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:

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.

If you need to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of coronavirus, you will not be required to produce a Fit Note.

If you are affected by coronavirus you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre.

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.
 

Changes to how much you’ll get

The government has increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit until April 2021. Both have increased by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This applies to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

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

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.

The scheme will run until 31 January 2021.

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

 
Back to top

Job Support Scheme

The Job Retention Scheme (more commonly known as furlough) ended on 31st October 2020.

It has been replaced by the Job Support Scheme that will open from 1 November 2020 and run for 6 months until 30 April 2021. There are two versions of the scheme depending on how your employer has been affected by coronavirus restrictions. 

More guidance about the scheme can be found on the Government’s website here.

Please make sure you are keeping Optivo updated if you are on the Job Support Scheme as there may be other support you could be entitled to that we can help you identify if you qualify.
 
Back to top

Self employed support

What help is available if you are self-employed?

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant Extension provides support to the self-employed in the form of two grants, each available for three month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021.

To be eligible for the Grant Extension self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, must:
  •  have been previously eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme first and second grant (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
  • declare that they intend to continue to trade and either: 
    •  are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
    • were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus
For further info and eligibility criteria, 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 30 November 2020.

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

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.

The scheme is open to applications until 30 November 2020.

The length of the loan is 6 years, but you can repay early without paying a fee. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

For more information and eligibility criteria, please visit the Government’s website.
 
Back to top

Debt repayments

The Financial Conduct Authority has updated its guidance for firms that it issued in June 2020 on providing ‘payment holidays’ for borrowers affected by coronavirus.
 

Support after 31 October 2020

From 1 November 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed banks will continue to provide support on consumer credit agreements, but this will be tailored to your individual circumstances. This is available whether you need more support or if you need support for the first time.

You will need to be as open and transparent as possible about your situation when talking to your lender. This will help make sure they give you options that meet your needs.  

For further 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.


 
Back to top

Energy bills

Energy regulator Ofgem is introducing new rules from 15 December 2020 to help vulnerable customers who struggle to pay their energy bills this winter.  Please visit Ofgem’s website for more details.

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

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

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.
  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

Shareholders & leaseholders

The Financial Conduct Authority has updated its guidance for firms  that it issued in June 2020 on providing payment holidays to borrowers affected by coronavirus.


Support after 31 October 2020

If you’re facing difficulty paying your mortgage after 31 October, your lender should provide you with tailored support. This is available whether you need more support at the end of a payment holiday or if you need support for the first time.

They can provide short and long-term options to reflect your specific circumstances. This could include making no or reduced payments for specified period to give you time to get back on track, extending the repayment term or restructuring the mortgage.

If you need more support from lenders, either at the end of payment holidays or for the first time, this will be reflected on credit files in line with normal reporting processes. This will help make sure lenders have an accurate picture of your financial circumstances and reduce the risk of unaffordable lending. Firms should be clear about the credit file implications of any support they offer.

Further guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority is available here.

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