Rent and financial support during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has made life very difficult for some people. This page details the support that is available to help with rent payments and other financial worries. You can also download a detailed PDF of this information

Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) now covers people who are ill with coronavirus, people who have to self-isolate (with or without symptoms) and people caring for those self-isolating in the same household. (Before the pandemic began, SSP was not paid for the first three days of a period of sick leave. This was changed from 13 March 2020, so that those first three days do now qualify for SSP.)

If you’re not entitled to SSP or your SSP entitlement has run out, you might be entitled to New Style Employment and Support Allowance if you have worked and paid enough National Insurance contributions, usually in the last two complete tax years.

Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme extended

The government is extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also known as the furlough scheme) until 30 September 2021. 

Employers can claim for those who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 30 October 2020. Employees do not need to have been furloughed under the scheme previously to claim.

People that were on their employer’s payroll on 23 September 2020, who were made redundant or stopped working can be re-employed and claimed for.

Employees will receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked, up to £2,500 per month. The £2,500 cap is proportional to the hours not worked. Employers are not expected to make any contributions for hours not worked.

For claim periods from 1 May - 30 September 2021, you need to have been on your employer's PAYE payroll on or before 2 March 2021 to be eligible.

Staying on tax credits - employed people

You can continue to be entitled to tax credits if you’re absent from work due to infection or self-isolation, or are caring for a child who is infected or in isolation, and you are:

  • getting SSP as an employee.
  • self-employed and would otherwise have qualified for SSP.
  • getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • getting credits on your National Insurance record for limited capability for work.

HMRC has told claimants not to update working hours if they are working less due to the coronavirus. It’s treating this as a temporary exceptional change and has said Working Tax Credits will not go down because you’re working less.

Guidance for self-employed people

Those that are self-employed with reduced or no income can claim Universal Credit and/or New Style/Contribution-based ESA. Although they’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay they can claim Universal Credit and/or New Style (Contribution-based ESA) if they’re too sick to work or having to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

From 6 April 2020, the Universal Credit ‘minimum income floor’ for self-employed workers (where the DWP assumes a certain level of income through self-employment) will be disregarded for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

HMRC have a helpline for businesses, which may be struggling due to coronavirus. Contact them on 0300 456 3565 for support.

Staying on tax credits

If you’re self-employed, you remain entitled to Working Tax Credits as long as you continue to meet the definition of self-employed as ‘organised and regular, on a commercial basis, with a view to making a profit’ and you continue to put in sufficient hours.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) continues to support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to coronavirus.

The grant is being extended until 30 September 2021. Three grants have been made available since the scheme began. Applications for the third grant closed on 29 January 2021, but a fourth grant is available from April 2021.

Eligibility criteria for the fourth grant:

  • You must have filed a 2019/20 tax return.
  • You must have traded in both tax years 2019/20 and 2020/21 and intend to continue trading. You cannot make a claim if you have plans to close your business.
  • Your business must have had a new or continuing impact from coronavirus, which you believe will cause a significant reduction in profits.
  • You must earn at least 50% of your total income from self-employment.
  • Your average trading profit must be £50,000 a year or less.

The fourth SEISS grant will be set at 80% of three months' average trading profits, capped at £7,500. It’s important to also note that you can keep working if you claim the grant.

A fifth and final grant will open for applications during July 2021. This grant will be open from late July - 30 September 2021. How much you'll get depends on the extent of your drop in turnover. If you’re eligible, HMRC will contact you to give you the earliest date you can make your claim.

The grant covers five calendar months from 1 May to 30 September 2021. The maximum amount (up to £7,500) you can get is dictated by profits. How much of that you actually get is dictated by turnover. The newly self-employed will all get 80% of average profits. You can keep working if you claim the grant.

Eligibility criteria for the fifth grant:

  • You must have filed a 2019/20 tax return.
  • You must have traded in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 tax years and intend to continue trading.
  • You must believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits from May to September 2021.
  • At least 50% of your total income must be from self-employment.
  • Your average trading profit must be £50,000 a year or less.

The minimum income floor (MIF)

If you’re self-employed and receive Universal Credit, the DWP usually assume a minimum income from your self-employed earnings. This is whether or not you actually receive this amount. This is called the minimum income floor, based on the national minimum wage for your age group. It’s also based on the total hours you agreed to work when you discussed your conditionality agreement and claimant commitment.

Due to pandemic the minimum income floor was removed in April 2020. This was so those with very little or no income from self-employment would not be adversely impacted by it.

The suspension of the MIF is scheduled to stop at the end of July 2021. It will gradually be re-introduced in August. The re-introduction will come with some discretion for claimants whose self-employed earnings are adversely affected by the pandemic.

Guidance for those currently claiming benefits or in need of financial support

Universal Credit and Jobcentres

From 6 April 2020 the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit increased by £20 per week on top of the planned annual uprating. This uplift was extended for Universal Credit only until the end of September 2021. However, the government have announced that this will be phased out in October 2021. Affected claimants will be contacted about this from the end of September 2021 onwards. 

