Advice Shop and Macmillan @ West Lothian
Updated Thursday 02 April 2020
HELP AND SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR INDIVIDUALS
1. Advice and Support
The Advice Shop is open for telephone and on-line help and support. This is for all services: Benefits, Energy, Housing, Money and Debt worries. Able to help with form completion, referring on to other support services and completion of submissions to the Tribunal Services (which is still operational).
Telephone: 01506 28300
On-line referral: advice-shop-referral
Help guide: Coronavirus-Financial-Advice-and-Support
There is information here about whether you are employed/self-employed/rent & mortgage.
2. Scottish Welfare Fund
Crisis Grants: Crisis Grants can be awarded in a crisis to meet expenses that have arisen as a result of an emergency or disaster in order to avoid an immediate threat to health or safety. Examples of items that can be awarded are help with food and utility costs.
On-line at SWF crisis grant
Telephone: 01506 280000 Monday-Friday 0830-1700
Community Care Grants: Community Care Grants can support independent living, preventing the need for institutional care. A Community Care Grant may not be awarded if the applicant (or their partner) has savings of over £700 if they are below pension age, or £1200 if above pension age.
Whilst applications are being accepted for Community Care Grants and will be processed, there may be a delay in receiving the goods due to the restrictions placed on the suppliers in response to COVID19. The advisor will discuss this when gathering evidence and making a decision on the grant.
On-line at SWF community care grant
Telephone: 01506 280000 Monday-Friday 0830-1700
3. Blue Badges
West Lothian Council can now only accept online applications for Blue Badges.
If you wish to apply for a Blue Badge, please visit Applying-for-a-Blue-Badge .
The requirement to provide original documents to support your application has been suspended therefore the quickest and easiest way to provide us with your evidence is to send scanned images or good quality photographs of your documents to BB/NECAdministration@westlothian.gov.uk.
If you are unable, or do not have anyone that can help you to do that, you can send your documents by post to : West Lothian Council, Anti-Poverty Service, Blue Badge Team, Civic Centre, Howden South Road, Livingston, EH54 6FF. Evidence sent to the Blue Badge team by post may take longer to process. If we need to talk to you about your application or evidence, a member of the Blue Badge team will contact you.
Please note that individuals who would otherwise be subject to an Independent Medical Assessment to determine entitlement to a Blue Badge will be given a temporary Blue Badge for 6 months and asked to re-apply for a Blue Badge at the end of the 6 month period. Blue Badge qualifying criteria can be found at Blue-Badge-Eligibility
4. Young Scot Card/Bus Passes
Local Authorities have been advised by the National Entitlement Card Programme Office (NECPO) that no bus pass or Young Scot Cards (NEC) will be produced during the emergency period. If you have already applied for one of these cards and have not yet received it, please be aware that there will be a significant delay in your card being sent to you. Transport Scotland is working with partners in the bus industry to ensure that eligible passengers are not denied access to essential travel. Further information can be found at www.transport.gov.scot/concessionary-travel/national-entitlement-card-bus-pass-production-suspended/
5. Education Maintenance Allowance
West Lothian Council will continue to pay EMA payments to qualifying pupils in secondary education whilst schools are closed due to Coronavirus. All pupils who qualified for a payment at the point the schools closed on 20 March 2020, will continue to receive a payment until the schools re-open or up to the point that EMA payments would have ceased for this academic year. This will mean that pupils who are returning to school in August 2020 will continue to receive EMA payments until the end of June 20, and those that are not returning will receive payments until 5 June 20.
The deadline for returning applications has been extended. If you have completed your form but you have not yet submitted it, please scan or take good quality photographs of your form and send it to EducationBenefits@westlothian.gov.uk with all relevant supporting evidence.
Pupils can also email EducationBenefits@westlothian.gov.uk if further information is required.
6. Discretionary Housing Payments
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) fund is cash limited fund available for short term assistance for those people who face hardship as a result of not being able to meet their housing costs.
In order to receive a DHP payment, claimants must be in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing cost element of Universal Credit.
Applications can be made using the online Discretionary Housing Payments form.
DHP is also awarded in order to fully mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax. Claimants who already receive an award of DHP for this purpose will have this award automatically adjusted if a claimants rent has increased.
7. Universal Credit - Make a claim
Universal Credit is a payment made to help with living costs, It's paid monthly (or twice a month for some people in Scotland), and it can be paid to people on a low income or who are out of work.
Universal Credit is being introduced across the UK in stages, and replaces: Housing Benefit; income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA); income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA); Child Tax Credit; Working Tax Credit; and Income Support. Universal Credit should be claimed on line.
Citizens Advice Bureau in West Lothian is working in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions to provide claimants help to make their claim to Universal Credit by phoning 0800 023 2581.
8. Medicals for ESA/PIP
People who claim ESA and Personal Independence Payment are usually sent for medical assessments by DWP, in order to assess their suitability for benefits. These are carried out by qualified Health Care Professionals at assessment centres in Edinburgh. In certain cases, these can be carried out in the claimant's home if suitable medical evidence is provided stating they cannot travel.
As of 16th March, the DWP have suspended all face-to-face assessments for three months in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. There are plans in place to undertake telephone and paper-based assessments where possible and claimants are being contacted to discuss this.
9. Self Employed
Self-employed people who have been forced to cease working due to COVID-19 can apply for assistance through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme. This scheme will allow applicants to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. It is expected that payment will be 80% of the average profits from the tax years 2016-2017; 2017-2018; 2018-2019.
Anyone applying for the scheme must have completed an Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19 and been trading in the Tax Year 2019-2020, with an expectation that they will recommence trading once COVID-19 has passed and remain trading in 2020-2021.
More information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme
10.Council Tax Reduction Scheme
Council Tax payments for 2020/21 will become due from 1 April as detailed in your Council Tax bill and West Lothian Council will continue to collect direct debit payments as normal.
If you need help to pay your Council Tax, you may be able to claim Council Tax Reduction. The quickest and easiest way to apply is by using our online application form.
Alternatively, if you are also claiming Universal Credit please inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that you wish to claim Council Tax Reduction and are happy for your information to be shared with us. An application will then be made on your behalf by the DWP.
Changes In Legislation as a result of COVID 19
1. Universal Credit
The Standard Allowance of Universal Credit has been increase by £86.67 per month from the 06/04/2020, for 1 year, revised rates shown below:
Self Employed claimants to UC
The "minimum income floor" which meant that all self-employed claimants were assessed as having the equivalent of minimum wage even when trading at zero profit has been relaxed. If self-employed earnings are disrupted by Covid 19 they will be treated as having "zero income".
UC Housing Costs
Housing cost allowances for those renting from a private landlord have increased from the 01/04/2020 (See LHA below). This means that:
· Crisis Grants will have to be assessed using these revised standard allowances shown above from the 01/04/2020.
· CTRS claims will be reassessed using the revised maximum UC figures from the start of first assessment period which falls after the 06/04/2020
2. Working Tax Credits
The Basic Element of Working Tax credits will increase by £20 per week from the 06/04/2020.
3. Housing Benefit/LHA
Local Housing Allowance rates have increased from 01/04/2020, revised weekly rates below, the website will be updated to reflect these new rates:
4. Housing Benefit Earnings Disregard
As Working Tax Credit awards have been increased by £20 per week, the additional earnings disregard has also changed from £17.10 to £37.10 from the 06/04/2020.
This means that all LHA claims and claims with the additional earnings disregard will require to be re-calculated. It is our intention to have these done automatically; We will look to have this done as soon as possible but definitely before the first calendar payment run to be performed on the 27/04/2020.
5. Furloughed Workers
The government has announced a Job Retention Scheme which allows for employers to keep employers on the payroll during the crisis period. Employers will pay 80% of the employee wages for this period. This is known as being on furlough. If a claim is received from a furloughed worker their income should be recalculated on the reduced rate, importantly they should be treated as still working their normal number of hours; this will ensure the appropriate disregards etc. are still awarded.
Other Help and Support
1. Education Psychology Services
A telephone support service to provide advice and consultation to families, school staff and partner agencies for anyone with concerns about their own or a child's wellbeing. The service will operate Monday to Friday 0930-1230 by calling 01506 283130 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Directory of Services in the Community
A directory of services across West Lothian which are offering help:
Supermarkets are reporting that deliveries are arriving daily and shelves are being stock. If a resident is having difficulty:
Access to emergency food parcels from West Lothian Food Bank can be arranged by contacting the Advice Shop on 01506 283000 or telephone Citizens Advice Bureau on 01506 432977. These can be delivered to their home if needed.
Details of how to access community food is available online. The map gives you access to local pantries and community fridges. They are all open, have food and can deliver. Access-to-Food Map
If you are over 65 and need someone to get your food messages, then please contact the Food Train on email@example.com or telephone 01506 413013/420498
Children entitled to free school meals can access food at various locations in West Lothian
All of the organisations involved in community food will try to deliver. You can also use the directory of resources in the community to help you find someone to pick up messages/medicines etc.
Contact the Advice Shop if you have any concerns about anyone needing food on 01506 283000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Voluntary Sector Gateway is continuing to help individuals who want to volunteer. They will march people to the many organisations who are offering their assistance.
Telephone: 07712 521850
Advice Shop ceases face to face appointments
In line with national guidance in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak the Advice Shop will not be undertaking any face to face appointments until further notice. The service is still available via the telephone 01506 283000 or email at email@example.com will be able to support you should you be worried about your finances.
Up-to-date information on all the financial help available including how to apply for a crisis grant, can be found at Coronavirus - Financial Advice and Support
The Bathgate Partnership Centre is still open for those collecting a crisis grant or food bank parcel.
Macmillan @ West Lothian Cancer Information and Support Service
The service has had to close its cancer information and support drop in services for the time being. The service is still available on 01506 283053 or MacmillanWestLothian@westlothian.gov.uk.