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.

How can Optivo help?

We know things could be really difficult for you right now and we're here to help. If you're concerned about paying your rent then we can provide advice on what can be done to help improve your circumstances.
 
Every person's situation is different so we'll look at every case individually. Although we’re not offering payment breaks there is still a lot we can do to assist.
 
We’re able to:
  • Review your financial situation based on your specific set of circumstances
  • Provide advice on what to do if there's been a loss of income
  • Assist people who have been self-employed and are affected
  •  Advise what benefits you might be entitled to
  • Give information on how to apply for Universal Credit and manage the claim.
  • Provide support with debts or budgeting
  • Help with applications for a Discretionary Housing Payment
  • Offer phone appointments with our Income Officers so you can discuss any concerns in more detail.
If you'd like support with any of the above, please get in touch. Optivo residents can also keep track of their rent payments and view their rent statement and any service charge information online at any time using MyAccount.
 
Your health and safety is our number one priority and we’re continuing to closely monitor the situation around coronavirus. We're updating our website regularly as the situation progresses. Go to www.optivo.org.uk/coronavirus for all our updates.    


Useful information:

Benefit claims

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)
  • Text phone: 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
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.

 
Back to top

Scams

Criminals are continuing to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic to get their hands on your money and personal information.

To date, Action Fraud has received reports from 2,378 victims of Coronavirus-related scams, with the total losses reaching over £7 million.

There are some simple steps you can take to protect you from the most common Coronavirus-related scams.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Watch out for scam messages - Your bank (or other official organisations) won’t ask you to share personal information over email or text. If you receive an email you’re not quite sure about, forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS): report@phishing.gov.uk
  2. Shopping online - Carry out some research first if you're making a purchase from a company or person you don't know and trust. You could check to see if others have used the site and what their experience was. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one. Other payment providers may not provide the same protection.
  3. Unsolicited calls and browser pop-ups offering tech support - Never install any software, or grant remote access to your computer, as a result of a cold call. Remember, legitimate organisations would never contact you out of the blue to ask for financial details such as your PIN or full banking password.
  4.  

NHS Test and Trace scams:

The NHS Test and Trace service plays an important role in the fight against Coronavirus.

What you need to know:

Contact tracers will only call you from the number 0300 013 5000. If you don't wish to talk over the phone you can request the NHS Test and Trace service send an email or text instead.

All text or emails sent by NHS Test and Trace will ask you to sign into the contact tracing website and will provide you with a unique reference number.

You should type the web address https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk directly into your browser, followed by the unique reference number given to you, rather than clicking on any link provided in the message.

The NHS Test and Trace service will never:
  • Ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • Ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
  • Ask for any details about your bank account
  • Ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • Ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • Ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • Ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS.
Back to top

Debt repayments

From 14 April the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed that banks will be offering ‘payment holidays’ on consumer credit agreements including:
  • a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards for up to three months, for consumers negatively impacted by coronavirus
  • allow customers who are negatively impacted by coronavirus and who already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account, up to £500 charged at zero interest for three months
  • make sure that all overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft pricing changes came into force
  • ensure consumers using any of these temporary payment freeze measures will not have their credit file affected.
At the moment this covers:
  • Credit cards
  • Store cards
  • Catalogue credit
  • Loans
  • Overdrafts
  • Doorstep lending
  • Guarantor Loan
  • Logbook loan.
It does not currently cover:
  • Car finance
  • Payday loans.
To get this payment break you should speak to your lender and ask for the support within the next 3 months.

 
Back to top

Energy bills

Energy suppliers are also offering help to those who may struggle to pay bills as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis – both prepay and credit meter customers.
Suppliers will deal with issues on a case-by-case basis, so the best thing to do if you have to self-isolate or are struggling to pay your bill is to contact your provider straight away.

Remember, our free energy advice service is currently being delivered over the phone. To book an appointment please call 0300 365 3005 or email GreenDoctorsLDN@groundwork.org.uk

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

 
Back to top

Furlough

Please speak to your employer to make sure they’ve applied to be part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Most people know this as furlough.

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.

The length of time that the furlough scheme will be available for is under constant review. Please make sure you are keeping Optivo updated if you are on Furlough as there may be other support you could be entitled to and we can help identify if you qualify.

 
Back to top

Funeral costs

The DWP has announced that from 8 April 2020 financial support will be available to meet the costs of funeral expenses such as coffins and funeral directors’ fees.

For families on benefits the support available will increase from £700 to £1,000.

Read more here on the government's website.
Back to top

Self employed support

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.

Please note: Your Self-Employment Income Support payment won't affect past universal credit, but may affect it in the future. If you've claimed universal credit, and are now due a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) payment, don't worry, even though it's a pay-out for March to May, it won't impact the universal credit you've been paid for those months. However, it will likely reduce future payments. 

In some cases it may be worth delaying applying for SEISS by a week or two (which is allowed even if you've got an appointment) so that it falls correctly in your universal credit period. If you have any questions about this please ask to speak with your helpful Financial Inclusion Team. 

There are also some really helpful tips on Martin Lewis that can be found here.
 

About the Self Employed Income Support Scheme...

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 2018-2019
  • 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.
 

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

  • 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.
 

What is a government Bounce back Loan and who can apply?

This Bounce back loan scheme will launch on 4 May 2020. It will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

Applicants will need to complete a quick 2 page form. When approved the money will be paid to you within 24 hours. Find out more here.
 
Back to top

Shareholders & leaseholders

‘Payment Holidays’ are available for those affected by loss of income due to Coronavirus. Please speak to your mortgage provider/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.
Back to top