The changes that might affect you most

We have listed below some of the key areas of new legislation which may affect you.

If you’re in hospital

During the COVID-19 emergency, hospital discharge procedures have been changed to free up hospital beds more quickly.

This means that if you are medically fit but will need ongoing care when you leave hospital, this will be arranged once you have returned home, rather than before you've been discharged. In hospital, you will only be assessed to see what (if any) short-term support you need to safely leave hospital. Any longer-term care and support needs will be assessed after you are discharged – this assessment must happen before any short-term support you are getting comes to an end.

The NHS should use emergency government funding to pay for any new or extended care you receive out of hospital for up to six weeks. If you are likely to need longer-term support, a care needs assessment (or an NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment if this is appropriate for you) should be arranged for you during these six weeks. If this is delayed, you should not be asked to pay for any care until the right assessments are carried out.

When you leave hospital, it’s a good idea to confirm with your case manager how long you will be offered this support for and when you can expect to have an assessment of your longer-term care needs. 

If you are unable to return to your own home and need to move in to a care home, you may not be able to move to the care home of your choice straightaway – you may need to stay in an alternative care home for a short while first, rather than staying longer in hospital. You will not be allowed to remain in hospital if you refuse the care you’ve been offered.

Before you move in to a care home, supported housing or temporary accommodation, you must be tested for COVID-19. Your case manager should make sure that this happens. You will only be able to move into a care home if you've been tested within 48 hours before your admission and have the results of your test. If you test positive, you will need to move to a setting which meets certain infection prevention control standards put in place by the Care Quality Commission. This would be for the usual 10 day isolation period, and may be a different location to the care home you are moving to. 

For more information see the government's guidance on hospital discharge and our factsheet on hospital stays.

If you’re a carer

If you are caring for a friend or relative, the criteria for claiming Carer’s Allowance have been changed slightly. The new criteria mean that:

  • any emotional support you are providing someone with during this time will be counted towards the 35 hours of care a week that you must provide to receive Carer’s Allowance.
  • if you live in England or Wales, you can continue to receive Carer’s Allowance even if you need to take a temporary break from caring because you or the person you care for has COVID-19, or you are needing to self-isolate because of it.

You should report any changes to your circumstances (such as a change in your caring hours, or a need to take a break from caring due to COVID-19) to the Carer’s Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0297.

These changes to Carer’s Allowance will be regularly reviewed by the government.

The government has also created guidance for people who provide unpaid care to friends or family members, with advice about protecting yourself and the person you care for. This includes advice about creating an emergency plan with the person you care for, in case you need help with your caring responsibilities from other people during the emergency period. 

If you’re receiving disability benefits

Some face-to-face assessments are starting up again – you could have a face-to-face assessment rather than having an assessment over the phone or needing to fill in a paper assessment form. This applies to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the Industrial Injuries Scheme (IIS), amongst other benefits. Be aware that if you do not attend an assessment when asked to, your claim could be closed. If you have just made a new claim or you are waiting for an assessment, you will be contacted about what will happen next.

DWP home visits have been put on hold, except in certain circumstances (for example, if you are seen as a vulnerable customer, or if a visit needs to take place to ensure your benefit payments can be made). Most people will receive a phone call or a letter instead of a home visit.

If you’ve appealed to a tribunal against a DWP decision on a benefit claim

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating, contact the tribunal where the hearing is due to take place straightaway. You can find their details at Courts and Tribunals Finder.

In most cases, tribunals are still working but they will arrange remote hearings wherever possible. This may mean that your case is assessed without a hearing and the decision will be based only on the documents you have sent. If you still don’t agree with the judge’s decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead.

Any changes to your tribunal hearing will be communicated directly to you in the usual way, usually by email and/or phone.

If you’re in financial difficulty because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills (either because you are self-isolating and can’t top up your meter, for example, or because you cannot afford to pay), your energy company must support you during this time. You can find out more on the Ofgem website. If you are unable to deal with your supplier on your own or you can’t get through to them, call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 and ask to be referred to their Extra Help Unit.

If you own your home and you applied for a mortgage break during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your mortgage provider as soon as you can if you think you may need some additional help once the mortgage break is over. See the Money Advice Service for information on the options available to you when your mortgage break comes to an end.

Visit Shelter for information about your rights and the legal process if you are renting and are given an eviction notice.

If you may have problems paying your Council Tax

The government has introduced a Council Tax hardship fund in England for people who are on a low income and struggling to pay their Council Tax because of the COVID-19 outbreak. This will run until April 2022. People under State Pension age who receive (or who now qualify for) Council Tax Support are being prioritised for this additional help, which will be awarded automatically. If you are over State Pension age and may struggle to pay your Council Tax bill as a result of the current emergency situation, you should contact your council to find out what support might be available to you.

If you have made a complaint about health or care services

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there may be some delay in your complaint being investigated. Your complaint should still be acknowledged within the usual timescales set by the organisation you have made your complaint to. If you have an outstanding complaint, you can contact the organisation to and ask about the status of your complaint.

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COVID-19