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 with effect 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. It will now remain open until 31 March 2021.

Employers can claim for those who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on 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.

For claim periods running to January 2021, 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.

The government will review the policy in January 2021 to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more.

Job Retention Bonus

Due to recent changes this will not be paid in February 2021. A retention incentive will be awarded by the government at the appropriate time.

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.

Job Support Scheme

The launch of the Job Support Scheme has been postponed due to national developments relating to the coronavirus pandemic.  

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 outbreak.

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) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to coronavirus.

The grant is being extended from 1 November 2020. This includes two further grants, available for three month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

To be eligible you must:

  • have been previously eligible for the scheme’s first and second grants (although you do not have to have claimed them).
  • declare that you intend to continue to trade and either:
    • you are currently actively trading, but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus.
    • you were previously trading, but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus.

The government will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of three months average monthly trading profits. It will be paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500 in total. This is an increase from the previous amount of 55%.

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

Universal Credit and Jobcentres

From 6 April 2020 the standard Universal Credit allowance and the basic element in Working Tax Credit increased for one year by £20 per week on top of the planned annual uprating.

An advance payment can be made without attending an appointment at the Jobcentre, which includes the following allowances:

  • single claimants under 25 - £342.72
  • single claimants aged 25 or over - £409.89
  • joint claimants both under 25 - £488.59
  • joint claimants where either person is 25 or over - £594.04.

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 or call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

Access to Jobcentres continues to be limited with members of the public 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.

Tax credits

The basic element of Working Tax Credit increased on 6 April 2020. An extra £20 per week has now been added to this rise, so the basic element will go from £1,960 to £3,040.

To reflect the temporary increase in the basic element of Working Tax Credit there’s also been an increase in the amount of earnings that can be disregarded when calculating Housing Benefit. This change called the Additional Earnings Disregard only applies to certain people who receive Working Tax Credit or work for a specified minimum number of hours per week. The previous rate of £17.10 per week has now increased to £37.10 per week. The increase will no longer apply from 4 April 2021.

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 will be 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 will be 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.

Council tax

Councils will be able to increase the help they provide through the Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTS). The strong expectation is that councils will reduce council tax bills by £150 for working age people who are already eligible for LCTS. There should be no need to make a separate claim for a reduction and no requirement that the claimant has been affected by coronavirus. The billing authority should assess who is eligible for support and automatically rebill those council tax payers.

Paying your rent

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

If you are 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.

The government has announced 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 “substansive 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 currently on hold until 11 January 2021.

Contacting HMRC

The new helpline number is 0800 024 1222 and it is open from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.