The charity is adapting its support service to help industry members through this pandemic. We are providing regular updates for the industry and offering lots of useful information, advice and support links on issues that may be affecting you or your family members during COVID-19 such as:
Practical Support - Reducing personal debt, helpful advice for those who are worried about their and the person that they care for safety - Salary and more.
Employed and Self-employed support - Help and Guidance for employers who are looking to furlough employees or struggling with Covid-19 generally and more.
Mental Health support - Feeling the pressure to be productive? A useful toolkit to support your mental health during the pandemic, how to protect your mental health during the pandemic and more.
Housing support - The welfare team are supporting renters who need to write to their landlords in support for rent holidays and more.
Welfare benefit Support - If you are self-employed or lost your job because of COVID-19 consider applying for universal credit? And more.
Legal support – Advice for employees requiring legal support during the pandemic and more.
Self-Isolation - Guide for social distancing and more.
As our health and mental wellbeing is important, so is our financial wellbeing. If we cannot keep our finances in check this can lead to an array of mental health issues. What can you do, to stay on top of your finances? Let’s take things back to the basics, giving you advice and practical information on how to manage your day to day finances.
With the ongoing ramifications of COVID-19 echoing throughout our industry and lots of our sector colleagues surviving on furlough, universal credit or living hand to mouth it is more important than ever to understand how to look after your financial well-being. Financial well-being is all about making what money you have, work for you. The changing financial landscape means lots of us are readjusting our budgets, tightening the purse strings and revaluating what we do and don’t need. While we may have made some savings, for instance the cost of commute is now just the footsteps from your bedroom to your kitchen, it has been reported that online spending has increased exponentially during the pandemic. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is set to become a trillionaire thanks to the mass spending on the online platform; an indication of just how much money we have been adding to the cart over lockdown.
This pandemic has raised questions of what a necessity is and has also meant many of us have had to cancel trips abroad. You may be feeling anxious about thousands tied up in a cruise that won’t be happening or the possibility of a plummet in the stock market and while these finances are out of your control this calendar will help you reassess those finances you can control. This month’s health calendar explores the different ways your finance and thus your wellbeing can be affected, as well as how to manage your fluctuating budget with your wellbeing always at the forefront.
If you’re struggling to pay back a payday loan, the worst thing you can do is ignore the problem. Don’t panic or struggle in silence, here are the steps you can take:
1. Contact your payday lender as soon as possible
- By law, they must:
- Direct you to sources of free and independent debt advice.
- Suspend recovery of the debt for a reasonable period if you’re developing a repayment plan with a debt adviser or on your own.
- Treat you fairly and with consideration allowing you reasonable time to repay the loan which might include freezing interest and suspending charges.
- In addition, they should:
- Not bombard you with phone calls, emails and text messages.
- Consider accepting small token payments temporarily if your repayments mean you haven’t enough money left for essentials like food, rent or mortgage, and utility bills.
- Remember to keep copies of all emails and letters you sent to the lender and write down details of your phone calls to them.
This is evidence of how you’ve tried to contact them if they don’t reply and you need to make a complaint.
2. Think about cancelling the recurring payment
If you can’t afford the loan repayments or are worried about paying the loan means you might not be able to pay for essentials, such as food, rent, mortgage, or utility bills. You can phone your bank and cancel the recurring payment (‘continuous payment authority’) that allows your lender to take money from your account. Do this at least one day before repayment is due and make sure you tell your lender you’ve done so. Write down the date and time that you instructed your bank to cancel the recurring payment. If after this date money goes from your account to the lender, complain to your bank. The bank must give you a refund by law. It’s a good idea to follow up your phone call with a letter to your bank. You can use the National Debtline’s Letter to withdraw a continuous payment authority with your bank.
Make sure that you tell the payday lender as soon as possible that you’ve cancelled the recurring payment because of difficulties paying back the money. You will still owe the debt and the lender can go on charging interest and fees so it’s essential you get free debt advice to help you deal with the problem.
