Virus

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and your finances

Financial advice and guidance for members affected by COVID-19

Most government backed financial support schemes for COVID-19 have drawn to an end.

However this page provides guidance on the entitlements and support that may still be available to you if your finances have been affected as a result of COVID-19. 

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.

Sick pay

If you're off sick due to COVID-19 and/or have to self isolate in line with government guidelines, check your contract to see if you are entitled to contractual sick pay.

For more information on sick pay and self isolation pay due to COVID-19, see the COVID-19 and time off FAQs.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you are not entitled to contractual sick pay, you should be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as long as you earn an average of at least £120 per week. You can check your eligibility for SSP on the gov.uk website.

If eligible, you will receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day that you cannot attend work. 

Universal Credit

If Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is your only income, depending on your circumstances you may also be entitled to claim Universal Credit for a top-up benefit or to help pay rent.

For more information, see the Employment and benefits support section on the government's Understanding Universal Credit website. 

Other benefits

For an overview of all benefits you might be entitled to, visit the Entitled to 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.

Support from the RCN Welfare team

See the RCN's welfare service page for more information about how we can help.

Self-employed workers and sick pay (ESA)

If you are off sick due to COVID-19 or have to self-isolate in line with government guidelines, but are not entitled to SSP, then you may be able to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

ESA is based on your National Insurance contributions and currently paid at a rate of £74.35 per week. How much you get will depend on what stage your application is at, as well as things like your age and whether you’re able to get back into work.

If you are off sick with COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, and are eligible for ESA, then it will be payable from day one.

For more details, see the gov.uk website: How to claim ESA.

Self-employed workers and Universal Credit

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 Employment and benefits support section on the government's website.

The Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was introduced to support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. 

Government support for the self-employed has been extended. The fourth grant will cover February to April, worth 80% of average trading profits up to £7,500.

For more information see Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant extension on the Gov.uk website.

Self-employed workers already receiving Universal Credit

In March 2020, the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) was suspended to ensure that self-employed UC claimants would receive support. The government has recently confirmed that that the MIF will remain suspended until April 2021.

The further suspension means self-employed people will continue to receive crucial financial support from Universal Credit based on their current actual earnings, providing additional protection for those who see a drop in earnings due to the impact of Covid 19.

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.

Universal Credit and SEISS funds

If you have been claiming funds via SEISS (Self Employed Income Support Scheme) then you may receive a lump sum payment. If you are claiming Universal Credit, any such lump sum payments will be counted as your earned income and treated in the same way as any wages would be.

With Universal credit, earnings you receive from previous months can affect how much you get in future months. So if you earn more than £2,500 over the amount you can earn before your Universal Credit entitlement is reduced to £0 (i.e. because you received a lump sum) you are said to have ‘surplus earnings.’ This may reduce the amount of Universal Credit you receive, or perhaps mean that you can’t get any Universal Credit payment in subsequent assessment periods. 

The Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme is for people on low incomes who have to self-isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or been notified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

For more information, see the government's advice on Claiming financial support under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme

You might be eligible for the self-isolation support scheme in Wales, the self-isolation support grant in Scotland or support if you’re in Northern Ireland. 

If you’re part of a working household that receives tax credits, you may be eligible for a new one-off payment of £500. The new payment is being introduced to provide extra support when the temporary increase in Working Tax Credit as planned on 5 April 2021.

You may get a one-off, tax-free payment of £500 if, on 2 March 2021, you were getting either:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and were eligible for Working Tax Credit but you did not get a payment because your income is too high to get Working Tax Credit payment

For more information see the GOV.UK guidance: New one-off £500 payment for working households receiving tax credits

If you are a student nurse, see our COVID-19 advice for students FAQs, which includes information on:

  • student funding and maintenance grants
  • advice on how paid clinical placements might affect any welfare benefits, tax credits or entitlements.

Universal Credit standard allowance increases

The government increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit back in April 2020.

Both increased by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This applied to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants. The increase was due to end on 31 March 2021, but has now been extended until September 2021. 

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

Universal Credit and advance payments during the COVID-19 outbreak

If you start a claim for Universal Credit, you will have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first payment to come through. If you don’t think you’ll have enough money to live on during this time, you can request an 'advance payment' when you apply. The advance payment is a loan, meaning you have to pay it back through your future Universal Credit payments. You do not pay any interest.

If you have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, you will be able to apply for a month’s advance payment upfront, without physically attending a jobcentre or having a Universal Credit interview.

Universal Credit and the suspension of advance payment deductions

Deductions for repaying the advance would usually be made from your very first monthly payment onwards. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, government guidance states deductions can be delayed for up to 3 months if claimants are experiencing an unexpected financial crisis. 

Therefore, if you make a claim for Universal Credit and need to request an advance payment, you may also wish to request a suspension of deductions so that you don’t have to make any repayments for the first 3 months. You should do this via your Universal Credit journal. 

Universal Credit and furlough pay / SEISS funds

If you have been furloughed, or are claiming funds via SEISS (Self Employed Income Support Scheme) then you may receive a lump sum payment. If you are claiming Universal Credit, any such lump sum payments will be counted as your earned income and treated in the same way as any wages would be.

With Universal credit, earnings you receive from previous months can affect how much you get in future months. So if you earn more than £2,500 over the amount you can earn before your Universal Credit entitlement is reduced to £0 (i.e. because you received a lump sum) you are said to have ‘surplus earnings.’ This may reduce the amount of Universal Credit you receive, or perhaps mean that you can’t get any Universal Credit payment in subsequent assessment periods. 

Suspension of benefit overpayments 

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions has temporarily paused the recovery of benefit overpayments, for three months. More for information about this, please see the gov.uk press release: Recovery of benefit overpayment suspended.