An advance payment can be made on application without attending an appointment at the Jobcentre. Visit www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-advances for details.

If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) need to check any information provided as part of a claim they’ll call you.

Anyone already claiming Universal Credit who thinks they may have been affected by coronavirus should contact their work coach using the online journal. Alternatively, call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

Access to Jobcentres continues to be limited with people only attending if they’re directed to do so with a booked appointment.

New-style Employment and Support Allowance (also known as Contribution-based Employment Support Allowance)

New-style ESA now covers people who are ill, people who are self-isolating and people caring for a child who is ill or self-isolating. Until coronavirus many people didn't get New-style ESA until the eighth day of illness. These waiting days have now been suspended.

The DWP are introducing Claimant Commitments (CCs) and Action Plans (APs) for all ESA claimants in a phased approach. Work coaches continue to work with claimants to ensure that CCs and APs are reasonable and tailored for their circumstances. This allows people to continue to adhere to coronavirus guidance, whilst considering how they can move closer to getting work.

For all new claims to New Style ESA, processed from 26 April 2021, claimants will be required to have an appointment with a work coach and agree a CC. For claims processed prior to 26 April 2021, the requirement for an agreed CC will be introduced from 28 June 2021. This also applies to ESA legacy claimants who need an AP.

End to suspension of face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits

Face-to-face assessments have started to resume for PIP and work capability assessments for Universal Credit and ESA. People will be invited for their assessment by letter, which will set out what to expect during the appointment.

Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based and telephone assessments and telephone assessments, which will continue where suitable.

Tax credits

The previous increase to Working Tax Credits has stopped and a one off £500 payment was made to eligible claimants in April 2021. The increase to the additional earnings disregard in housing benefit, in line with the in Working Tax Credit increase has also stopped.

If your work has permanently stopped, or your hours have permanently decreased below the qualifying limit there is a four-week run-on period for Working Tax Credit. If you don’t find new work in this time, your Working Tax Credit will be stopped.

NHS Test and Trace support payment

Everyone is required by law to self-isolate to help stop the spread of coronavirus. This applies to people who have coronavirus, people who are experiencing symptoms or those contacted by the NHS Test and Trace system.

This is supported by a Test and Trace support payment of £500 for people on a lower income who can’t work from home and have lost income as a result.

To be eligible for the payment, you must:

  • have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to having coronavirus or having been in close contact with someone who does.
  • be employed or self-employed.
  • be unable to work from home and will lose income as a result.
  • be currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.
  • not be able to work from home and will lose income by self-isolating or staying at home to care for a child.

Local authorities are working to set up these self-isolation support schemes. Those who start to self-isolate from 28 September 2020 will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their area.

If you do not fulfil the above criteria, you could be eligible for a £500 discretionary support payment. The discretionary payment is not conditional on you receiving the benefits mentioned for the standard scheme. However, you do have to show that you're experiencing financial hardship.

Claim Child Benefit by phone or post

HMRC is reminding new parents that they’ll still be able to claim Child Benefit despite coronavirus. Even though many General Register Offices remain closed for now, parents can still claim Child Benefit without having to register their child’s birth first.

Paying your rent

Even though our offices are closed, you can still pay your rent online or over the phone. 

If you're struggling to pay your rent, talk to us - we’ll do what we can to help. If you can keep to any new or existing agreements, or existing court orders, and continue to prioritise your rent our service to you won’t change. We have specialist advisors in our teams who can help you with these difficult situations, so please contact us.

If you’ve experienced any change to your income, visit the Entitled To and Turn 2 Us websites to see if you quality for additional help due to reduced income.

Additional information 

Some of the additional measures, to prevent customers’ losing their homes during the pandemic, are starting to ease:

  • In relation to possession claims, we can apply to court to have a date listed for the case to be heard. This is almost back to pre-coronavirus times. There will be a first hearing listed (a review hearing). During this, the judge will assess any paperwork to see if an order can be given on the information provided. If not, a substantive hearing will be listed. This is a hearing where NCHA and the customer will attend, before the judge decides on giving an order for possession.
  • The court service will still ensure that all defendants have support available. This information will be sent out with court details and can also be requested from your income officer.
  • The notice period before action can be taken has changed a number of times during lockdown. Currently, a notice of seeking possession will give you four months’ notice, if your debt is less than 26 weeks’ rent. You’ll get four weeks’ notice if your debt is more than 26 weeks’ rent. This means we can’t apply to start the court process until after this period.
  • The suspension to evictions ended from 1 June 2021. Applications to evict are now being processed and being listed for a date when the warrant will be executed.

Contacting HMRC

HMRC have updated their contact details to ensure those needing help and support can keep reaching their advisers. Visit www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc for up to date contact details relating to different queries.