3. Refuse to roll your loan over
Your payday lender might suggest that you ‘roll over’ your loan for another month or so. This is a really bad idea. It means you have to pay even more charges and interest – so you end up owing much more money. What you should do instead is seek debt advice and agree a repayment plan that you can afford with the lender. Before rolling over your loan, the payday lender must refer you to free debt advice. And since July 2014 they cannot roll over your loan more than twice.
4. Get help from a free debt adviser
If you’re struggling with bills or finding it difficult to deal with a payday lender, contact one of these free, confidential debt advice services:
StepChange Debt Charity
Citizens Advice – England and Wales
Citizens Advice – Scotland
Citizens Advice – Northern Ireland
The adviser will be on your side – they’ll help you get your debts under control and can negotiate with the lender on your behalf. Tell your lender as soon as you start working with the debt adviser. Follow up your phone call with a letter – you can use Which’s letter telling a payday lender that you’re working with a debt adviser. Once you’ve done this, your lender must give you a reasonable amount of time to come up with a repayment plan before using debt collectors. If they keep contacting you while you’re working with the debt adviser, send an email asking them to stop.
Your payday lender should not try to put you under undue pressure, including:
- Calling you at work without your permission.
- Discussing your debt with your employer or family members.
- Refusing to deal with the debt advice service acting for you.
For more information watch this information video from citizens advices on knowing your rights surrounding payday loans:
It is true that money makes the world go around and for a lot of us anxiety surrounding money is a normal thing. A lot of us are guilty of living beyond our means some of the time and struggle to keep to our budgets. Although financial uncertainty may seem like a everyday feeling for some, for others it can have devastating effect on an individual’s mental health. Almost half of those who are in debt also have a mental health problem and 87% of people who have a pre-existing mental health condition have found that money worries exacerbate their condition. In 2018/19 The Electrical Industries Charity awarded over £184,000 to those in financial difficulty from debt advice, support and bankruptcy to food and immediate needs to fuel poverty and financial assistance for serious illness. Financial support remains as one of the biggest reasons an industry member contacts the charity and the Electrical Industries Charity understand the impact of financial distress.
Financial distress affects us in lots of different ways. For some of us it may make us feel inferior or even incompetent. You may feel as though you have lost the ability to make decisions as your finances limit what you can do. Disagreements over money can lead to your feeling isolated and withdrawn from your spouse and family. In more extreme cases you may feel as though you have let down your family. It is when these feelings of incompetence creep in that you are at your most vulnerable.
Tom, an electrical business owner, had been mentally stable but found within the last six months he was struggling with his mental health. His business had begun to struggle financially and although Tom knew his business could recover, his marriage was beginning to breakdown and Tom was beginning to despair.
To cope Tom turned to the bottle. He began to drink excessively weekly and even began to black-out from drinking too much. During this stage of his life Tom began to feel increasingly suicidal.
Tom approached the Electrical Industries Charity to ask for help. 1 in 3 of EIC cases focus on mental health and each year the Electrical Industries Charity receive thousands of calls from those who are at crisis point. The charity funded a psychiatric assessment for Tom to determine a formal diagnosis and then Tom was referred for charity sourced and funded therapy. Tom’s Charity case worker helped him work out a household budget plan and gave a supporting ear when he needed it. This was the major turning point for Tom.
Tom developed coping strategies and began to process his thoughts in a different and more healthy way. He was encouraged to engage with his financial problems and most importantly re-connect with his young daughters and family.
A message from Tom “What happened this year came upon me like a wave that left me sinking for a large portion of it, looking back had I not involved myself with the Electrical Industries Charity in years prior I would not have had someone to speak to. The day I spoke with the Electrical Industries Charity I was pulled into the side of the road in tears not knowing where my business and personal life was after losing control of everything. The journey has been long and tough and I still struggle at times but I am coming into December in a very reflective mood, stronger than I have been in years albeit still not 100% there, my business doesn’t drive me to carnage and I have been able to take it under complete control and I have the reality in front of me that I have a Family whom I love very much”
During the pandemic a lot of us have re-assessed our finances. We may have investigated our direct debits and cancelled an app subscription or two, or maybe we realised how much we were spending on takeaway coffee while commuting in and out of work. For some of us, our financial landscape has completely changed. Those who are furloughed are learning to budget with 80% of their wage while others may have been made redundant. The self-employed have also been hit with the financial ramifications of COVID-19 with financial assistance varying depending on business model and lots of other factors. Since the beginning of the pandemic the Electrical Industries Charity have seen an increase in people coming to the charity for emergency assistance or financial advice. A staggering 22% of the electrical and energy sector lives week-to-week and their already low income may have been affected even more by coronavirus.
