Support for people affected by COVID-19

Support for people affected by COVID-19

Last updated (15/10/2020)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and measures implemented to reduce the spread of the virus, many people are currently experiencing financial uncertainty with reduced incomes and/or increased living costs.

Many people with lupus are considered to be either ‘high risk/extremely vulnerable’ or ‘moderate risk/vulnerable’ and are taking precautionary measures to protect themselves from the virus. These measures often include ‘shielding’ and ‘strict social distancing’. You can find more information to help you understand your risk and the protective measures you can take in our article HERE.

Employers have been encouraged to do everything they can to support their employees through this pandemic but for many people with lupus there is a lot of anxiety about financial well-being and the ability to put food on the table and pay the bills and/or mortgage. We’re also aware that some people may not have sufficient support from their family, friends and neighbours.

This article will be regularly updated with amendments. If you’re aware of any support that we haven’t currently included, please contact us.

 

Essential Support

NHS Volunteer Responders Scheme
The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme is able to offer the following support:

  • Community Response Volunteer: collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies and delivering them to your home.
  • Check in and Chat Volunteer: short-term telephone support to help ease loneliness.
  • Community Response Plus Volunteer: a volunteer to collect and deliver shopping, medication or other essential supplies for patients with cognitive impairments and or significant vulnerabilities.

 

The scheme is now accepting self-referrals from people who have been advised to shield and are most at risk of COVID-19. You can ask volunteers for short-term help by calling 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm or click HERE.

 

LUPUS UK Welfare Support
In an effort to help support people with lupus who have been impacted by the current crisis, LUPUS UK has created the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund. The charity will be accepting applications for one-off cash grants (up to £200) from people in need of emergency assistance due to the COVID-19 crisis.

To learn more and apply online, click HERE.

 

Turn2Us Coronavirus Grant Fund
The Turn2us Coronavirus Grant Fund has been set up to support people who have lost their income as a result of COVID-19 and to meet their immediate basic household expenses. They are able to provide a one-off crisis grant of £500 per household towards essential living expenses (food, bills etc).

To learn more and apply online, click HERE.

 

Search for Grants
Many other charitable organisations offer non-repayable grants to help individuals on low incomes. Most of these will have particular rules about who is eligible which may be based on location, age, gender, employment or health conditions. To search for any grants you can apply for, use the Grant Search tool provided by Turn2Us, HERE.

 

Money Navigator Tool
The coronavirus lockdown measures are relaxing but they’ve affected millions of people. What this means for your finances will be very personal to you. The Money Navigator Tool from Money Advice Service gives you action plans based on your own situation. Access this service HERE. In just 30 seconds you can know:

  • The money issues you need to tackle first
  • How to stay on top of bills and payments
  • What extra help and support you’re entitled to
  • Where you can get free advice for debt, housing or redundancy

 

Food Banks
If you need a food bank’s help because you have no money for food, please contact your local food bank. You can find their contact details by clicking HERE and then putting your postcode into the food bank finder map provided.

 

Local Council Information
Your local council should be able to provide you with local updates and information on their community schemes. This can be found on their websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts. To find your local council and all their information please click HERE.

 

Social Support
LUPUS UK Telephone Contacts
We have trained volunteers, called Contacts, who either have lupus themselves or have a family member with the disease. You can chat with our Contacts over the telephone. They are not medically trained but are there to offer both emotional and general support and signpost you to someone who can advise you. The telephone service is confidential, and you can disclose as much as you wish. The support service is free apart from the cost of the call.
To request details of your local contact CLICK HERE

 

HealthUnlocked Online Forum
The community is available for free to anybody affected by lupus to get information, support and advice from other people who are similarly affected. We welcome people with any form of lupus (SLE, discoid lupus, drug-induced lupus, cutaneous lupus etc.) as well as those with associated conditions such as mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) and undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD).
The community discusses a wide range of topics including; diagnosis, symptoms, medical appointments, medications and support available. To join the forum CLICK HERE

 

Financial Support
The Job Support Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which was implemented in the spring will end on 31st October 2020. The Job Support Scheme which will replace it on 1st November 2020 will run for six months and is designed to protect “viable” jobs in businesses facing lower demand over the winter months due to COVID-19.

To be eligible for the Job Support Scheme, employees must still be able to work at least 33% of their usual hours. Companies who use this scheme will continue to pay employees for time worked, but the cost of time not worked will be split between the employer, the Government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction). The scheme should ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages, where the Government contribution has not been capped.

