Customers Impacted by Covid-19

We at Platform understand that this is a particularly worrying time for everyone. The changes, and the speed at which they are happening, can be very unsettling - so we want you to know that we are here to help you at this time.

There is a lot of information out there, and some gets a bit complicated, so we’re trying to keep things simple for you with the list of FAQs you can find below.

We also have a self-service benefits and budget calculator available on this website, which can help you easily work out what additional support you may be entitled to and make a budget, you can find this here.

 

Paying your rent

If you are still able to pay your rent, we encourage you to do so. Paying by Direct Debit is the easiest and most convenient method of payment. If you would like to set this method of payment up on your rent account, or to discuss your options, please contact the income team on 0333 200 7304, selecting option 1.

Advice and information for those already receiving a benefit

  • People receiving benefits do not have to attend Jobcentre appointments unless invited to do so.

  • People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the Jobcentre in person are suspended.

  • Face-to-face health assessments for benefits have been suspended, but you may have a telephone assessment.

  • Face-to-face health assessments for benefits have been suspended.

  • Jobcentres remain open and will continue to support people who are not able to use phones or get online, including homeless people.

If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible. You can do this by:

  • using your online journal

  • calling the Universal Credit helpline 

If you are in work and already claiming Universal Credit, and are staying at home on Government advice or working fewer hours, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal. The amount of Universal Credit you receive will adjust as your earnings change. 

From the 6th April the Standard Allowance of Universal Credit and the basic element of Working Tax Credit increased by £20 a week.

You can also find out more on from the official Universal Credit website:

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses

Benefits and Budgeting advice for those who are/were working

If you’ve found yourself with a reduced income, or even no income at all, you may be wondering where to start. Don’t panic, we are here to help you through these changing times. We have a dedicated team of Rent Support Officers who can help you check to see if you might be entitled to financial assistance and guide you through the process of making claims. If you have never claimed a benefit, or if it’s been a while and you’re not sure about how to, please get in touch with us at welfarereform@platformhg.com or call 0333 200 7304 and ask to speak to the Welfare Reform & Tenancy Sustainment Team! We can guide you through this over the phone or give advice via email. You can also watch this short YouTube video explaining how the claiming process works: Universal Credit Overview

It may be important to reassess your finances. Make a budget - list everything you spend. You may need to try and cut some costs to help you afford extra spending on electric/ gas and water for example.

You may need guidance to access further support if your outgoings include ‘non-priority’ debts. Email us at welfarereform@platformhg.com and we can point you in the right direction for free advice which is licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority.

If you feel able to explore benefits yourself, we have a self-service benefits and budgeting calculator available on this website which can help you work out what additional support you may be entitled to, and make a budget. You can access this at www.platformhg.com/money-advice . You have the option to email your results to us at welfarereform@platformhg.com for a follow up call if you're unsure about the results. Just make sure to give us your name and the first line of your address so that we can find you on the system.

If you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told to self-isolate on or after 28 September 2020, you’re under a legal obligation to do so, and could be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/test-and-trace-support-payment-scheme-claiming-financial-support

The government also has a section about furlough on their website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/worker-support

 

Advice for zero-hours workers

Those who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or those who lose their jobs will be able to claim either ‘New Style Jobseekers’ Allowance’ or Universal Credit from the first day they are out of work.

You may also be able to apply for Universal Credit if on reduced hours.

You can find out more on the Universal Credit website: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Advice for self-employed workers

Self-employed claimants on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) for a period of time while affected. 

  • You are able to claim Universal Credit (providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria) to support you with loss of income as a result of lost business due to the Covid-19 outbreak - you can find out more about this on the Universal Credit website (https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/)

  • New claimants will not need to attend the Jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment. 

  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.  

  • The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in Universal Credit. Your Universal Credit payment will adjusted in response to changes in your earnings.

For further details or to apply please visit the GOV.UK website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

If you are employed and have caring responsibilities

If you are employed, have caring responsibilities and have been advised to self-isolate by NHS 111 or a medical professional, you must tell your employer as soon as possible. This does not need to be in writing. Your workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements will apply. The government has promised that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be given from day one of self-isolation. You should check your contract of employment to see if your employer offers contractual sick pay on top. You may also be asked to certify your absence.

By law, for the first seven days of sickness, you are not required to provide medical evidence to your employer. However, after seven days, it is at the discretion of your employer to decide what evidence, if any, they need from you. If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor.

For workers that are ineligible for SSP, support will be available through Universal Credit (https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/) and contributory Employment and Support Allowance (https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance). 

If you are employed and need to take time off to help someone

If you need to take time off to help someone else, as an employee you also have a statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off from work to see to an emergency or unforeseen matter involving your partner, child, parent, grandchild, or someone who relies on you for care. There is no fixed amount of time you can take off. The time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right, check your work policy on care leave.

Benefits advice for if you are off sick

If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This includes people who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.

The Government has said that SSP is to be paid from day 1 of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to stay at home due to COVID-19.

To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer.  You can get £95.85 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) after 7 days of sickness absence.

For further information visit: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you earn below the Lower Earnings Limit of £120 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can make a claim for Universal Credit and/or new style Employment and Support Allowance. 

Benefits advice if you have been laid off

If your employer has terminated your employment you can claim ‘New Style Jobseekers’ Allowance’ and/or Universal Credit to help with living and housing costs. 

From 6th April the Standard Allowance of Universal Credit and the basic element of Working Tax credit increased by £20 a week.

You can find out more on from the official Universal Credit website: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

 

Advice for if you have been furloughed

If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access Government support to continue paying 80% of your wages and avoid redundancies. This scheme has been extended to March 2021.

If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss this with you and you will be classified as a “furloughed worker”. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.

You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary but does not have to.

If your salary is reduced as a result of being furloughed, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit which could include help with your housing costs. Platform’s Rent Support Team can help with a budgeting and benefits check - email us at welfarereform@platformhg.com if you would like to arrange this.

The government also has a section about furlough on their website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/worker-support .

Debt

Our partners at Citizens Advice, Money Advice Service and Stepchange have a wealth of information available to help people whose health and finances have been affected by the current situation.

Citizens Advice: If you can't pay your bills because of coronavirus

Money Advice Service: Coronavirus Money Guidance

Stepchange: Coronavirus and your finances

You can also access free debt advice from:

Christians Against Poverty: CAP Debt Help

Payplan: Payplan debt advice

National Debtline: Coronavirus and your money

 

Advice about illegal money lenders (loan sharks) and COVID-19

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) recognise that this period may be one of increased financial pressure for some people. The Team is committed to ensuring that illegal money lenders (loan sharks) do not take advantage and profit from other people’s hardship.

The Stop Loan Sharks helpline (0300 555 2222) service remains open and fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage not only victims but friends, family members and the wider community to come forward if they suspect someone is suffering at the hands of loan sharks. You can do this over the phone or by visiting https://www.stoploansharks.co.uk/ and fillling out the form on the home page.

Anyone lending money should have the correct permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Legal lenders have to comply with strict guidance and ensure they are dealing with customers fairly, using proper paperwork and legal collection methods.

You can check if a company is authorised to lend money at: www.loansmart.org.uk.