The Electrical Industries Charity welfare team have been on hand to answer the helpline calls from the industry offering advice, signposting and assisting with counselling, financial services or CV writing. Although construction sites and many businesses have begun to re-open there is still much uncertainty and the charity welfare team are still on hand to help you through the pandemic.
There are so many ways the Electrical Industries Charity can be of assistance to you. The Charity understand the importance of financial well-being in relation to your own mental health and want to help you make it a priority. It may be that you just don’t know where to start, you don’t know what support is out there for you or how you can make that support work for your finances. Here is where the Electrical Industries Charity can help.
Since the beginning of the pandemic the charity have received a lot of calls from industry members wanting financial advice. Steve, the owner of a small electrical firm, wanted to understand how he could manage his outgoings with a limited income and a growing family. The welfare team spoke to Steve about the various options he had to alleviate some of the financial stress. During the pandemic many banks are offering ‘mortgage holidays’ to support their customers who have had their income stripped. Steve’s bank were able to offer Steve a mortgage payment holiday of three months during the pandemic meaning he did not have to make any mortgage payments during this period. This was a temporary financial relief for Steve and meant he could stop outgoings of over £550 a month. The charity welfare team helped Steve to put together a budget for the rest of his income and outgoings. Steve found that although it won’t be easy him and his family could live comfortably despite the pandemic. The Electrical Industries Charity was a supportive ear for Steve and provided guidance to help him keep financially well.
For those who have been struggling with debt prior to the pandemic this time has worsened their circumstances and meant they have been unable to keep up with repayments to debtors. Mo came to the Electrical Industries Charity unable to find his feet. He had several loans, including two pay-day loans, which he was still paying back at high interest rates and owed some family members small sums of money. Mo had been keeping on top of his repayments until he was furloughed from his electrical wholesaler job and then had to support a family and repay loans on just 80% of his income. Mo contacted the charity to understand what support he may be eligible for. The Electrical Industries Charity spoke with Mo about his repayments and his other outgoings. The welfare team advised Mo to prioritise his repayments and focus on getting the essential debts paid first. The team then referred him to StepChange, a debt charity which helps create manageable debt repayment plans between creditors and debtors. StepChange helped Mo to create repayment plans with each of his creditors meaning he could pay back only what he could afford during this period. Mo has since returned to work and has increased his repayments meaning he can look forward to becoming debt free in the future. It is important to remember that if the Electrical Industries Charity can’t help, they can point you towards an organisation which can and still support you while you attain assistance from them.
For others the coronavirus pandemic has meant their finances have been completely depleted. Ross had finished his apprenticeship and had started his own small electrical business in November 2019. When the pandemic began Ross discovered he was unable to apply for any of the furloughing payments as he had not been self-employed for a long enough period. With limited income and remaining outgoings Ross was unsure on what he could do to alleviate his financial burden and get himself back on track so contacted the Electrical Industries Charity. The Charity awarded Ross a small emergency financial grant to help subsidise his income and helped him to apply for universal credit as well a mortgage holiday. The Charity also then helped Ross to apply for a ‘bounceback loan’ to help his new business stay afloat. With construction sites back open Ross has now managed to return to work and his finances have begun to stabilise. He continues to have the ongoing support of The Electrical Industries Charity and has since felt a lot happier about his finances.
The last three months have been especially difficult on a lot of our finances. While we may have been awarded rental relief or cut down the cost of our commute, we have still had to adjust our budgets, tighten our belts and re-assess our outgoings. The Electrical Industries Charity champion financial well-being and are here to help you understand your finances. Steve, Mo and Ross are just three examples of how the Electrical Industries Charity can help but there a lot of other ways too.
