All the financial help you can get if you have to self-isolate due to coronavirus or there's a local lockdown

CORONAVIRUS infections are rising and that means many more people are having to self-isolate or miss work because of local lockdowns.

This can affect your finances, but here we explain the financial support available, who's eligible and how to claim, including the new £500 payment for self-isolating.

£500 self-isolation payment

A new payment of up to £500 is available if you're officially told to self isolate by the NHS, are on a low income and can't work from home and this causes a loss of income.

If you've been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace team and asked to self-isolate for 14 days to help stop the spread of coronavirus, you may be eligible for the money.

Who can claim?

Just under 4million people receiving certain benefits in England will be able to claim the cash if they are asked to self-isolate from 28 September onwards.

That includes:

  • Universal Credit
  • Working tax credits
  • ESA
  • JSA
  • Income support
  • Pension credit
  • Housing benefit

What you'll need to claim

  • Evidence that you're unable to work from home if you work either full-time or part-time, such as a payslip or contract.
  • Proof of a how trading income has been affected if you're self-employed
  • Evidence of loss of income, such as a bank statement
  • Your NHS Track and Trace notification

The money can only be claimed if you've been told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace team – if you're self-isolating because you have symptoms or are quarantining yourself without being told by NHS Track and Trace, you will not be able to claim this payment.

But you should continue to stay at home to help stop the spread of the virus and there may be other financial support you can get.

The scheme will officially be up and running from October 12 and anyone self-isolating from the September 28 can get payments backdated.

This payment is in addition to statutory sick pay and won't affect any other benefit payments you receive, like Universal Credit.

Your local authority may also be providing additional support if there's a local lockdown and you find you're not eligible for this scheme but have lost income.

Statutory Sick Pay

Anyone who must self-isolate and can't work from home can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £95.85 per week if they qualify for it.

Who can claim?

To be eligible for SSP, you must

  • be classed as an employee
  • earn an average of £120 per week
  • have been self-isolating for at least four days in a row

This money is available in broader cases of self-isolating, not just if you've been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace team, including:

  • if you have symptoms
  • if someone you live with has symptoms
  • if someone you live with has tested positive
  • if someone in your support bubble or extended household has symptoms
  • if someone in your support bubble or extended household has tested positive

SSP is also available if you're told to self-isolate before surgery by your doctor.

You can't get SSP if you're self-isolating because you're returning from another country.

There are some exceptions to receiving SSP, for example, you can't get it if you are getting Statutory Maternity Pay, or have already received the maximum amount of SSP for the year (28 weeks).

Anyone who can't claim SSP could claim Employment Support Allowance instead or Universal Credit.

You may also be able to get SSP if you are in a local lockdown and have been told to shield.

What you'll need to claim

You'll need to tell your employer.

If you can't work for seven days or more, you might need to show your employer evidence that you need to self-isolate, for example, a note from your doctor, notification from NHS Test and Trace or a self-isolation note.

Income support for the self-employed

The self-employed can still apply for support through the government's Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The second part of this grant can be claimed up until 19 October, provided you're eligible, and could be worth up to £6,570.

If you're unable to work or earn an income because you're self-isolating or because of local lockdown restrictions you may be able to apply for Universal Credit.

Taking payment holidays

You may be able to reduce your outgoings by taking a payment holiday.

A payment holiday is a break from paying back the money you owe on things like loans and mortgages and you may be able to reduce payments too rather than pausing them all together.

You should speak to your bank, lender or provider to agree a break or reduction – never just stop making payments.

You'll still have to pay back what you owe after the break and you may end up paying back more in the long term because you're still being charged interest during a payment break.

It might also take longer to pay the money back, so make sure you understand things fully before deciding to take a break.

Mortgage

Homeowners who find themselves struggling to pay a mortgage can ask their lender for a break of up to six months.

This temporary help is available until 31 October but banks will continue to offer help for anyone struggling after this on a case-by-case basis, although it could impact your credit score.

Find out more about taking a mortgage payment break.

Will a payment holiday affect your chances of getting a new mortgage?

IT’S up to individual lenders to decide whether or not they take into account a coronavirus payment holiday when considering a mortgage application.

Although they can't see a payment break on your credit score, they may use other methods such as Open Banking where it will show up.

Here's what the banks have said they will do, according to MoneySavingExpert:

  • Barclays

Barclays has said that it won't necessarily use information of a payment holiday due to the pandemic when assessing a new mortgage application.

For example, a payment holiday with another lender won't have an impact on your mortgage application.

  • Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Lloyds

All three banks are owned by Lloyds Banking Group. They've said that it will take payment breaks into consideration when deciding whether to lend to you, even if you took it out due to the coronavirus crisis.

  • NatWest and RBS

Both are part of the same banking group, Royal Bank of Scotland. The policy here is that a coronavirus payment break would be considered but having one itself wouldn't prevent someone from being approved a new mortgage.

Loans and credit cards

You can ask your lender to freeze or reduce your repayments for up to three months on:

  • Credit cards
  • personal loans
  • store cards
  • catalogue credit

This help is available until until 31 October, though after this your bank will still offer help if you're struggling on a case-by-case basis, but it could damage your credit score.

Find out more about taking a break from loan and credit card repayments.

Everyday bills

Contact your provider if you are struggling to pay your mobile, phone, internet or TV bill.

They can help by reducing your bill, giving you more time to pay, or changing you to a more appropriate deal.

For Water and energy bills, contact your supplier directly as they have promised to offer support, which may include a payment break.

Insurance

There are a range of things your insurance company can do to help if you're struggling to pay for your cover.

This includes:

  • adjusting the cover you have
  • changing the payment period
  • not charging late fees
  • pausing payments for up to three months

You can ask to pause payments up until 31 October, but there may also be further help available on a case-by-case basis after this.

Payday loans

Anyone with a payday loan can ask for payments to be paused for up to one month.

This can be asked for up until 31 October.

After this, your lender will still offer you help if you're struggling financially, but this will be based on your own circumstances.

Find out more about taking a break from payday loan repayments.

Overdraft

You can request an interest-free overdraft of up to £500 for three months.

You need to apply for this buffer before 31 October, though your bank will still offer individual support after this.

Find out more about asking for an interest-free overdraft.

Car finance

If you're making car repayments you can take a break of up to three months if you need it (and a further three up to six if you've already taken one).

This is available up until 31 October

Your car finance firm may also offer other help and after this date, they will offer support on a case-by-case basis.

Find out more about taking a break from car finance repayments.

Help with rent

For private renters, speak to your landlord as soon as you can.

They may be able to defer your payment, or to allow you to pay a smaller amount – but they don't have to do this.

Social renters should speak to their housing association or local council.

If you've tried speaking to your housing association or landlord and they aren't being sympathetic, contact Shelter for advice and support. They'll be able to guide you about what to do next.

A ban on evictions during the pandemic has now ended, but where there is a local lockdown in place, evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs.

Help if you can't pay

If you find yourself struggling financially because you're self-isolating or because you're in a local lockdown, there's always help available.

Contact your bank or lender in the first instance if you're struggling to keep up with repayments.

You'll also find support and advice from the following organisations for free:

  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
  • Step Change – 0800 138 1111
  • Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
  • Shelter – 0808 800 4444

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