A number of changes have been made to the benefit, tax and council tax system to assist those arriving in the UK, and the host families who may be accommodating them. The situation can obviously change very rapidly but this is what we know as of 18th May 2022.
This is the latest guidance on gov.uk for those people arriving in the UK – “Move to the UK if you’re coming from Ukraine – check what you need to do before you travel to the UK and what to do after you arrive”. Further guidance on universal credit has also been provided – Support for those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine – Understanding Universal Credit
Benefit rules have been amended for people fleeing the war in Ukraine and arriving in the UK, who can now claim benefits from the first day they arrive. Ukrainians will be eligible for Universal Credit, Housing Benefit (in limited circumstances), Child Benefit, Pension Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance (for children), Carers Allowance, and Attendance Allowance. The universal credit will include the normal elements but not a rent element if accommodated under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
New-style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) are also available for those Ukrainians who meet the criteria, although that is unlikely given the requirement to have paid sufficient recent national insurance.
Without the emergency legislation Ukrainian people fleeing the Russian invasion would be subject to the Habitual Residence Test, meaning they would have to wait up to three months before being able to receive income-related benefits, including universal credit, and a Past Presence Test which would have excluded them from disability benefits.
The above exemptions apply to Ukrainians coming to the UK under either the Ukraine Family visa Scheme (run by the Home Office) or The Homes for Ukraine Scheme (managedby the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Also note:-
- Recognised Providers: Organisations who can help UK citizens become sponsors
- Homes for Ukraine: guidance for matching organisations
Further guidance on immigration status is on Immigration Rules Appendix Ukraine Scheme – Immigration Rules – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and in a longer answer from CPAG on Rightsnet if you subscribe… https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/18180/#86107
Please note that the impact on the benefits of the ‘hosts’ in either scheme may be different however (see below)
There is a £200 interim payment that is made to help new arrivals until benefits kick-in. This was originally provided by Paypoint vouchers which are sent to the lead guest by text or email. They could then convert the vouchers for cash at a Paypoint location – Find your local PayPoint store. However, a new system is being introduced using Post Offices instead, as Paypoint have a maximum pay-out of £100 per transaction. The vouchers or the new Post Office system are the responsibility of the County Council.
When HCC are notified of a sponsor, HCC contact them by email with various links and information. In this email HCC ask the sponsors to start the DBS process and to also notify the Council by return email when their guests arrive, and this triggers the £200 payment.
To help new arrivals with applications, translation services are available for those making claims on the phone. The Money Advice Unit has been assured that work coaches and other DWP staff at Jobcentres across the county are on hand to support people making claims online. You can find out more on GOV.UK and watch the DWP’s social media explainer animation in English or Ukrainian.
The Refugee Council has produced a guide to opening a bank account.
Use this form to let the Department for Work and Pensions and Refugee Employment Network know about jobs you can offer to people from Afghanistan or Ukraine.
If the claimant does not have a National Insurance Number (NINO), which is to be expected, then an application for a NINO will be initiated from within the DWP if entitlement to benefit is established. The claimant should provide sufficient information and evidence to enable a NINO to be allocated. There have been difficulties in the past with some benefit claims where DWP staff (and some DWP on-line benefit claim processes) will not accept a claim being made unless a NINO is provided, which locks the claimant out of entitlement.
The “Move to the UK if you’re from Ukraine” document says quite clearly “If you’re applying for Universal Credit you’ll get a National Insurance number if your claim is successful. If you plan to work or claim other benefits, you can apply for a National Insurance number yourself” Apply for a National Insurance number – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
LA Welfare Direct 4/2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) for the latest DWP guidance (4th April 2022)
The DLUHC have confirmed that for the duration that a sponsor accommodates a Ukrainian national through the DLUHC Homes for Ukraine scheme, no rent liability can be charged. If a sponsor and Ukrainian national make the temporary accommodation placement permanent and agree the terms of a rent liability, any £350 thank you payment will cease. If a Ukrainian national has a rent liability either through a Homes for Ukraine placement becoming a permanent arrangement or because they have secured private sector or social sector accommodation, housing costs support is available via UC (or HB in very limited circumstances).
If a Ukrainian national temporarily stays with a family member via the Home Office Family Visa scheme while they seek and move to permanent accommodation, they are not considered to be a non-dependent. However, in most cases, the arrangement will be a permanent accommodation solution and a family member claiming UC will see their award based on needing an additional bedroom for their non-dependant as well as seeing the standard housing costs contribution apply to their claim (£77.87 per month from April 2022, with usual exceptions if under 21, disabled etc). The actual amount of money the non-dependant is expected to contribute is between the UC recipient and their non-dependant.
The initial announcements about applying for a visa under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (also known as ‘Homes for Ukraine’) gave a very general answer that the host would have no loss of benefits or council tax support when they received the £350 a month ‘thank you’ payment from the Government (to be paid by the County Council) for accommodating a Ukrainian refugee. This means:-
- The £350 will be fully disregarded in the calculation of any means-tested benefits that the host receives
- Where the host gets any benefit as a result of ‘living alone’ (e.g. a severe disability premium added to a legacy benefit or the 25% council tax single person discount), these will be unaffected. However, if the Ukrainian arrival claims carers allowance for a disabled host who gets the severe disability premium, that premium would be lost.
- If the host is already being affected by restrictions in their housing costs for having a spare bedroom, these will continue, as the refugee is not seen as a permanent resident
There are still some loose ends to tie up however e.g. for those arriving under other schemes such as Ukraine Family Scheme visa. They will apparently be treated as non-dependents when staying with family members, which may mean they are liable to a non-dependent contribution of up to £106.05 a week if the family member gets housing benefit, or a housing cost contribution of either £0 or £77.87 a month per adult if they are on universal credit. But note …. there should be no deduction for a non-dependent if they’re only there temporarily and their home is elsewhere.
On the other hand, non-dependents are entitled to a bedroom when entitlement to local housing allowance or “bedroom tax” is calculated.
There are also Ukrainians living in the UK already, and their benefit situation appears to be unchanged, compared to new arrivals.
Rightsnet have published information to their advicelocal site for those affected by the war in Ukraine. Find out more at https://advicelocal.uk/ukraine
Produced by Money Advice Unit, Hertfordshire County Council
Last updated – May 18th 2022