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:
- Some workers who are required to self-isolate by the Test and Protect Service may be eligible for a £500 grant if they are unable to work from home and their income will reduce as a result. Full details of the grant and how to apply can be found here
- The furlough scheme for employed workers is now closed for new applications and will come to an end on 31st October to be replaced by a new Job Support Scheme to help those whose hours of work have reduced because of the impact of Covid. More details on changes to the furlough scheme 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: If you are self-employed and your business has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme has been extended. A second grant of up to £6750 for self-employed traders whose business has been negatively affected by the pandemic is now available to claim. Follow this link for more information about the how to claim a grant through the self-employed income support scheme
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:
- Benefit rates were increased from April 2020 in line with inflation. An additional increase has been applied to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in response to the financial impact of coronavirus. It is important to note that this additional increase will only be in place for 12 months, until April 2021. It is therefore important to think ahead and start planning how you will manage your money going forward after the additional support linked to the coronavirus crisis is no longer available. Our online budget planner tool can help you to take control of your money and plan ahead to avoid financial shock.
- 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.
- Deductions from benefits to pay back overpayments or budgeting loans were temporarily suspended during lockdown. Deductions resumed from 9th July but anyone struggling financially can still ask for repayments to be deferred or an alternative repayment plan.
- Face to face medical assessments for Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance have been suspended and are now taking place by telephone. 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
- Mortgage payment holidays have been available for home owners during the height of the coronavirus crisis. The Financial Conduct Authority has now released new guidance confirming that you can apply for a further 3 month payment holiday or an initial payment holiday provided you do this before 31 October 2020. Once your payment holiday ends, lenders will still be required to offer support if you need it. This could include extending the repayment term or restructuring of the mortgage.
- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the three big credit reference agencies, initially agreed that a payment holiday with your lender because of the coronavirus wouldn't harm your credit score. The new FCA guidance however does expect lenders to resume normal credit reporting on new payment holidays and this may be reflected on your credit report. Your lender should let you know how any new support offered will be shown
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 eviction procedure to make all grounds for eviction under the Private Residential Tenancy discretionary and extends the notice periods required to terminate a tenancy.
- The First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber which deals with private tenancy evictions in Scotland resumed proceedings from 9th July 2020 but is currently handling all cases by teleconference. 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.
A range of measures are available 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.
- Customers struggling with credit repayment currently have the option to defer payments for 3 months but applications must be made by 31st October 2020. After the agreed payment deferral period ends, lenders should work with customers to offer ongoing support if needed. New payment deferral arrangements may impact your credit history and ability to secure credit from some lenders in the future. Lenders should let customers know how payment deferrals will be reported to Credit Reference Agencies.
- Changes to bankruptcy procedures were introduced earlier this year to make it easier for individuals financially impacted by coronavirus to access debt relief. There are now certain circumstances in which you will no longer be required to pay a bankruptcy fee or if you do the fee has been reduced. These measures will remain in place until the end of March 2021. It is important to note that no-one should make an application for bankruptcy without being fully aware of the alternatives and consequences. Always seek advice on your options as soon as possible.
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
- 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.
Download this handyor take a look at 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.