Virus

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and your finances

Financial advice and guidance for members affected by COVID-19

If you are struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 emergency, this page will give you some guidance on the entitlements and support that may be available to you.

legislation.gov.uk

New legislation

The Social Security (Coronavirus) (Further Measures) Regulations 2020 relates to a number of the changes to welfare benefit entitlement.
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Applying for Universal Credit (UC)

Due to a large surge in applicants claiming Universal Credit, the DWP is experiencing lengthy delays and technical difficulties with both telephone and online systems. If you cannot get through, do keep trying, as the DWP is in the process of deploying more resources and staff to deal with the increase in demand. Where possible, you are advised to Apply For Universal Credit online.

Employees who are off work with reduced pay

If you're an employee and have to self isolate (whether sick or as a precaution), you will be due Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your first day off work, as long as you earn an average of at least £118 per week. (See eligibility for SSP.)

In addition, you may need to make a new claim for a top-up benefit or to help you pay rent. The government has announced that it will be making temporary arrangements for people affected by COVID-19 who are already claiming benefits or those needing to make a new claim for benefits.

For more information, see Coronavirus and claiming benefits on the government's Understanding Universal Credit website.

You can also contact the RCN’s welfare service for advice.

Employees who have been furloughed / laid off

The government announced it will pay grants covering up to 80% of the salary of workers (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month) if companies keep them on their payroll rather than laying them off.  

Since the guidance was originally released, HMRC have clarified that if you were made redundant or stopped working for your employer after 28 February 2020, your employer can agree to re-employ you and place you on furlough. They’ll still be able to claim a grant to cover 80% of your regular wages, up to a monthly cap of £2,500 if you were on your employer’s PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020.

For more information, see the government's guidance: Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Self-employed income support scheme

On the 26th March, the government announced new financial support measures for people who are self-employed.

Any self-employed person affected by the government shutdown will be able to claim a direct cash grant worth 80% of their profits averaged over the past three years up to a maximum of £2500 a month. 

Those with profits of more than £50,000 a year will not be eligible. More information about eligibility and to claim can be found here: COVID-19: Self-employed income support scheme.

Self-employed / agency workers and sick pay

If you are self-employed and have to self isolate, but are not entitled to SSP, you may be able to claim benefits; the primary one being contribution-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

ESA is based on your National Insurance contributions, and paid at a rate of £73 per week. It will be available from the first day you're off. See here for details on How to claim ESA.

If ESA will be your only income, you may be better off claiming Universal Credit (UC), which can also assist with your rental costs and support for dependants.

For more information, see the Coronavirus and claiming benefits page on the government's Understanding Universal Credit website.

Self-employed / agency workers already receiving Universal Credit

If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit (UC), and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change took effect on the 13th March 2020 and will last for the duration of the outbreak, to ensure that self-employed UC claimants will receive support.

If you are eligible for 'New Style Employment and Support Allowance' (ESA), it will now be payable from the first day of sickness (rather than the eighth), if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.

If you have COVID-19 or need to self-isolate, you can now claim and have access to advance payments without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus office. You should visit the Government's guidance on Claiming Universal Credit: step by step for more information.

Please note: Due to a large surge in applicants claiming Universal Credit, there are lengthy delays and technical difficulties with both telephone and online systems.  If you cannot get through, do keep trying, as the DWP is in the process of deploying more resources and staff to deal with the increase in demand. Where possible, you are advised to Apply For Universal Credit online.

Tax credits

If you are currently getting tax credits, your entitlement may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, see the Tax credits and coronavirus page on the CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) website.

Universal Credit standard allowance increases

From the 6th April, the government is increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year.

Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.

This means that for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

For more information about this, see the Cororavirus and claiming benefits page on the government's Understanding Universal Credit website.

No recourse to Public Funds

If you are on a work permit, and it states that you have ‘no recourse to public funds’, you can not claim means tested benefits at present. There have been calls for the government to lift this restriction and we will update this page when new information becomes available.

You can apply for contribution-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA) if you are not receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer.

If you find yourself in the position of not being able to work or on reduced pay, and are in this category, please contact the charities listed further below for financial support.

What benefits are you entitled to?

For an overview of all benefits you might be entitled to visit the Entitledto website, where you can do a full online benefits calculation.