Approximately £674 every minute is lost to bank transfer scams, new research from Which? has found. In the past year alone, victims lost a total of £354m, with most of it stolen from personal accounts.
There are many ways in which scammers attempt fraud. From ‘phishing emails’ – for example bogus messages letting you know about a recent inheritance win – to phone scams in which callers pretend to be from a trusted organisation, then ask to reconfirm your private details. Or holiday scammers ‘selling’ unwary people flights and advance fee scams, there is an ever-growing market for criminals to ply their wares. Here are some simple tips to stay protected:
Don’t trust strangers:
Fraudsters often pretend to be someone from a trustworthy profession, such as a policeman, a charity fundraiser or an employee at your bank. In the real world, these people will never ask you for sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers, so if they do, be suspicious.
Keep your tech up-to-date:
Computers are a popular target for fraudsters. Scammers can create websites containing malicious code and emails with viruses attached in an attempt to steal important details. Downloading the latest anti-virus software and using an up-to-date operating system will prevent most of these attacks.
Do your research:
If a deal catches your eye when you’re shopping online, be sure the vendor is reputable. If in doubt, do an online search for the company. Typing its name and the word ‘scam’ should bring up all the information you need; if people are complaining, buy elsewhere.
Paying in advance:
Fraudsters usually want your money quickly then make a swift exit. One way they do this is to ask people for money up-front, sometimes in exchange for nothing but promises. If someone sounds eager for payment, consider whether they are for real.
It’s good practice to use different passwords each time you create an account online. Using a single password means that if a fraudster cracks one account, they can gain access to the lot. Commit pin numbers to memory and don’t write them down. If you do fall victim to a scam your bank can protect you. Banks have introduced new systems to protect their customers from fraud.
Now, banks and payment providers will be required to follow a new set of standards to protect customers, including detecting high-risk payments, identifying vulnerable customers, and delaying or freezing payments that might be part of a scam. Both the bank who sent the payment and the one that receives it have a duty to take action. If you fall victim, and either bank has fallen short of these standards, your own bank will be required to refund your losses. Banks will also bring in a new security system, known as ‘confirmation of payee’, which will warn you if the name you enter doesn’t match the account details.
The new code is a huge step towards protecting consumers and ensuring victims aren’t out of pocket – but not everyone will benefit. Around 17 brands, covering 85% of all electronic transfers, have signed up so far. Customers of the following banks can rest assured that they’ll be protected by the new rules: Barclays, HSBC, First Direct, M&S Bank, Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Metro Bank, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Ulster Bank, Starling Bank, Santander, Cahoot, Cater Allen.
Contact your bank or building society straight away if you're worried someone might have access to your account. For example, if your:
• Card or security details have been lost or stolen
• Statement shows payments you don't recognise
• Card has reached its limit or account has gone into overdraft - and you weren't expecting it
If money has been taken from your account this is known as fraud and is illegal. When you contact your bank, they'll take action straight away to protect your account so no more money can be taken. For example, they might cancel your cards or cheque book and send you a replacement. You should also report the crime to the police through Action Fraud. They'll log it and give you a crime reference number.
Telephone: 0300 123 2040
Textphone: 0300 123 2050
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Living beyond your means is pretty easy to do these days, especially since we live in a time when buying on credit has become the norm. But just because it seems normal doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a real disservice to your current and future well-being.
Here are eight red flags that you’re living a lifestyle you simply can’t afford:
1 - You let fear dictate your spending:
We all know how terrible it feels to miss out (or be left out) of fun social events due to financial constraints. But don’t let your FOMO (fear of missing out) dictate your spending. “This can be as innocent as going out to eat when you’ve already exhausted your restaurant fund for the month, or as extreme as paying rent you can’t afford in order to keep up with your friends,” says Ruth Soukup, author of “Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets to the Good Life.”
