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.

Job retention scheme (now closed to new entrants)

Employers can claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month. They can also claim the associated employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.

The scheme is open to all UK employers that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme up to 19 March 2020.

Key considerations:

  • June and July: the government pays 80% of salaries, plus National Insurance and pension contributions. Employers were not required to pay anything.
  • August: the government pays 80% of wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Employers had to pay National Insurance and pension contributions.
  • September: the government pays 70% of wages, up to a cap of £2,190 per month. Employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions as well as 10% of wages to make up the previous 80% total.
  • October: the government pays 60% of wages, up to a cap of £1,875 per month. Employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions as well as 20% of wages to make up the previous 80% total.

Please note: if your employer hadn't put you on furlough at least once by 10 June 2020, it won't be able to furlough you in future unless you were on parental leave or on army reservist duty at the time of the deadline.

Job Retention Bonus

Following the Chancellor’s recent announcement employers could be entitled to a one-off payment of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who remains continuously employed until 31 January 2021, if they've used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The bonus will provide additional support to retain employees and employers will be able to make a claim from February 2021.

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 Job Support Scheme is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses facing lower demand over the winter months. Its goal is to help keep their employees attached to the workforce. The scheme opens in November 2020 and will run for six months, with a review in January 2021.

The scheme has also been expanded to support businesses required to close due to coronavirus restrictions.  

The government will support businesses by paying two thirds of each employee's salary or 67%, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.

Cash grants for businesses required to close in local lockdowns have also increased to £3,000 per month. Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they’re subject to restrictions. Their employees must also be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.

These measures will sit alongside the Job Retention Bonus, encouraging employers to keep staff on their payroll.

Visit the gov.uk website to find out more about the Job Support Scheme. 

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, 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 also have a helpline: contact them for support on 0300 456 3565.

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. Applications for the first grant for the scheme closed on 13 July 2020. The second and final grant opened for applications on 17 August 2020. The second grant is worth up to 70% of your trading profits. It's capped at £2,190 a month and is taxable at a total of £6,570. You won’t need to pay this back to the government as it’s a grant. You need to have been adversely affected by coronavirus on or after 14 July 2020 to claim it.

The grants are based on your profits over three tax years. This is based on an average of the tax returns for 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19. You must have filed a tax return for 2018/19. This means you must have been self-employed prior to 6 April 2019.

You must earn more than 50% of your total income from self-employment. This must have been the case for either your 2018/19 tax return or, if not, the average of your 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 tax returns.

Your average trading profit must be less than £50,000 per year. This is essentially a 'cliff-edge' requirement, so people with average annual trading profit of more than £50,000 won't be able to get support from this scheme.

Unlike the employee scheme, here you can keep working. You do not need to prove coronavirus impact, though you’ll need to declare that your business has been impacted from March to May. HMRC is introducing checks to prevent fraud.

You can also apply for and get Universal Credit as SEISS doesn't make you ineligible.

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.

Support while you're self-isolating

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 Test and Trace system.

This will be supported by a 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 and we expect them to be in place by 12 October 2020. Those who start to self-isolate from 28 September 2020 will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their area.

Visit the gov.uk website for more information.

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 talk to us on 0800 013 8555.

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 will suspend all ongoing housing action. This means any cases currently in the court system or about to go into the system cannot progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. The suspension will initially last for 90 days but with an option to extend this period as necessary.
  • We have to give you three months’ notice if we intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that we want to end the tenancy). This means we can’t apply to start the court process until after this period. This will be in place until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three month notice period, can be extended if needed.

Contacting HMRC

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