DWP debt management have also confirmed they are suspending recovery of any new debts at this time.  

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.


Because most in-work benefits are means tested, your entitlement is likely to be affected if you do extra hours. The change can depend on the number of hours you do, the amount you receive and the type of benefit you are claiming.

Tax Credits

If your annual income increases by less than £2,500 compared to the last tax year this is ignored and does not affect the amount of tax credits you are paid for this tax year. However, this rule does not apply if your tax credits are based on your income in the current tax year.

However, you should tell HMRC if your income increases by more than £2,500 compared to the previous tax year so that they can recalculate your entitlement.

For more details see gov.uk: Working Tax Credits

Universal Credit

Because your entitlement is calculated monthly on your HMRC records, your entitlement will be calculated based on your monthly income.

Your Universal Credit payment will reduce gradually as you earn more - for every £1 you earn your payment reduces by 63p. There's no limit to how many hours you can work.

Use a benefits calculator to see how increasing your hours will affect your entitlement  

Housing Benefit

Your entitlement to housing benefit will be based on your anticipated weekly income. You will therefore need to let your Housing Benefit department know if your income increases, supplying payslips as soon as they are available so that they can recalculate your entitlement.

Evictions

For advice, support and information about eviction in your country please see:

If you need further advice and support, you may want to contact the Welfare Service.

Struggling with your rent

If your pay has dropped, you might be eligible for assistance with your rent through Universal Credit. For more details, see the Housing section on the Understanding Universal Credit website.

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

Scheme to help tenants affected by coronavirus in Wales and Scotland

The Welsh Government Tenancy Saver Loan scheme may be able to help tenants in Wales who are struggling with rent arrears due to coronavirus 

In Scotland, The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund offers loans to tenants who are struggling with rent during coronavirus. See Shelter Scotland for more information.

Struggling with your mortgage

If you are struggling with your mortgage payments, see Shelter's advice on dealing with mortgage arrears.

Struggling to meet motor finance

If you are struggling to meet your motor finance, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has proposed new guidelines for Motor Finance companies, which includes allowing customers to take a 3 month break.

Check the finance company's website or call them to explore the options that are available to you.

Further details of the proposals can be found on the FCA's website: FCA proposes help for motor finance and high cost credit customers

It might be worth quoting the FCA guidelines when speaking to any motor finance company.

Payment holidays on credit cards, car finance, personal loans and other types of credit are to be extended ahead of tougher coronavirus restrictions.

The FCA, has said it will consult on extending payment holidays for those who haven't yet had one, or those who've had less than six months of payment holidays – this includes car finance.

The FCA had already brought in payment holidays for credit customers in April, extending them for three months in July. They advised that customers who had not yet deferred a payment could now request one for up to six months. They should announce confirmed proposals soon, which apply across the UK.

The payment holidays will also apply to those with rent to own and buy-now pay-later deals, it said. In addition, anyone already benefitting from a payment deferral will be able to apply for a second deferral.

If you have already had six months of payment holidays, you will not be able to benefit from the new proposals, but you may be offered tailored help which could include:

A (further) payment deferral: This is likely to be a short-term measure only and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as setting up a repayment plan.

A (further) period of reduced payments: If you can pay something towards your debt but can't make the full minimum contractual repayment, your lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this measure is likely to be short-term only.

Waiving or reducing interest: If you can't meet your payments, the lender needs to make sure the amount you owe isn't rising out of control, so it may need to cut or waive the interest it's charging you.

Agreeing a repayment plan: This is where your lender works with you to set up a plan that doesn't meet contractual repayments but allows you to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time.

Refinancing your credit agreement: This might mean, for example if you have a credit card, you convert the debt to a loan with a lower rate of interest and agree to pay set monthly instalments over a longer period. This will only be offered where the lender offers personal loans as well as credit cards, and where it's likely to be affordable, and your finances are settled enough to commit to a new agreement.

For high-cost short-term borrowing (e.g. payday loans): Borrowers can ask for a month’s respite if they have not already had a payment break. Once the one-month holiday has expired, payday lenders have to help customers who can’t resume payments. This could be to accept token payments, agree a repayment plan so the debt's paid off over several months, or to waive or lower interest rate charges. So, if you can't pay your payday loan - whether it's a new problem or an ongoing concern - talk to your lender to see which of the solutions works best for you.

The FCA says consumers should not contact their lenders yet and will hear from them once the plans are confirmed.

RCN Lamplight Support Service (funded by the RCN Foundation)

The RCN's Lamplight Support Service 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.

Members of the nursing community (past and present) who are not currently working on the frontline can apply for support through the RCN Foundation hardship fund. Details about eligibility can be found in the guide to financial assistance.

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 agreed 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

Contact your energy provider directly for advice.

Childcare costs whilst you're working

You may find that you have additional childcare costs whilst working during the COVID-19 emergency.

If this is the case, and you are already claiming Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit, these additional costs can be included as part of your claim up to the maximum limits depending on your personal circumstances.

If you are not already claiming the childcare element of Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits, you can request this element as part of an on-going claim.

If you have not previously claimed Universal Credit, your additional childcare costs may mean that you now qualify. To see if you qualify please read the Turn 2 Us guide.

If your income is too high to qualify for either of these means tested benefits you can check if you qualify for the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. Tax Free Childcare means the government will pay £2 for every £8 you spend on childcare, up to a maximum of £2,000 per year per child (or £4,000 for a child with a disability).

For more information about help with childcare costs you can visit the Turn 2 Us guide.

For information about school and childcare provision for key workers please see the government website or your local authority’s website.

If you are still struggling with childcare costs then please see the information on charities listed above.


Seek Help

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

The RCN Welfare can assist you with advice on specialist benefits advice.