2 -You carry a balance on your credit card:
It’s not unusual to use a credit card as your primary method of payment. “Credit card companies offer all kinds of incentives to motivate consumers to use their cards,” says T. Michelle Jones, a vice president at Bryn Mawr Trust in Philadelphia. “It has become a way of life for many who no longer carry cash in their wallets.” And there’s no harm in doing so — and reaping those rewards points — as long as you’re paying off the balance each month. But if you carry a balance month to month, you’re spending more than you can afford. Get yourself back in the black in the next few months by doubling or tripling the minimum payment due, suggests consumer spending expert Andrea Woroch, and start carrying cash when you shop.
3 - You’re not saving at least 5%:
Everyone should save 10 to 15 percent of their total income. But if you can’t save at least 5 percent — even while paying off debt — this could be a sign that you’re living beyond your means. How to do this? Give up things in the short term to be successful in the long term, says Snyder. “If you cut back each month and don’t go out to eat, or to the movies, or whatever it takes for you to spend less, you will have more money to save.”
4 - You have no emergency fund:
Part of the reason you need savings is to pay, in cash, for those inevitable emergency purchases, like if your car dies or you get hit with an excruciatingly high vet bill. Putting these kinds of expenses on a credit card or financing them with a loan will continue the cycle of living beyond what you can afford. R. Joseph Ritter Jr., a financial planner and founder of Zacchaeus Financial Counseling in Hope Sound, Florida, suggests trying build an emergency fund of about $2,500 — that way, you at least have a cushion when an unexpected expense crops up. “Try to do this within six months, and set aside as much as possible each month toward the goal,” he advises. “This is not your total emergency fund. It is simply a place to start.”
5 - You’re leasing a car you can’t afford:
A major financial red flag is leasing a vehicle you cannot afford to buy outright or finance, says investment advisor and Registered Financial Consultant Carlos Dias Jr. “If you can’t own it, don’t lease it,” he advises. “Essentially you are renting a temporary lifestyle that will end and may require you to put down more money that you could have applied to owning a car.
6 - You don’t have any money left at the end of the month:
“People who live paycheck to paycheck often believe they can’t save money or spend less because their lifestyle has become a habit,” Woroch says.
An easy way to jump-start savings and become more conscious of your spending decisions, according to financial expert J. Money is to enact a no-spend month.
“Allow yourself to spend money only on the bare necessities for 30 days — rent, bills, groceries — and cut out everything else,” he says. “No clothes shopping, no eating out, and especially no Amazon binges. Nothing puts your finances in check more than a consumption detox.”
7 - You’ve paid an overdraft fee:
Overdraft fees are another sign that you’re spending money you quite literally do not have. To avoid getting dinged for overdraft charges, use the cash envelope system to control your spending. Divide expenses into categories that make sense to you — groceries, beauty, going out, and so on — and put cash in an envelope for each category. “When the cash [in a particular envelope] is gone, don’t use a credit or debit card,” he says. “Stop spending!”
8 - You’ve never set a budget:
“Having a written budget is one of the most important steps to financial freedom and living within your means,” Jones says. So if you’ve never set financial parameters for yourself — and you’re not filthy rich — chances are that you need to take an honest inventory of your income, spending, and savings goals. Not doing so will only cause you a great deal of stress, uncertainty, and even guilt. “Challenging a client to go ‘all cash’ for a month can be a wake-up call for someone who is not mindful or is in denial about his or her overspending,” says Brooklyn, New York-based financial planner Stephanie Genkin. Once you get a sense of your own patterns and habits you can work toward setting a realistic budget that allows you to save and spend more wisely.
So you've recognised the problem, but what can you do to dig yourself out? The website finty.com has a very helpful guide of Practical Financial Skills to Manage Money. We highly recommend this guide, which includes sections such as: "An introduction to money management", "How money can affect your mental health" and "Tips for having difficult conversations about money".
Developing effective money habits are essential to financial wellbeing.
Habit 1: Avoid making financial decisions when emotional
Studies have found that people who are sad will pay more for something or sell it for less, compared with those who are in a normal emotional state. Being highly stressed can lead to impulsive or irrational financial decisions. In these situations, the age-old advice of “sleeping on it” makes a lot of sense.
