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Coronavirus - financial support for residents

Read about how the council and the government can help to support you financially through the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. 

All UK businesses are eligible and must be processed by business not individuals.  

Your employer will need to: 

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify employees of this change - changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation 
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required) 

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers. 

If the business needs short term cash flow support, it may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan. 

For more information on the scheme, please visit GOV UK business support. 

2. Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit

If you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), you can get £94.25 per week SSP if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.  

If you are self-isolating because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people self-isolating in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine. Extension of Statutory Sick Pay to self-isolaters and those in the same household caring for self-isolaters is being made, payable from day 1 not day 4. 

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be now be available from Day 1 not Day 8 for eligible people unable to work because they are directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating. 

Further relaxation of the Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed claimants affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, ensuring their UC award will increase to reflect their lower earnings. 

To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit GOV.UK for more information.  

Frequently asked questions 

When does SSP apply? 

The government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day one, rather than day four, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to self-isolate caused by COVID-19. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March. You should talk to your employer if you are eligible for SSP and need to claim.   

Do I need a sick note? 

From Friday 20 March onwards, those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate will be able to obtain an “isolation note” by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a “fit note” after seven days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will also be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.  

What if I am self-employed or not eligible for SSP? 

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit (UC) or new style Employment and Support Allowance. For more information on how to claim, please visit GOV.UK's Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowence webpages. 

What if I am self-employed and receiving Universal Credit? 

  • If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change took effect on 13 March and will last for the duration of the outbreak, to ensure that self-employed UC claimants will receive support.   
  • If you need to claim Universal Credit but have COVID-19 or are self-isolating, you will now be able to claim and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus. Please visit GOV.UK for more information.
  • If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate. Please visit GOV.UK for more information.

3. Other Changes to Welfare Benefits

From 6 April 2020, there will be an increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element of £86.67 per month (equal to £20 a week) for one year. This measure will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and is in addition to the planned annual uprating in benefits in line with CPI of 1.7%.

Universal Credit is administered by the DWP and Working Tax Credit by HMRC. 

4. Help with rent and council tax

Assistance with Rents 

Local Housing Allowance rates that are used to decide Universal Credit and housing benefit for private renters increase from 1 April 2020. In most of the country, the rates will be set at the 30th percentile of market rents. In Westminster, the rates are capped but the cap amount will increase as follow: 

  • £295.49 for self-contained one-bedroom accommodation; 
  • £365.92 for two-bedroom accommodation; 
  • £441.86 for three-bedroom accommodation; 
  • £593.75 for four-bedroom and larger accommodation. 

The local housing allowance rate is set according to the number of bedrooms your household needs. This increase is in addition to any support provided by local authorities through Discretionary Housing Payments.  

Please note that you will not need to contact the council as we will update the relevant resident’s benefit entitlement automatically once more detailed government guidance is received.  

  • If you wish to claim assistance with your rent or general living expenses, please contact the DWP for more information.
  • If you are of working age, help with rent is part of Universal Credit. You claim Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions rather than from the council. Rules have been temporarily relaxed for anyone making a new claim and advance payments are available whilst a claim is being decided.  

More information on universal credit can be found on GOV.UK Universal Credit

  • If you are in supported accommodation, temporary accommodation or are a pensioner and you require help with rent via housing benefit (general living expenses are still dealt with by the DWP), please visit our benefit webpages or contact our Benefits Service on 0800 072 0042. 

You can find out more and claim online. If you can’t claim online, phone us on 0800 072 0042 to register a claim. 

If you already receive either housing costs in your universal credit or housing benefit, you can request extra help with rent called discretionary housing payment. You can find out more about discretionary housing payment on our website where you will find a claim form to download. 

Assistance with council tax 

Everyone that is liable to pay council tax can apply for help to reduce their bill. The help is called council tax support.  

You can find out more about council tax support on our website and either claim online or phone us on 0800 072 0042 to register a claim.  

Government £500M Hardship Fund 

Central government has just issued guidance and funding allocations relating to the £500M Hardship Fund. Most of this funding will be used to provide additional council tax relief for working age council tax support claimants.  

The support will be for claimants who after receipt of their current council tax support entitlement have a balance to pay on their council tax for 2020/21.The government require local authorities to allocate up to £150 to reduce the balance on these council taxpayers council tax accounts.   

There is no need to contact us, as we are able to work out who qualifies for the extra assistance and will be issuing revised bills in due course. 

5. Mortgage, loans, credit cards

If you are experiencing financial difficulties meeting your mortgage repayments because of COVID-19, you may be entitled to a mortgage or rental holiday for three months. This includes if you are a landlord whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19. 

If you are a tenant experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19, the government will ensure you do not face the threat of eviction for at least three months:  

  • The government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer repayment holidays of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to COVID-19.  
  • This will also apply to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.  
  • The offer of a payment holiday can be made available to customers who are up to date with payments and not already in arrears.   

Customers who are concerned about their current financial situation should contact their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for them.  

  • Emergency legislation will be taken forward so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three month period. This applies to private and social renters.  
  • At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.  

If you are experiencing difficulties paying back personal loans or credit card bills as a result of COVID-19, you should read the following information:  

  • The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers’ individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect. 
  • If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score.  

If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID19, you should talk to your lender. 

Last updated: 22 September 2020