Coronavirus: Money and financial support

image: a family at home

At Optivo, we understand this is a difficult time for you. You’re thinking about your health and your family. On top of this, you may be worrying about money and paying the bills. We’ve created an FAQ guide to help you. Information is changing quickly, so we’ll regularly update this guide.

We’re here to help you. Our Income Team can talk through your rent account, and payment options, so please speak to them if you need to.

Our Financial Inclusion Team can also help you make the most of your money, support you to claim money you may be entitled to and help you save money on your bills.

If you’re a shared owner or leaseholder, we can refer you to our specialist Financial Inclusion Team.
 

Frequently asked questions:

I’m employed but I’m unwell or having to self-isolate. What does this mean for my money?

If you’re well enough, your employer may allow you to work from home, if so your wages won’t be affected. However, if you’re at home and unable to work you could lose your salary. 
 
Depending on your employer and the contract you’re on, you may get sick pay. If not, you can claim statutory sick pay. The government has useful information on this.
 

Claiming sick pay

  • If you cannot work due to coronavirus, you’re eligible for Statutory Sick Pay from day one. This applies from 13 March 2020

  • Statutory Sick Pay will be paid to anyone staying at home (self-isolating) on government advice, not just those who are infected with coronavirus

  • If you need to provide evidence to your employer that you need to stay at home due to coronavirus, you can get it from the NHS 111 Online. You don’t need a fit note from your doctor.

Claiming extra support

  • If you‘re already getting help from your local authority for Housing Benefit or Council Tax support, let them know of your change to your income. The fastest way to do this is on their website.

  • If you don’t currently get support with Council Tax reduction (help towards paying your council tax) then contact your local authority website to see how you can get help. 

  • If you’re in work, claiming Universal Credit (UC), and are staying at home on Government advice, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal. If this means you’re working fewer hours, the amount of Universal Credit you receive will adjust as your earnings change.
If you aren’t getting help with housing costs, it’s worth seeing if you’re entitled to Universal Credit.  You can find out what you’re entitled to.

I’m self-employed- how do I access the Self Employed Income Support Scheme?

Full information about the Self Employed Income Support Scheme can be found here.  To make is simpler here’s a summary we hope will help.
 
This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.
 

Who can apply? 

You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
  • have submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19

  • traded in the tax year 2019-20

  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19

  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21

  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19

Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment. This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:
 
  • having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income

  • having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period
If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.
 
If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.
 
HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.
 

How much you’ll get

You’ll get a taxable grant which will be 80% of the average profits from the tax years (where applicable):
  • 2016 to 2017
  • 2017 to 2018
  • 2018 to 2019
To work out the average HMRC will add together the total trading profit for the 3 tax years (where applicable) then divide by 3 (where applicable), and use this to calculate a monthly amount.
 
It will be up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months.

Please note: the 80% payment is the gross and so to work out what will actually be paid each month tax will need to be taken from this total.
 
The payment will be made directly into your bank account in 1 installment.
 
If you're a director of a company and pay yourself a salary or dividends you won't be covered by this scheme, but you could get support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees if you operate PAYE schemes (see the question 'I’m employed but the business has closed due to COVID-19. What does this mean for my income?' below for more guidance)
 

IMPORTANT:

You cannot apply for this scheme yet.
 
HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.
 
Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme.
 

I'm not eligible for a grant - what other help is available?

You’ll not be eligible for the grant if:
  • if you earn more than £50,000 per year 

  • less than half of your income is from self-employment

  • If you’ve been trading for less than 1 full tax year.

Things you can do:

  • You can apply for a business interruption loan. The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is open to self-employed people and offers access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years. 

    The Government could also give you a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest and fees on the loan. 

    The scheme is now open for applications, and is offered by all major banks. More information

  • You can defer your income tax payments. If you have income tax payments due in July 2020 under the self-assessment system, you can defer them until January 2021.

  • You can access universal credit in full. The Government has removed the minimum income floor to universal credit, and will also be boosting the standard allowance from 6 April - meaning a single person aged over 25 could get a standard monthly allowance of £409.89. 
 

I am eligible but can't wait until June - what can I do?

Even if you are eligible for help from this scheme, it's unlikely you'll see any cash in your bank account until June at the earliest, which for many will be a struggle.
 
In the meantime, as above you can try:
 
  • applying for a business interruption loan if eligible (read more)

  • or universal credit (for universal credit, the grant will be treated as earnings - but check if you can apply for support before it comes through)

  • In addition, it may also be worth using money you have set aside for tax to cover immediate expenses until your grant comes through in June. This especially applies given the July self-assessment tax payment can be deferred until January 2021

  • Local authorities have hardship funds. Search your local authority hardship scheme on their website

  • Council Tax reduction is an option. This is money that the local government can pay to help reduce your Council Tax bill. For more information on this check your local authority website and search Council Tax Reduction 

  • Speak to us. We have a specialist Financial Inclusion Team who can look at your income and outgoing, try to reduce your other bills and maximise the grants etc. we can apply for on your behalf. 

I claim benefits, but I’m unwell or self-isolating. What does this mean for my money?

  • If you receive benefits and are unable to attend health reassessments or jobcentre appointments, special arrangements have been put in place. 

  • If you tell DWP in good time that you’re staying at home on Government advice or have been diagnosed with coronavirus, you’ll not be sanctioned. 