Habit 2: Tune out the noise
Avoid looking at your financial position too much. As a general rule, look at your cash position weekly and your investment portfolio yearly. If you’re investing for a 40 or 50 year time horizon, why worry about what is happening this week, month or year? As the legendary fund manager Peter Lynch put it: “Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections.”
Habit 3: Just say NO
Whether it’s a meal deal instead of just a sandwich or paint protection with your expensive new car, developing the habit of saying no to add-ons, upgrades or special deals stops you spending more money than you planned.
Habit 4: All pounds are equal
Research shows we treat money differently depending on where it comes from. We are more likely to spend a rebate than we are a bonus. Adopt the habit of treating all your inflows, whether salary and pension increases, tax rebates, bonuses or premium bond winnings the same as core income. That means directing it to the same spending priorities, including saving for your future self or reducing debt, as core income.
Habit 5: Forget Love Island
Watching a lot of reality TV or exposure to “lifestyle” social media has been found to increase people’s sense of inadequacy and insecurity, because they don’t conform to the unrealistic physical look or curated “perfect” lifestyles on show. This can lead to impulse and emotional spending to fill the void. If you can’t stop watching reality TV, at least be clear about what’s important to you in life and what matters.
Habit 6: Replace a bad habit with a good one
Your money habits may be highly ingrained, and you might think you can’t change. But, as long as you have a clear idea of what you stand for and what matters most in your life, you can then design your financial environment and routines so that it’s easier to develop habits that are conducive to your financial wellbeing. Swap regular bottles of wine for occasional drinking and use the saved money for a better habit.
If your income has reduced during the COVID-19 outbreak, the first step you should take is to complete a budget form. This will allow you to put down all of your incomings and outgoings to understand better how the reduction in income will affect you. By filling in a budget form, you will understand how you can save money. This can be a stressful period, but it’s vital to help you manage your money and mental health. Once completed, the form will explain what steps you should take next. If the COVID-19 outbreak has caused you to take time off work or resulted in your income being reduced, it can be extremely stressful. As a result, you may experience heightened anxiety, low mood or depression. If your mental health has been affected by COVID-19, we recommend you read Rethink Mental Illness’ guide to managing your mental health during COVID-19, or try the Every Mind Matters website for some self-help tips.
Many people are facing potential job losses at this time as companies end contracts, especially for those who have been employed for less than two years. To ensure your ex-employer has followed the statutory legal requirements, you can find further advice at The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
If you have a mental illness, you might be worried that your employer is more likely to make you redundant because of your illness. If they did this, it could be discrimination. Find out more about discrimination and mental illness at the workplace. If you are a member of a trade union, you can get advice and support from them. UNITE has already responded to several hospitality organisations who have made employees redundant due to COVID-19. This sudden change to your employment status could mean you have to claim benefits. The first thing you should do is use the Turn to Us online benefits checker to see what you can claim.
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused several people to lose their jobs or have a reduced income. At Mental Health and Money Advice, we understand the link between financial difficulty and poor mental health. We explain how to budget during the COVID-19 outbreak, so you feel more in control of your finances and mental health.
While the Government has put in several measures to support people during this crisis including providing 80% of employees’ wages, you may face a significant drop in your income, especially if you are self-employed or a freelancer. Making a plan to manage your money over the coming months will also help you manage your mental health. You may not be able to control the broader context of COVID-19, but you can manage your reaction to it, and that includes planning. The more you do now to plan will help you feel in more control when you might not be feeling at your best. We have outlined a five-step plan to manage your money and mental health better during the COVID-19 outbreak.
1: Identify your current financial situation
Take time to sit down, note down your current income and outgoings. It may be useful to use online banking or recent bank statements to highlight areas of spending. From doing this, you will be able to see what you’re receiving each month and what you’re spending.
2: Address any financial emergencies:
Rent & Mortgages
Financial services and the Government have considered priority bills such as rent, mortgages and council tax during this crisis. For mortgage-holders, firms such as Lloyds Banking Group, Santander and Bank of Scotland are offering Mortgage Payment Holidays for those affected by COVID-19. This provides some flexibility in repaying your mortgage by stopping payments or reducing them to more manageable levels for up to three months.
