At this time of the Coronavirus crisis, many people have been thrown into financial crisis, with sudden lack of income.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide, specifically looking at how you can help someone struggling with their finances.
It contains lots of signposting to trusted organisations who hold the most up to date information, and who have produced a huge range of resources, tools and support.
We will update links as we can.
The information is available as a downloadable PDF, below, and also links are posted on this page.
Help with Finances - Organisations that can help
These organisations have put together really useful information around the Coronavirus shutdown relating to finances and income:
Monday and Pensions Service- Dealing with the financial effects of the Coronavirus/ FAQs
Turn 2 Us really useful guide what you may be entitled to if you have lost your income, plus a benefit checker
Money Saving Expert latest guide to changes in benefits, what help you can get, what your rights are (updated 1st Apr 2020)
Money & Mental Health - managing your mental and financial wellbeing
Just Finance Foundation have put together some commonly asked questions in their Coronavirus Help Hub
Policy in Practice explaining what the latest changes to government policies as they happen
Financial Shock: What Do I do?
My income has suddenly been cut – what are my options?
If you are employed… (i.e. you pay tax through PAYE)
• You can be ‘furloughed’. The government will pay 80% of your salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month (your employer can top this up to 100% if they want to). Basically, you are going on ‘standby’: your job goes into hibernation while you still get paid. You cannot work for your employer at this time (but you can work for another employer).
• It is at your company’s discretion as to whether they furlough you
• If you have already lost your job due to Coronavirus, you can ask your employer to rehire you and ‘furlough’ you.
• Quick video guide by Martin Lewis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk_s2cIHGbw
• You can apply for Universal Credit (see below) if you have less than £16,000 in savings and your salary is too low to live on.
If you are self-employed…(i.e. you pay tax through self-assessment)
• The government have announced the “Self-employment Income Support” scheme. You can apply for a grant to cover 80% of your mean average earnings from up to three tax years (from 2016-2019 or whatever portion of that you traded). This is a grant, not a loan, but is taxable.
• You can carry on working while receiving the grant payments.
• Grants will start to be paid at end of June, backdated to March/April/May.
• If you earned over £50,000 on average over the last three years, you are not eligible for this scheme (but you might be for Universal Credit).
• If you operate as a limited company and yourself by Dividend, you are not eligible for the self-employment income support scheme (but you might be eligible for Universal Credit, or to ‘furlough’ yourself for any PAYE income you have)
If you are a mix of both…
• If you earned the majority of your income from self-employment, you are eligible for the self-employment income support scheme.
• Check with your employer who pays you through PAYE if they are willing to ‘furlough’ you.
• You can apply for Universal Credit if you cannot earn enough money to live on and you have less than have less than £16,000 in savings.
If you are unemployed…
• You can apply for Universal Credit if you have less than £16,000 in savings.
• If you’ve recently been made redundant, check if your employer could re-employ you and ‘furlough’ you.
The most comprehensive easy-to-access guide to your rights is on the Money Saving Expert site (including common questions)
What benefits am I entitled to?
Most people who are either out of work, or with a low income, are entitled to apply for Universal Credit.
There are other more specific benefits too if you have caring responsibility, disability, or other situations.
You can enter your details into a benefit calculator online to find out what you might be able to apply for.
Applying for Universal Credit
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit (UC) is the new ’all-in-one’ benefit for those who are out of work and/or on low income. It combines six previous benefits, including tax credits, housing benefit, jobseekers’ allowance and employment support allowance.
It is the benefit that many people who are suffering income shock will be applying for over the next few weeks. It is means tested, i.e. they will give you what you are entitled to based on your household income and savings. For more detailed information on UC, we have resources online here
Here are a few resources and links to help you apply, or to help others
Am I eligible for UC? To find out specifically whether you’re eligible to apply for Universal Credit, Citizens Advice check here
How do I apply? Watch how to apply online, taking you through the form, with frequently answered questions: Universal Credit In Action YouTube channel
Applying online here
What do I need to get ready? Useful guide on what you will need to get ready to apply for UC
What are the recent changes to UC?
There have been several changes announced to Universal Credit due to Coronavirus, which make it more generous and accessible to more people. This means that even though you may NOT have been eligible before, you now may be.
The main changes are:
• Extra £1000 added to the allowance a year = £20 more a week on average
• The “Mininum Income Floor” has removed which means many more self-employed people are eligible
• The amount in the “housing element” of UC has been increased significantly- meaning you may get a more generous award, particularly in areas of high housing costs
• No requirement for face to face meeting. Interviews are being arranged by telephone on a “call back” system.
