what your concerns are.

During the current period of lockdown, if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, the guidance across the board states that you shouldn’t be attending your place of work at all.
If a member of your household has CF, or if you have CF and you are planning your post lock down return to work, you will need to consider whether the work place is COVID- secure and if it is, whether COVID – secure is sufficiently safe to protect you/ your loved one, given individual circumstances as a result of CF.

While 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. 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 as clinically extremely vulnerable and they have been advised to shield. 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 extended furlough scheme, or by working at home.

  • 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. Ask for a clear explanation of their plan for communication to and surveillance of their work force in terms of adherence and detection of symptoms. Ask how this is going to be updated as lockdown ends and the tier systems are reintroduced. See further information about risk assessments below.

  • Read the Government’s guidance on what constitutes a COVID-secure workplace for the relevant sector. Those employers that can remain open, will have to adhere to the rules. There will of course be employers that cannot open because of local higher tier restrictions

  • 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. Your CF Centre may factor in the latest and most up to date statement from the UKCFMA. 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.

  • If you have CF, we recommend that you read the details of the Access to Work scheme. You can assess 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 including making changes to allow you to work from home. You can apply for funding to cover the cost of certain equipment and training required to set up a workstation at home. Further, if you are required to make changes to your commute, because of the risk pose to your safety, because of the Coronavirus, as a result of your CF, you may be awarded some or all of the cost under the scheme. The details can be accessed here.

  • Seek legal advice on your individual circumstances.

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

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. Government Guidance now makes reference to your right to raise Health and Safety concerns to your employer via your Union representative or directly to the Health and Safety Executive. You can also raise your concerns in a grievance or by letter or email directly to your employer. If you raise your health and safety concerns verbally, you should follow up your discussions with written confirmation of your concerns.

The following legal principles will assist you with such discussions.

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 CJRS. 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 CJRS, 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.

We still don’t 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 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. This view might be limited to time frames where the Government’s advice is that the clinically extremely vulnerable should not work. Alternatively, the Tribunals may consider a more holistic approach to the medical risk, taking into account the environmental factors, work place risks and the individual medical circumstances of the person at risk. Each case would then be assessed on its own, very individual circumstances.

COVID-secure Guidance

The Government guidance as to what COVID secure means in England is set out in the 14 separate sector specific sets of guidance.

Sector specific guidance published by the Welsh Government is here

Sector specific guidance published by the Scottish Government is here.

These sets are likely to be subject to ongoing review as the level of risk to public health changes.

Health & Safety Executive

More practical details and example risk assessments can be found on the HSE website.

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 particular 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; and/or
  • to deal with an unexpected incident which involves the employee’s child during school hours.

The Government guidance on this entitlement can be found here.

Under what circumstances can I claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

In addition to the circumstances described above, 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 with regard to 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.

General information about SSP can be found here.

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 adjustments that would allow you to work from home including the provision of specialist equipment. You can apply for support form the Government for the cost of funding such adjustments with your employer here.

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.

Claims for the third SEISS grant closed on 29 January 2021. Details about the fourth grant will be announced on 3 March 2021.

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.

Across the four nations, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to work from home, and not to go to work if they cannot work from home. You may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance. Your shielding letter will act as evidence for your employer and the Department for Work and Pensions.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.

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 opened 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 2020, face-to-face assessments for all claimants on disability benefits were suspended. In January 2021 the DWP confirmed that the suspension of face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits will continue until further notice. 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.

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.

I am due a benefit review or reassessment. How will this affect me?

In January 2021 the DWP has said that the suspension of face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits will continue until further notice.

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

Governments across the UK are preparing for phased reopening of schools. Further information about education across the four nations can be found in the general guidance links below:

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 updates and FAQs

Important information for people affected by cystic fibrosis about coronavirus (COVID-19), and the latest guidance on how to stay safe.