Coronavirus - Financial Advice and Support
Many people are worried about the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their finances. If you are concerned about work, benefits, managing your rent or mortgage, keeping on top of debt or simply making ends meet, this simple guide can help you to access support available in your circumstances.
In times of unexpected crisis, it is natural to worry about money. If you are concerned about loss of income there are steps you can take to help you to prepare.
Consider your income and outgoings. This can seem overwhelming, particularly when you are worried about money, but our simple, easy to understand online budgeting tool can help you to quickly and easily take stock of your expenses and look for ways to save money.
Check your entitlement to social security benefits and other financial support. You can use our easy to follow online benefit calculator to check what you might be entitled to. Click on each of the sections below to find out about the help and support available if you are worried about work, benefits, rent, mortgage, Council Tax or making ends meet.
If you are concerned that you will not be paid if you are unable to attend work due to coronavirus, the UK government has put measures in place to make it easier to access financial support as quickly as possible:
- If your place of work has closed or you have no work to do as a result of the coronavirus, you can ask your employer to 'furlough' you and the Government will cover 80% of your salary up to £2,500 per month. More information can be found here.
- Statutory Sick Pay can now be paid from the first day of absence from work and is available to those infected with coronavirus.
- Universal Credit can be claimed online and advance payments are now available without the need to attend a Jobcentre.
- People who need to claim Employment & Support Allowance or Universal Credit due to coronavirus will not be required to produce a sick line.
- More information can be found on the gov.uk website.
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme: Announced by Chancellor 26th March. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational. Individuals should not contact HMRC just now in relation to this scheme.More information can be found on businesssupport.gov.uk
- Income Tax Self-Assessment Payment Deferral: Clarification that you do not need to be self-employed to be eligible. You are eligible if you are due to pay your second self-assessment payment on account by 31 July. Although this is an automatic offer with no application required, it is an optional deferment. Anybody still able to pay their second payment on account on 31 July 2020, should do so.
If you have been laid off or are worried that you will end up out of work as a result of the current crisis:
- If you have worked and made National Insurance contributions for at least 6 months out of the last 2-3 years, you may qualify for new-style Jobseekers Allowance. This is non-means tested and will not be affected by other household income or savings.
- You may qualify for Universal Credit. This is a means tested benefit which is designed to meet basic costs of living. It is paid monthly and can be claimed online. More information can be found on the Understanding Universal Credit website.
- Support is available if you are looking for work. The Access2Employment team can offer advice by telephone on 0800 032 9768
If you are currently receiving social security benefits and you are concerned about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis could impact your entitlement, some measures have been put in place to help protect your income at this time:
- Face to face Jobcentre appointments have been suspended for at least 3 months. Jobcentres will remain open to support the most vulnerable people who cannot maintain contact either online or by phone.
- Sanctions will not be applied to benefits for people affected by coronavirus or those following government advice to stay at home, provided that the DWP are informed in good time. Claimant Commitments for those affected will be reviewed to make sure that their requirements are reasonable in light of the current situation.
- Face to face medical assessments for Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance have been suspended. If you have an assessment date scheduled, you will be contacted to discuss what will happen next. If you are already getting the benefit, your payments will continue until a decision is made following the rescheduled assessment.
Help for those with a mortgage:
- If you are currently receiving social security benefits, check whether you are eligible for a Support for Mortgage Interest Loan. This is available to people who have been on a qualifying means tested benefit for at least 9 months and is repaid with interest when you sell your home or when ownership is transferred. More information can be found on the gov.uk website
- You may also wish to contact your lender to discuss your options. During the coronavirus crisis, many lenders are offering flexible payment options for their customers including reduced monthly payments and payment holidays. Be sure to check with your lender what the impact of any flexible options will be when normal payments resume.
- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the three big credit reference agencies, have agreed that having a payment holiday with your lender because of the coronavirus won't harm your credit score.
If you are worried about keeping up with your rent:
- You may be eligible for Universal Credit which can include an amount to help with the cost of rent. Some people can still make a claim for Housing Benefit including those in temporary accommodation, people over state pension qualifying age and some people who get disability benefits.
- If you are in private rented accommodation, the Scottish Government has introduced a temporary change to the legislation, which amends the mandatory ground for eviction under the Private Residential Tenancy from 3 months to 6 months.
- The First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber which deals with private tenancy evictions in Scotland has suspended all proceedings. This means that no new eviction orders for private tenancies will be granted until proceedings resume. If you are forced to leave your home and the proper procedures have not been followed, this is an illegal eviction. More information about your rights can be found on the Shelter Scotland website.
MSPs have agreed a range of measures through the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill to provide some much needed breathing space for those with debt.
- People in debt will be able to apply for longer hold periods on debt recovery, known as a moratorium and the usual limit of one application per year will no longer apply.
Additional protection for renters will be put in place with both private and social landlords required to give tenants at least 6 months notice if they are facing financial difficulty as a result of coronavirus
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is currently working with banks to agree a number of proposals including:
Banks to offer temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to 3 months
Arranged overdrafts of up to £500 at 0% interest for up to 3 months
In addition, many mortgage lenders are already offering payment holidays or reduced payments to customers struggling to make their repayments due to coronavirus and banks and other lenders may also be able to offer help to those struggling to repay personal loans and credit cards.
Credit reference agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion have all agreed that these temporary measures will not affect credit reports, but these need to be agreed with your lender. The earlier you can get on top of things the better to help you stay in control and avoid long-term consequences.
If you are concerned about on-going debt worries, please contact the Advice Shop Money and Housing team on 01506 283000 (option 3) or fill in the online referral form to access specialist debt advice and support.
- Those on a low income facing crisis as a result of the coronavirus outbreak can make an application to the Scottish Welfare Fund for a Crisis Grant. You do not need to be in receipt of benefits to apply but you must have a low income and be in crisis. Applications can be made using the online application form
- West Lothian Foodbank will continue to support those in need with emergency food parcels with arrangements in place to support those who are self-isolating. If you are in need of emergency food, contact the Advice Shop on 01506 283000
- In light of school closures, all children entitled to Free School Meals can collect packed lunches and breakfast cereal or cereal bars from a number of West Lothian schools between 12 noon and 2pm from Monday 23rd March. More information including a full list of schools food can be collected from can be found on the coronavirus education updates webpage
- Some energy suppliers will provide a one off emergency payment to customers who are supplied by pre-payment meter. If you are worried about not being able to top up your gas or electricity meter, you should contact your supplier to discuss your options. This handy guide from OFGEM could help to answer any questions you have about your energy supply during the current crisis.
Use our flowchart to determine what financial help may available to you (click to enlarge)
For further advice and support, you can contact the Advice Shop. Email email@example.com or phone 01506 283000 to speak to an adviser about your options.