Two useful guides about the changes:
Understanding Universal Credit (government website)
Getting Help to Claim UC
It’s important to note that there have also been an enormous flood of new applications; the system is struggling to cope; wait times are very long and if you cannot verify your ID online (with a passport or driving licence) there will be even more delay.
With so many people suddenly thrown into “income shock”, the system was not ready for such an influx of applications. We know this can cause distress and fear at a time when there’s already quite a lot of it about. And Universal Credit was not the simplest of systems before the Coronavirus shutdown issues happened.
Citizens Advice “Help to Claim” service can support anyone with questions, worries or just need talking through how to claim online.
Free help is available over the phone or through the online chat on the link above.
They have a phone and online service: FREE phone advice: 0800 144 8 444 Textphone: 18001 0800 144 8 444
Advisers are available 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. If you need a British Sign Language interpreter, call the textphone number. An adviser can arrange for an interpreter to translate for you over a video call.
Financial Future: Doing a Budget
Financial Help: What if I can’t pay my bills?
The general rule is: if you think you can’t cover your costs each month, ask for help AS SOON as you can. Don’t leave it til you’re in problem debt. There’s no shame in it, particularly at the moment, when most people are in the same boat!
What do to if you can’t pay your any incoming costs or bills: guide from Citizens Advice
Where to get help with Debt
IF you are in debt you are struggling to repay, and are worried about paying it back- SEEK HELP.
NEVER pay for debt advice. You can always get free, impartial help.
Money Saving Expert guide on getting help for your debt
The Money Advice Service have a Debt Advice Locator tool to find local advice centres
(bear in mind there won’t be any face to face going on and so some services may be disrupted currently due to demand)
Citizens Advice- you can check on their website for what services are available locally
Community Money Advice support many locally run church and voluntary sector debt centres- you can find out your nearest here
In the Diocese of London, one such network is Crosslight, running debt advice from local churches across West London. For more information about their debt work click here
Stepchange 0800 138 1111 or online
National Debt Line 0808 808 4000 or online
What is the debt advice process?
You’ll see a qualified debt advisor who will go through your money situation and make changes. It will be entirely confidential and should always be FREE.
Financial Worry: What about the stress and anxiety of money at this time?
Money worries can cause huge stress at a time when many people are rightly, and perfectly rationally, already struggling and anxious.
Even if we have access to all the information in the world about our financial situation & options, we also need to recognise that we are whole humans.
If you or someone you know is feeling stressed or anxious about their money situation, this is completely normal response!
You are not wrong to be worrying about this, or feeling concerned. It is a stressful situation, particularly if we are responsible for others, and providing for children.
Talking about our worries is important; and at this time of crisis, there has never been a greater need to be neighbourly, local and relational.
“Loving our neighbour” at this time may be helping them deal with the feelings and stress they have around money, and sitting with them in that. It is a ministry in itself, before you offer any other help.
If you are struggling with anxiety or being socially isolated
The Mind and Soul Foundation have some good articles on their website for dealing with current anxiety
Together Sussex have put together a useful sheet Looking after you and your family’s wellbeing during Covid-19- this is also available below to download as a PDF
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up precisely because there is a huge link between money worries and mental health, and it seeks to address this. There are lots of good resources but there is some specific Coronavirus-related help here
Where can you go to get help?
Money and Mental Health - guide for referring on for help
Mind- offer a list of listening services if people need to talk to someone
Just Finance Foundation have put together the some suggestions about mental health during Coronavirus on their Help Hub
It may be that you could be the person someone talks to though! So….
How do we start conversations about money?
Take a deep breath and ASK!
If you know people you think may be struggling, make time to call or text them to check in on them. Use open ended questions; and remember if someone doesn’t want to share then that is their choice.
- If it feels awkward, practice a few phrases that you might say, before you start. Try: “I was just wanting to see how you were feeling, and if your income is secure over the next few months” or: “How are you doing about your money since the Coronavirus shutdown?”
We should not, and are not allowed, to offer specific money advice to people. We can simply offer a listening ear, and signpost to organisations who can provide more support.
If you are talking to someone who you share money with:
• Recognise that you both may respond differently to pressures and have different ideas about money.
• Chose a time when you have time listen to each other, without distraction or interruption.
• If you can, set aside a time specifically
• Try and get all the facts you can to hand- e.g. bank statements, payment slips
• Maybe even give yourself a treat when you sit down and talk about it!
Resources to help with talking about money
• Transforming Communities Together* have produced the “Jesus Money”) cards. These are aimed at helping start conversations about money. Each card has a different question about money on them to discuss. A PDF is available of these resources, or you can buy a pack.