Last updated (02/07/2020)
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.
Extremely Vulnerable Person Support
If you are in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group you are advised to register for the government’s support scheme and tell them whether or not you need support. You can use this service to ask for deliveries of essential items like food. The government’s guidance states that “if you’re not sure whether your medical condition makes you extremely vulnerable, register anyway.” This service will stop from 1st August 2020. Priority shopping will still be available for people who have registered prior to 17th July 2020.
People in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group should have received a letter from Wales’ Chief Medical Officer by Monday 6th April 2020. If you have not received this letter and you believe you should be in this group, you are advised to contact your GP. If you have no support from family, friends or community organisations, you can request a weekly food box. Each free box will provide essential food for one person for a week. If more than one person in your household is shielding, they will also receive food. Individuals who require food boxes or other support are advised to contact their local council using the information provided to them on the letter they receive. More information is available HERE.
The letter from NHS Scotland will tell you how to register for deliveries of food and medicine. It is recommended that you register even if you don’t need support right now because you have family or friends helping. You can read more about the support scheme HERE. If you haven’t received a shielding letter, you can find details for contacting your local authority for support HERE.
If you have received a letter from your GP and you have been asked to shield during the COVID-19 pandemic you may be able to get a weekly food box delivered to your home. Food boxes are available for people who cannot afford food and who do not have a support network of family and friends to help them through this emergency. If you feel you may qualify for a weekly food box you can contact the COVID-19 Community Helpline who will carry out an assessment. Your details will then be passed to partners in the Health Trusts and/or local Councils who will arrange delivery of your weekly food box. The COVID-19 Community Helpline is open 9am to 5pm, seven days a week.
Freephone number: 0808 802 0020. You can also get in touch by email and text message:
Text: ACTION to 81025
More information is available HERE.
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
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.
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
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
If your employer cannot maintain their current workforce because their operations have been severely affected by COVID-19, they can furlough employees and apply or a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions (up to the level of the minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contribution) on that subsidised furlough pay. From 1st July 2020 employers can only claim for employers that they have successfully claimed a previous grant for.
If you are shielding or are currently away from work due to long-term sick leave, your employer is entitled to furlough you under the scheme. This also applies to people in shared households who need to stay home with someone who is shielding.
If you are unable to work because you have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19 (for example, needing to look after children), you can also be furloughed under the scheme.
Find out more HERE.
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. The grants are worth up to 80% of your profits. This is capped at £2,500 a month and is taxable.
For more information about the scheme and how to apply, click HERE.
The government suspended face-to-face assessments for three months for people claiming disability and sickness benefits. During this time, telephone or paper based assessments may be temporarily 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.
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.
Three-month mortgage payment holidays are available for those who are struggling
On Tuesday 17th March, 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 and go to the ‘How are lenders helping mortgage customers?’ section.
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 and go to the ‘How are Lenders helping credit card customers’ section.
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.
The BBC has announced it is delaying charging some over-75s for TV licences until August 2020, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. A rule change meaning that free TV licences for the over-75s would be restricted to those who receive the pension credit benefit was set to come into effect on 1 June 2020. The BBC says it will “keep the issue under review” as the situation continues to evolve.
Sky Sports customers will be allowed to pause their subscription without charge, in response to almost all major UK sporting events being cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus. Sky has said customers won’t be charged a fee to pause their account and won’t be held to any notice period.
You’ll need to contact Sky on 0800 151 2747 if you want to pause your service, as it says you won’t be able to do so online.