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20/03/2020

Coronavirus: financial help for self-isolation

20/03/2020

Coronavirus: financial help for self-isolation

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With more than 2,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the UK, there is little doubt the coronavirus pandemic will have an immediate and lasting impact for Brits.

It is an unnerving time for British families and while initial concerns understandably surround health, worries about financial stability continue to grow.

As people face the fear of a reduction in working hours and redundancy whilst covering the cost of daily life, understandably thoughts quickly turn to what support is available.

Here we offer an insight into how coronavirus can affect your finances should you be asked to self-isolate, offering advice and guidance about the support available.

 

Coronavirus and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

As the government calls for anyone displaying symptoms of coronavirus or living with or caring for someone who has shown signs of the virus to self-isolate from between seven and 14 days, depending on living arrangements, it’s vital to be aware of your rights as an employee.

If you work in a job where you do not receive full sick pay you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP is also available if you’re on a zero-hours contract.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak advised that SSP would be paid to anyone told to isolate, even if they don’t display any symptoms of coronavirus.

SSP is £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks, however, it’s important to note that to be eligible for the payment you must earn a minimum of £118 per week.

Changes to the rules mean you can also claim from the first day away from work, instead of waiting until the fourth as has typically been the case.

If you do not qualify for SSP or are self-employed you should make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

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Applying for Universal Credit and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

Throughout the outbreak, the eligibility criteria for Universal Credit will temporarily relax in order to provide support to as many people as possible.

The government announced that the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for those self-isolating or those who have coronavirus in a bid to ensure self-employed claimants will receive help.

Current changes also mean people will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate.

It’s also worth noting you are typically eligible for contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance if you are self-employed or unable to work and have at least two years of national insurance contributions.

That means eligible Brits over the age of 25 affected by the virus. This will pay out £73.10 per week and be available from day one rather than having to wait seven days for payment.

Payments are made every two weeks in arrears so claimants should expect to receive their first payment after around two weeks.

 

Will self-isolation affect your current benefits?

If you’re already in receipt of benefits you should be aware of how self-isolation could affect your payment.

Do your benefits require you to carry out specific tasks in order to receive payment?

If you are unable to carry out any tasks because of self-isolation you should contact the relevant office to make them aware of your situation as soon as possible.

Anyone in isolation already receiving Universal Credit should make use of the online journal tool to explain why you can’t complete your tasks.

It’s also worthwhile noting there could be an increase in benefit payments, specifically Universal Credit, to help claimants pay rent during the outbreak.

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Is there help available from creditors?

As unprecedented events unfold across the country, all eyes turn to creditors in the hope a little breathing space will be offered to those affected by the virus.

While not all have announced their plans about how they intend to support people during the outbreak, you should get in touch with anyone you owe money to should you find yourself required to self-isolate.

During these uncertain times, creditors and the people you owe money to may be able to provide flexible support to help you manage your finances as best as possible.

If you are a homeowner your lender could reduce or delay your mortgage payments for up to three months for those who are impacted by the virus and currently up to date with their payments.

However, it’s important to be aware this is a voluntary arrangement with banks so you should check with your provider if you’re struggling.

If you’re currently repaying unsecured debts, such as personal loans, your provider may agree to reduce or delay payments for a short period if you have been directly impacted by the coronavirus. Alternatively, your creditor may also be willing to increase credit card or overdraft limits to support you if you’re struggling but should do so with caution and keep in mind the impact this could have on your credit file.

 

If you’re concerned about debt during the coronavirus update, talk to Creditfix. We are taking the situation seriously and continuing to provide free, expert debt advice to people across the UK. To speak to one of our experienced advisors, please call 0808 2234 102.

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