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) to support individuals and businesses affected by coronavirus.
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 six months 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 being made available in April 2021. A fifth and final grant has been proposed for the end of July 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.
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 has been extended for Universal Credit only until the end of September 2021. This applies to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants.
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.
If you have a long-term illness, you usually have to attend a face-to-face assessment to assess your health issues. All assessments will now be done over the phone.
Suspension of face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits
Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits continue to be suspended.
This affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment, those on Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, as well as recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
The previous increase to Working Tax Credit is being stopped and replaced by a one off payment of £500, paid in April 2021. Eligible claimants will be paid automatically. The corresponding increase to the additional earnings disregard in housing benefit, in line with the increase in Working Tax Credit will stop.
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.
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.
Repaying benefit debt
Debt recovery action started again on 6 July 2020. Those affected will be told of this change through letters or updates in their Universal Credit journals.
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.
In 2020, it was announced that English councils would get funding to increase support through the Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTS). It was expected that councils would reduce bills by up to £150 for working age people eligible for support. There should have been be no need to make a separate claim for a reduction under this scheme and no requirement that you've been affected by coronavirus. The billing authority assess who’s eligible for support and automatically rebill those council tax payers. Most people who are eligible should have received a payment. It’s currently unclear whether any similar funding scheme will be available from April 2021.
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.
The government have some additional measures to prevent customers losing their homes during this crisis:
- The Court Service had been suspended until 20 September 2020, but this has now been lifted. Any cases that had been suspended until this date can be reactivated. This means that we can reinstate and pursue court action to secure money owed. Any new applications to court can be applied for in the same way as before lockdown began.
- The Court Service has changed, and the first hearing will now be a 'review hearing', which is paper based. This may lead to a 'substantive hearing', which is conducted in front of a judge, either in person or virtually.
- The Court Service will still ensure that all defendants have support available. This information with will be sent out with court details and can also be requested from your income officer.
- Please note the notice period before action can be taken has changed a number of times during lockdown. Currently a “Notice of Seeking Possession” served will either give six months’ notice, if your debt is less than 26 weeks or four weeks’ notice if your debt is in excess of 26 weeks. This means we can’t apply to start the court process until after this period.
- Evictions are being put on hold, with some exceptions in serious circumstances.
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.