If you are struggling to pay your mortgage, you should immediately contact your mortgage provider to discuss your options as Mortgage Payment Holidays are not suitable for everyone. If you are considering a payment holiday, please read the Money Advice Service’s guide .
If you are renting and worried about managing your rent, the Government has announced emergency legislation to suspend evictions for social and private-rented accommodations during the crisis. This suspension means your landlord cannot apply for possession until you have missed rent payments for at least three months. If you owe more than three months’ rent, your landlord must work with you and ensure you remain in your home. They would have to prove that they have taken into account your financial situation and offered an affordable repayment plan before they can start proceedings. At present, all court actions have been suspended until further notice.
For renters with landlords who have a buy-to-let mortgage, you can claim mortgage payment holidays which should ease pressure on you for rent payments at this time. Nonetheless, you should still contact your landlord and keep them updated with your situation. If you are a social tenant, you should speak to your tenancy support or housing officer for support regarding potential benefit claims or arranging an affordable repayment plan if possible. For more information, the Money Advice Service has provided a guide on managing your rent payments, including how to approach your landlord .
As for council tax, many Local Authorities across the UK have been provided additional funding for Council Tax Support to help people pay their council tax during the COVID-19 outbreak. In England & Wales, Local Authorities have been given access to a pot of £500 million to help support vulnerable individuals and households. Local Councils will likely use this fund for Council Tax Relief. You should contact your local authority directly or check their website for more information as well as for instructions on how to claim council tax . As council tax is a priority bill, you should endeavour to pay what you can. If you are having difficulty in paying council tax, you should immediately contact your local council and discuss your options. Applications for council tax relief can take time to process.
Severe Mental Impairment
If you suffer from a mental health illness, you may be entitled to council tax exemption where it has been decided by your local authority that you do not need to pay council tax. This exemption is called “Severe Mental Impairment” (SMI) and applies to those who have severe impairment of intelligence or social functioning, which app ears to be permanent.
To be eligible for this exemption, you will need your doctor to sign a medical certificate evidencing that you are severely mentally impaired as well as being in receipt of one of the following benefits:
• Disability Living Allowance with middle or highest rate care component.
• Personal Independent Payment receiving standard or enhanced Daily Living Component.
• Attendance Allowance.
• Severe Disablement Allowance.
• Employment Support Allowance.
• Incapacity benefit.
• Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance with a disability premium.
• Working Tax Credit with the disability element.
Please note that if you are living alone, you will be entitled to a 100% exemption. However, if you are living with two or more adults who are eligible to pay tax and you are diagnosed with SMI, then you will not receive any discount. If you live with someone else who has been diagnosed with SMI and no other adults or only live with those disregarded for council tax purposes, then you are treated as living on your own and will receive a single person’s discount of 25%.
If you are struggling with your Water Bills, you should immediately discuss with your water supply company. Further information and support can be found at Citizens Advice .
Gas and Electricity
If you are going to struggle to pay your Gas & Electricity, contact your provider immediately. Most energy firms, including the Big Six energy firms, have set up website pages to keep their customers updated with how they will be supported by those struggling to pay.
Whatever your situation, your supplier may have taken steps to help you manage payments as well as checking if you are on the best tariff. You can also switch providers, even if you are in arrears if you want to take advantage of better tariffs. If you are on a Prepayment Meter and struggling to top up, either because you are self-isolating or have a reduced income, speak to your energy provider immediately. You should receive help which may include having credit added to your meter or credit being sent out in the post.
Energy firms have agreed to halt any disconnections of energy during this crisis, and you will receive support if you are struggling with your energy bills. Those in vulnerable groups, including people with mental health issues, can be placed on the Priority Services Register . This is a free service provided by suppliers and network operators for customers in need. Ofgem has also provided information for energy consumers who may be affected by the coronavirus.
One of the leading causes of concern for many people is ensuring their families have sufficient food supplies. The Trussell Trust is putting processes in place to ensure that everyone who needs help, volunteering or making a donation can do so safely. You can search for your local Trussell Trust foodbank if you require an emergency food parcel. Each foodbank in regional areas is an independent charity run by your local community, and each will be affected differently. The Trussell Trust is working hard to provide vital food supplies to those most in need and is working with the Independent Food Aid Network to work together during this crisis.