Once you have got a clear understanding of what you might be entitled to, you may need to take additional measures to manage a reduced income. There may also be delays in processing new claims for benefits.

Some of the steps you can take to reduce your outgoings for this period of reduced income are listed below.

Welfare Service

Get expert support and advice on benefits, tax credits, debt, and housing.

Evictions

Emergency legislation has been introduced so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three month period in England and Wales, or for at least a six month period in Scotland. Northern Ireland have yet to confirm if any measures will be put in place.

For advice, support and information about protective measures in your country during the COVID-19 emergency, please see:

For more details about the measures in England and Wales, see the Gov.uk website for the government's latest press release: Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters.

Struggling with your rent

If your pay has dropped, you can initially apply for assistance with your rent through Universal Credit.

If you are still struggling, pay what you can (but don’t leave yourself short of money for other essentials).

If you are a local authority tenant, speak to the housing department as soon as possible.

If you are a private tenant, speak to your landlord and explain the situation and can ask for more time to pay or ask to catch up any missed payments by instalments. It is a good idea to pay what you can afford and keep a record of what you offered. If you can’t reach an agreement, you can seek advice from the RCN Welfare Service.

Remember, most landlords will struggle to get new tenants right now, so there's a common interest in keeping tenants in properties. Trying to come to a reasonable mutual arrangement helps both. Landlord Associations have encouraged them to show forbearance, so good communication is key.

Struggling with your mortgage

All banks should offer those struggling a three-month holiday from mortgage payments, which means you will be able to defer paying for up to 3 months.

You will pay slightly more when you start paying again, as the interest missed will be added to your on-going payments, but it is worth considering.

Struggling with Creditors (e.g. loans, credit cards, etc.)

Most banks and card firms have stated that they will allow emergency credit limit increases, while some will offer a repayment holiday and a some have agreed to waive fees for missed payments.

Check with your bank, as policies vary between lenders.

The RCN Welfare Service offers specialist Debt and money Advice to members who are experiencing problems meeting contractual payments. If you are struggling to come to an arrangement with your creditors after contacting them, then the RCN welfare Service will be able to offer advice.

Nursing Charities

Many charities are still accepting applications for grants during the Coronavirus pandemic, although in some cases they might take longer to process.

RCN Foundation via RCN's Lamplight Support Service

The RCN Foundation has a benevolent fund and provides financial support to members of the nursing community who face financial hardship. It provides this support through the Lamplight Support Service. Details about applying for a grant can be found can be found on the Guide to Financial Assistance page.

The Lamplight Support Service also provides:

  • advice on benefit entitlements
  • advice on maximising income during a period of reduced income
  • signposting to relevant debt advice services.

Details about how to access the service can be found on the main Lamplight Support Service page.

Cavell Nurses' Trust 

The Cavell Nurses Trust is another charity specifically for Nurses and Healthcare Support Workers. They offer financial support for short term financial emergencies, for example:

  • Nurses, midwives or HCAs facing financial hardship due to: needing to self isolate, being unable to access occupational sick pay or benefits, losing access to overtime, bank shifts, agency shifts or other enhancements, or those who are self employed.
  • Nurses, midwives or HCAs facing financial hardship because their household or partner’s income has been affected due to Coronavirus, e.g. because their partner is self-employed or works in an industry adversely affected by Coronavirus.

For further information and details on how to apply, see their page Apply for a grant.

Turn2us

If you wish to explore other sources of charitable grants, Turn2us has a comprehensive database that you can search.

Fuel and prepayment meters updates

The government has recently agreed new measures with energy companies to ensure that vulnerable customers who may fall into debt will still be supplied with energy whilst in self isolation. For more details, see the government's press release Government agrees measures with energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19

Money Saving Expert has published a table of different energy providers (e.g. British Gas, E.on, Scottish Power, etc.) with their responses to the measures and contact details. Please see What will energy suppliers do to help prepay customers? for more details. If your energy provider is not listed, you should contact them directly for advice.

Seek Help

Finally, remember that you do not need to go through this alone.

The RCN Welfare Service can assist you with FCA regulated debt and money advice and specialist benefits advice.

Details of how to contact the service can be found here RCN’s welfare service

Welfare Service

Get expert support and advice on benefits, tax credits, debt, and housing.

COVID-19 resources for members

COVID-19 resources, including FAQs, work related advice, redeployment advice, and more.