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.
 

Useful information:

Making 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.

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

 

Changes to health assessments

In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.

This is aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus and safeguarding the health of individuals claiming health and disability benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk due to their pre-existing health conditions.
 

Changes to how much you’ll get

The government has increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit by £20 per week and has extended this to 30 September` 2021
 
If you're receiving Working Tax Credits you will be given the equivalent support in the form of a one-off payment of £500
 

Test and Trace Support Payment scheme

If you’re asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and you’re on a low income, unable to work from home and will lose income as a result, you may be entitled to a payment of £500 from your local authority under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.

For more information about any of the above, please visit the Universal Credit website.

 
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Job Retention Scheme


-- Extension until September 2021--

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (commonly known as furlough) has been extended until 30 September 2021.

For more details about how the scheme works and eligibility criteria please visit the Government’s website here.

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Self employed support

Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The government has confirmed that a fourth Self-Employment Income Support Grant is available.
 
In addition, a fifth and final grant will also be available covering May to September. More details will be released in due course.
 
For more information about the scheme and how to apply, please visit the Government’s website.

 

Apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) provides financial support to smaller businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million.

The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months.

The scheme is open until 31 March 2021.

For more information and eligibility criteria, please visit the government’s website
 

Bounce Back Loan 

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.

The scheme is open to applications until 31 March 2021.

You can apply for a loan if your business:

•    is based in the UK
•    was established before 1 March 2020
•    has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus
For more information and guidance, please visit the Government’s website.
 

Business Interruption Loans

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million.

The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months.

The scheme is open until 31 March 2021.

For more information and guidance, please visit the government’s website.

 
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Debt repayments

Payment holidays

As a result of the government’s recent lockdown announcement, The Financial Conduct Authority  has announced that payment holidays will continue to be available for consumer credit products such as personal loans, credit cards and car finance. The deadline requesting one is 31 March 2021.

The level of support will depend on how many payment holidays you have already taken. 

Remember:
  • If you can afford to make some of your repayments, even if it’s a smaller amount than usual, you should continue to do so
  • Lenders can continue charging interest during a payment holiday (the only exception to this is high-cost short-term credit, including payday loans, where additional interest shouldn't be charged)
  • You may end up with more to pay at the end of a payment holiday
  • Under these proposals, your lender doesn’t have to give you a payment holiday if it isn’t in your best interests
  • You shouldn't cancel or reduce payments until you’ve contacted your lender
For more detailed information and guidance, please visit the FCA’s website.

Falling into debt can happen to anyone at any time. 

Debt can spiral out of control unless you take action. It can result in court judgements against you, repossessions and losing your home.

We'll do everything we can to support you in preventing this from happening and offer free guidance that can help you to reduce your debts.

We can also refer you to a number of specialist advisers.

If you would like to talk to someone about your situation please get in touch using our online form.
 
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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. 

Energy regulator Ofgem has also introduced new rules from 15 December to help vulnerable customers who struggle to pay their energy bills this winter.  Please visit Ofgem’s website for more details.
 
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

 
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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.
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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 lots of reports from victims of Coronavirus-related scams.

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.

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 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.
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Shareholders & leaseholders

Mortgage support

As a result of the government’s latest lockdown announcement, mortgage payment holidays will continue to be available for homeowners. The deadline for requesting one is 31 March 2021.
 
However the support available will depend on what support you have already received.
 
For more detailed information about what support is available, please visit the Financial Conduct Authority’s website.

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. 
 
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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.