Small Business Support
Apply for a coronavirus Bounce Back Loan
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak.
The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover.
The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.
After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.
COVID-19 – what to do if you are already getting benefits:
- Universal Credit
You’ll continue to get Universal Credit as normal during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. If you’re working while claiming Universal Credit, your payment will be adjusted if you can no longer work due to coronavirus. Tell us about the hours you’re working in the usual way in your online account. The standard allowance increased on 6 April 2020. For example, for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 and over) it has increased from £317.82 to £409.89 a month. You must still tell us about changes to your circumstances.
- Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
If you’re currently getting tax credits and you cannot work or you’re working fewer hours because of coronavirus, you do not need to tell HMRC about this change as long as you’re still employed or self-employed. You must still tell HMRC about other changes to your circumstances. This includes if you or your partner lose your job, are made redundant or cease trading. The basic element of Working Tax Credit has increased by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021. You cannot claim Universal Credit and tax credits at the same time. If you get tax credits, they will stop when you or your partner applies for Universal Credit and you will be unable to claim them again, even if your Universal Credit claim is unsuccessful.
- Other Benefits
Your payments will not be affected if you get:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- ‘New style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
You do not need to attend any Jobcentre Plus appointments or health assessments in person during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
What is Universal Credit?
- Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland. You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work.
- A single claimant aged under 25 can claim £342.72 per month. A single claimant aged 25 or over can claim £409.89 per month. Joint claimants both aged under 25 can claim £488.59 per month. Joint claimants either aged 25 or over can claim £594.04 per month: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Universal-Credit/How-much-Universal-Credit-will-I-get#
- Apply here: https://www.gov.uk/how-to-claim-universal-credit
- Universal Credit is replacing the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
If you currently get any of these benefits, you do not need to do anything unless:
- you have a change of circumstances you need to report
- the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contacts you about moving to Universal Credit
Statutory Sick Pay (SPSP):
You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. If you are self-isolating because of COVID-19, from 13 March, you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are self-isolating because they, or someone in their household is displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or because they are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (shielding). To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay for more information.
What if I am self-employed or not eligible for SSP?
If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit (UC) or new style Employment and Support Allowance. For more information on how to claim, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit
Having worked with a number of clients on low income, often with young or teenage children – it has been a challenge to help change the way they managed the family food shop, on limited funds and often on a day-to-day basis. Seeing how bad choices and easy choices frequently resulted in higher costs and subsequently running out of money for food.
Under Covid-19 the habits of shopping last minute on the way home, going to local shop every day has been actively discouraged for as infrequent as possible a shop, and although the lockdown is being slowly relaxed it is not a bad thing to have a weekly shop plus perhaps a top-up for fresh items once in the week. A plan is vital! A general outline of what meals are going to be throughout the week, stops the “I don’t know what to do, we’ll have a takeaway” throwing the spending out for that week.
Payday (assuming monthly)
Check cupboards for essentials:
Condiments, rice, pasta, tea/coffee, tinned tomatoes, cereals, washing gel/powder, cleaning materials. It is always useful to have dried milk,
which can be used in tea/coffee and can be used in cooking.
Night before shop:
If you have teenagers – involve them in the decision making but try and keep it healthy! Maybe one not so healthy meal as long as they have two healthy meals. Look at some recipes together, maybe get them interested in cooking?
- Make a plan of the meals for each day
- What do you already have in freezer (if anything)?
- What do you need to get for the different meals that you don’t already have?
- Fresh fruit and vegetables – these may only last for a few days before losing freshness, so don’t overbuy
- Bread/dairy/eggs/butter spread
These meals aren’t set in stone – if you don’t fancy the Tuesday meal on Tuesday, have it Wednesday!
All that should be needed now is a mid-week top-up of fresh bread, maybe milk and some vegetables/fruit.
There are numerous youtube videos for cheap but delicious meals and here are a few links: