Dear Friends, I hope that you and your family members are safe and well. Please find below an update on things that may help you in these unusual times.
We are into the 2nd week of lockdown and the coronavirus is beginning to reach its peak according to government sources over the coming days. The government will review the lockdown restrictions beginning of week of 13th April 2020. Furloughed Workers If you have been classed as “Furloughed Workers” - what does this actually mean? This means that you are still on the company payroll but at present you have no working hours with the company. Also, it means that you can not work for any other company while you have been “Furloughed” by your employer. As it might be illegal to be “Furloughed” and continue working. Hardship During Coronavirus Even with current wages, many families will be experiencing hardship in paying for their regular bills for food, rent, etc. Please note that even though you have been “Furloughed”, you might be able to access the following; Working Tax Credit If you work a certain number of hours and have an income below a certain level, you could get up to £1,960 a year in working tax credit. This is known as the basic element. How has the scheme been changed? For those on working tax credit, your basic element will be increased by £1,000 for the next 12 months, making the basic element £2,960. The standard universal credit allowance will also increase by £1,000 for the next 12 months. How much you get depends on your earnings and other factors. How do I apply for Working Tax Credit? Apply online using the link: https://www.gov.uk/working-tax-credit You can find out more from the website or contact HM Revenue and Customs which is open Monday to Friday between 8am to 8pm and Saturday 8am to 4pm. The telephone number is 0345 300 3900. Universal Credit Universal Credit is a benefit you can claim if you’re on a low income or unemployed. It might be worth claiming Universal Credit if: • you’re struggling to pay the bills • you’ve lost your job and have no income • you have a disability or illness that stops you working • you have expensive childcare costs • you’re caring for someone Who is eligible? To get Universal Credit you must: • be 18 years old or over - or in some cases 16 or 17 • be under State Pension age - check your State Pension age if you’re over 60 years old on GOV.UK • live in the UK - there are extra rules if you’re not a British citizen • have less than £16,000 in savings How do I apply for Universal Credit? Apply online using the link: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit There is a Universal Credit Helpline which is open Monday to Friday between 8am to 6pm. The telephone number is 0800 328 5644. Mortgage Payments Holiday On the 17th March 2020 it was announced that homeowners including landlords of by to let mortgages affected by COVID-19 can apply for a mortgage payment holiday of up to 3 months. Will this affect my credit score? Many banks will have different approaches; speak to your bank to discuss your concerns. What about interest payments on the help to buy scheme? On the 18th March 2020, the government confirmed it would offer interest free payment holidays to borrowers struggling to pay back their help to buy loans. How do I apply for this scheme? Please get in touch with your bank for more details; alternatively you may be able to apply online to speed up the process. Please note that some lenders may recalculate your monthly mortgage payments after 3 months and this may result in higher capital & interest payments. Struggling to Pay Rent The government has announced a ban on evictions - your landlord can’t start court action for at least 3 months. You should explain the situation to your landlord straight away - they might give you more time to pay. You still need to pay your rent. If you’ve fallen behind with your rent you should start dealing with rent arrears. You can also check if you can get extra financial help. If your landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with your rent payments, it’s a good idea to pay as much as you can afford and keep a record of what you discussed. You should also contact your nearest Citizens Advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ An adviser can help you explain things to your landlord. The Advice line is available 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday 03444 111 444. You may be entitled to benefits to help with housing costs if your income has reduced, even if you’re still working. If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all your rent and you need more money, you could make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is extra money from your local council to help pay your rent. You will only be able to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) if you are: • entitled to housing benefit or universal credit • responsible for rent payments and need more financial help with housing costs • receiving less than the maximum amount of housing benefit for your household When you apply, be as clear as you can when you're explaining why you need a DHP. For example, you should explain: • why you can't afford to pay the rent • why you can't move somewhere cheaper • if it's causing problems for someone you look after, like a child or elderly relative • any evidence you have, like a letter from your doctor or details of debts you're paying off You should also tell the council if you're waiting for them to decide whether you can get Housing Benefit. If you apply on a paper form, it's a good idea to keep a copy of the form for your records. Struggling to Pay Bills There are things you can do if you’re struggling to pay things like energy bills because of coronavirus. It’s important you don’t ignore your bills. Speak to the organisation you owe money to - they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break. If you're at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk. To get the free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers you must also be claiming either: • Income Support • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance • income-related Employment and Support Allowance - but only if you're pregnant • Child Tax Credit - and your household earns £16,190 a year or less • Pension Credit • Universal Credit - and your household earns £408 a month or less Ask your midwife or health visitor for an application form. You can also call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and ask them to send you a form. Other Loans Many lenders are now revising their terms and conditions on your loans and credit cards. Get in touch with your lender to see how they can help you. The above information is a point of reference and each families circumstances will be different and all of the above might not apply or be entitled to. When discussing the above you must inform them that you are “Furloughed Employee”. I hope the above provides you with some reference points to explore if you are in hardship.