  • If you’re claiming Universal Credit (UC) the Claimant Commitment, will be reviewed to make sure it’s still reasonable

  • If you’re staying at home as a result of coronavirus, your work search and work availability requirements will be removed to account for a period of sickness

  • If you’re already claiming UC and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible. You can do this via your online journal, or call the UC helpline

  • The standard rate in Universal credit and Tax Credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from April 6th, meaning claimants will be up to £1040 better off.
 
Jobcentre Plus staff are ready to support you if you’re required to stay at home.

I have a face to face assessment scheduled and I’m worried about how I’ll get to it

Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be suspended for the next three months.

The temporary move, effective from Tuesday 17 March 2020, is being taken as a precautionary measure. This is to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus.

This guidance applies to you if you claim any of the following:
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Some Universal Credit claims
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to these benefits.

I need to make a new claim for Universal Credit and have no idea where to start!

Don’t delay making a benefit claim, even if you think you may be affected by coronavirus.

Contact us now, we can support you and prevent you getting into debt at the beginning of your claim.

You can apply for Universal Credit (UC) online. If you need to make an appointment, call the number you’re given when you submit your claim, and explain the situation. Jobcentre Plus staff are ready to support you if you’re required to stay at home.

If you need to claim because of coronavirus, you won’t be required to produce a Fit Note. If you’re affected by coronavirus you’ll be able to apply for UC and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre. 

Universal Credit helpline:

  • Telephone: 0800 328 5644 (choose option 2)
  • Textphone: 0800 328 1344 (choose option 2)
  • NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 328 5644
  • Welsh language telephone: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Find out about call charges.

If you cannot download the form or use the phone, you can get a claim form from your local Jobcentre Plus. You can also get the form in an accessible format, for example, braille, large print or audio CD by calling the UC helpline.

For more information about any aspect of UC, including how to make a claim, visit the Universal Credit homepage

I want to claim for Employment and Support Allowance, what do I do?

If you want to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) you won’t be required to produce a Fit Note. If you are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home and want to apply for ESA, the usual 7 waiting days for new claimants will not apply. ESA will be payable from day one. 
 
To apply for ‘new style’ ESA, fill in an NSESAF1 claim form. You can either:
  • Download and print the NSESAF1 form
  • Call the UC helpline to get one through the post or by email

Universal Credit helpline

  • Telephone: 0800 328 5644 (choose option 2)
  • Textphone: 0800 328 1344 (choose option 2)
  • NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 328 5644
  • Welsh language telephone: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Find out about call charges.
 
If you cannot download the form or use the phone, you can get a claim form from your local Jobcentre Plus.
You can also get the form in an accessible format, for example, braille, large print or audio CD by calling the UC helpline.
 
For more information about any aspect of UC, including how to make a claim, visit the Universal Credit homepage

I’m struggling make a benefit claim, can Optivo help me?

Of course! We’re here to help.

Please contact your Income Officer in the first instance and we’ll guide you through what you are able to do. We can even refer you to the Financial Inclusion Team for specialist advice. 

You can also ask for a call back from our Financial Inclusion Team by contacting us online, using our online form or MyAccount.

Apart from claiming benefits what other financial help is available?

You may be able to save money on your utility bills. You can check this via price comparison websites.


You can also find information about making sure you receive essential services through the Priority Service Register here

Telephone and TV bills can also be high, if you are out of contract, you may be able to negotiate on price or shop around for a better deal.

If you’d like one of our Financial Inclusion Officers to help you with any of this, please contact us.  

What about help from foodbanks and other community support?

There is lots of amazing help out there. Please speak to us and we can refer you to the support available in your area.

Details of local foodbanks can be found here.

There are also community groups like Little Village.

As you can imagine the provision and the way these donation groups operate is changing all the time. We’re doing our best to keep in contact with all the agencies and we’ll get the help to you as quickly as possible. 

I’m a shared owner/leaseholder is there any financial help available for me?

The Chancellor has announced that all banks should give mortgage customers up to three months ‘payment holiday’ for those affected by loss of income due to Coronavirus. Please speak to your lender to see how this can help you. 

It’s really important you keep Optivo up to date about your situation as there is lots of help we can offer too. Contact us as soon as you think you may struggle to pay your bills.

I’m employed but the business has closed due to COVID-19. What does this mean for my income?

Please speak to your employer to make sure they’ve applied to be part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 

UK workers of any employer who is placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can keep their job, with the government paying up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per worker each month.

These will be backdated to 1st March and will be initially open for 3 months, to be extended if necessary.

I’m an international student, what help is out there for me?

NHS treatment for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is free of charge for everyone.

If you have paid the immigration health surcharge and your immigration permission has not expired, you continue to be entitled to free NHS treatment for other illnesses and conditions.

If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can use it to receive free NHS treatment, at least until 31 December 2020.

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education.

Staff, parents and students can contact the helpline by telephone and email:
  • Phone: 0800 046 8687
  • Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk
The helpline is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

You can also call the UKCISA Student Advice Line for advice and support on +4420 7788 9214 between 1pm and 4pm (UK time) between Monday and Friday, except for public holidays.

I’m employed and I’ve heard about furlough. What does this mean?

This handy video summarises it and has some top tips…

 

How do I keep my money safe?

We are being made aware of a number of scams as a result of the coronavirus. 

Below is an example of one flagged by the Dept. of Education. Please stay safe and vigilant.