 

What support is available for the self-employed?
The government has said it will make it “quicker and easier” for self-employed people seeing a sudden drop in income to access benefits. Those on contributory Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) will be able to claim from day one, instead of day eight. The minimum income floor, which would typically take into account expected monthly earnings when calculating entitlement to Universal Credit, has been removed. Not having the floor means that self-employed people are able to claim for time they spend off work due to sickness. It means self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to SSP for employees.

Further help is also available in the form of the new Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Under this scheme, self-employed workers will be able to apply for taxable grants to combat a loss of income due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

For more information about the scheme and how to apply, click HERE.

 

Benefits
The government has temporarily suspended face-to-face assessments for people claiming disability and sickness benefits. During this time, telephone or paper based assessments may be used.

This change affects existing claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit. The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims.

If you are unsure whether you may be eligible for any benefits, you can use an online benefit calculator at https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
You may be able to get New-style Employment and Support Allowance:
– If you are a self-employed person remaining at home, but not working on government advice.
– If you are an employee remaining at home, but not working  on government advice and earning less than £118pp.

You will get this from day-one of your self-isolation. New-style Employment and Support Allowance is based on your National Insurance contribution record. People who need to claim ESA because of coronavirus will not have to produce a fit note.

To claim New Style ESA, you first need to fill out a claim form. You can download the claim form HERE. Alternatively you can call 0800 328 5644 and ask for a form to be posted for you.

Once completed, you will need to phone 0800 328 5644 and book an appointment at your local Jobcentre to submit your form – If you have a fever or a cough please follow the government guidance around coronavirus and do not go to the Jobcentre.

Universal Credit
You could get Universal Credit on the basis of remaining at home on government advice:
– If you don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance or
– You need additional help on top of SSP or New-style ESA.

There is at least a five-week wait before you get Universal Credit, but you can get help from day one through a Universal Credit Advance Payment.  Advance payments have to be paid back out of your Universal Credit payments and must be paid back within 12 months.

Universal Credit is claimed online. To apply please click HERE.

People who need to claim Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not have to produce a fit note.

Council Tax Reduction
If you already receive a council tax reduction and are working age, your local council should give you an extra £150 off your bill for 2020-2021. You don’t need to do anything – your local council will send you a new bill.

If your council tax bill is already less than £150, you won’t have to pay anything for the coming tax year, 2020-2021.

If you don’t already receive a council tax reduction, you might qualify if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently. You should check your local council’s rules to see if you qualify for a council tax reduction.

If you don’t think you qualify, it’s still worth asking your local council if you can get a council tax reduction. You can find your local council HERE.

 

Mortgages
Three-month mortgage payment holidays are available for those who are struggling
Banks agreed that they will offer ‘forbearance’ (tolerance and help) on mortgages. This means they all should offer those who are struggling a three-month ‘holiday’, allowing customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time.

Who can apply for a mortgage holiday?
This is aimed at those who are financially struggling, though it’s unclear whether you’ll have to prove that it is directly linked to coronavirus. However, you will also need to be up-to-date with all of your mortgage payments in order to apply. Lenders will also have to check that by you taking a mortgage holiday, that won’t make paying off the mortgage unaffordable for you later down the line.

For those already in mortgage arrears or financial difficulties, lenders will consider what other options they can offer you, but you’re unlikely to be offered a mortgage holiday. If unsure, speak to your mortgage lender.

How can I apply for a mortgage holiday?
To find out exactly how your bank can help you with a mortgage holiday please click HERE. You can apply for a payment holiday until 31 October 2020.

 

Credit cards
Most banks and card firms will allow emergency credit limit increases (but be careful), while some will offer repayment holidays and a few will waive fees for missed payments.

If your debts aren’t on credit cards it’s still worth speaking to all lenders and asking what help they can give you – far better that than to miss payments without permission.

To find out how your credit card lender can help then please click HERE.

 

Energy Suppliers
Prepayment Meters
Each energy supplier has a different plan in place to help support customers who are self –isolating. To find out what your supplier can do, click HERE.

Standard Credit Meters
Providers have said that they will look at issues related to coronavirus on a case-by-case basis, but many have said that they will consider pushing back bill due dates, offer alternative payment arrangements and remove debt charges for late payment. If you are having issues, make sure you contact your supplier as soon as possible.

 

Further Reading
Citizens Advice – If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus

 

 

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