Coronavirus – Financial help for individuals

The latest government updates on all aspects of Coronavirus including information on financial support available can be found on the GOV.UK website.

If you are worried about your finances and how you are going to make ends meet, there is help available. We have tried to cover some of the most frequently asked questions, provide links to where you can find more information and also to provide additional information specific to residents of Milton Keynes. We will add more information as it becomes available.  

1. Income changes

2. Government announcements – extra help

3. Food Bank

4. Local Welfare Provision

5. Other support

 

Green Line

1. Income changes

If your income has dropped because of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) you should consider doing some or all of the following until your income goes back to normal.

Already on Benefits

There are benefits you may be entitled to if your income is low. You do not have to pay National Insurance and you can also apply if you are self-employed. If you are already claiming benefits, you might get more money.

If you are already getting one of the benefits listed below, you should tell the office paying you that your income has gone down and by how much. They may be able to increase the amount of benefit you receive.

Not already on a benefit or need to apply for another benefit

If you are not already receiving a benefit, the first thing you should do is make a new claim. Use the benefit calculator to work out which benefit you should claim.

You can also use this link if you are already receiving a benefit but wish to know if you should claim another benefit, such as Universal Credit.

If you wish to claim help with your council tax, you can do this online.

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2. Government announcements - extra help

 

Test and Trace Self Isolation Support Payment

 

Scheme update: From 16 August 2021 the rules on self-isolation changed.

  • Close contacts who are fully vaccinated are not be required to self-isolate. This applies where an adult has been fully vaccinated in the UK. Anyone under 18 years is also be exempt from self-isolation if they are a contact. Therefore, the eligibility criteria for the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme (TTSP) have changed.

You may be entitled to some financial support during your self-isolation period if you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace because:

  • you have tested positive for COVID-19
  • you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive and you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19

This is to support people on low incomes who are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result.

 

Watch a 5-minute video on how to apply

Apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment

 

Eligibility for payments

1. Main scheme payment

Eligibility for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment is restricted to people who;

  • Have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace because they have tested positive for COVID-19; or
  • Have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace because they are not fully vaccinated and have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive

and

  • Have fully engaged with NHS Test and Trace to provide any legally required information, such as details of their close contacts
  • Have been provided with a unique 8 Digit ID provided by the NHS Test & Trace
  • Are employed or self-employed
  • Are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
  • Are currently receiving at least one of the following benefits;
    • Universal Credit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • income-based Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Housing Benefit
    • Pension Credit

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2. Discretionary payment

We can make a £500 discretionary payment to individuals who:

  • Have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace because they have tested positive for COVID-19; or
  • Have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace because they are not fully vaccinated and have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive

and

  • Have fully engaged with NHS Test and Trace to provide any legally required information, such as details of their close contacts.
  • Have a unique 8 Digit ID provided by the NHS Test & Trace.
  • Are employed or self-employed.
  • Are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result.
  • Are not currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit or Pension Credit.
  • Are on a low income and will face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.

These include applicants; 

  • Receiving a Council Tax Reduction or Child Tax Credit. 
  • Already in debt before having to self isolate? For example, they have;
    • an Attachment of Benefit (AOB); 
    • Attachment of Earnings (AOE); 
    • debit relief; 
    • overdrawn; or
    • County Court Judgement (CCJ)
    • Rent arrears
  • Who have less than £8000 in capital, and
    • have gross earnings that are less than £20,000 as a single person or £40,000 as a couple, and
    • have to pay rent or a mortgage.   
  •  Have other people in the household, who are also losing income due to self isolating.

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3. Parental or guardian payment

Eligibility for a £500 parent or guardian Test and Trace Support Payment is restricted to people who;

  • Are the parent or guardian of a child or young person in the same household and need to take time off work to care for them while they self-isolate. This is limited to one parent or guardian per household for the child or young person’s self-isolation period.
    • A child or young person is someone who;
      • has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or by their education setting because they have tested positive for COVID-19; and
      • is aged 15 or under; or
      • is aged 18-25 (with an Education Health and Care Plan) and normally attends an education setting.  
  • Are employed or self-employed
  • Are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
  • Meet all means-tested eligibility criteria for a main scheme or discretionary payment

If you can evidence all of the above and wish to make a claim, please apply via our Grant Approval Portal. Please ensure you have all your documents ready to upload before you start the application process.

You will not be eligible for this scheme if you:

  • are quarantining after travelling abroad (unless you test positive during the 10-day quarantine period)
  • continue to receive full wages while you self-isolate
  • can work from home during a period of self-isolation
  • have a loss of pay due to being furloughed
  • have not received a notification from NHS Test and Trace telling you to self-isolate.

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Multiple claims

People in the same household can each make an individual application to receive the payment, if they each meet the eligibility criteria.

Government guidance states the payments will only be eligible for positive diagnosis from 28 September onwards (not before).

Eligible people will be able to claim for each separate period of self-isolation.

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Payment and Tax

You will receive this payment via BACS transfer. We will send payment within 3 days of your verified claim.

This payment will be subject to income tax. However, you will not be taxed at the point of payment and will be contacted by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at a later date. The payment will not be subject to National Insurance contributions.

Applicants who are overdrawn

We will support customers in making sure this payment is not used by the bank to clear any overdraft due.

If you are unable to use the online application process you can call 0300 3307000 to arrange for a member of our team to support you in your application.

Helping someone else make an application

You can help someone else fill out an application, or fill out an application on their behalf. However, you cannot receive payments on behalf of someone else. Payments will only be made to the person who has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

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Backdating payment

You have 42 days from the first date of your self-isolation period to make an application. We cannot accept applications made after that date.

What to do if you do not agree with the decision

The council will send you a written decision. If you do not agree with the decision you can ask the council to look at your case again.

Email your request to TestTrace.NBC@northampton.gov.uk

Make sure you include the reasons why you are asking for the decision to be reviewed. You must also sign and date the request. 

Reviews will be dealt with by a Senior Benefits Officer / Manager. They will tell you the outcome in writing, within 28 days.

There are no appeal rights to an Independent Tribunal.

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Fraud

You may face prosecution if you have manipulated or falsified your position in order to obtain a payment. This includes failure to self-isolate, which puts others at risk.

Any payment made as a result of fraud or paid in error will have to be repaid.

The Government is helping Local Authorities make the necessary checks to ensure payments can be verified and have been made correctly.

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Council Tax Hardship Payment

Last year the Government gave Milton Keynes Council £2,322,057 and asked them to give a Council Tax Hardship payment to working age people who were on a low income and receiving help with their Council Tax bill through a Council Tax Reduction.

This extra help was given automatically and reduced last year's (2020/2021) Council Tax bill up to £150 per low income household. It does not apply to this year's (2021/2022) Council Tax bill but anyone who is on a low income can apply for a Council Tax Reduction. 

If you are not already receiving a Council Tax Reduction and need help with your Council Tax bill because you are finding it difficult to manage financially, please apply for a Council Tax Reduction in the normal way. 

If you are finding it hard to pay any balance left on your Council Tax bill, after any Council Tax Reduction you should apply for a Discretionary Council Tax Reduction. 

If you are having immediate difficulty paying your Council Tax bill, please get in touch by emailing our Revenues Service us or call 01908 253794.

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Covid Local Support Scheme / Holiday Help Scheme (formerly known as Covid Winter Grant Scheme)

Following on from the Government announcement in late November 2020, that it would be giving extra funding to Councils to assist families who are struggling with food and fuel bills, Milton Keynes Council set up a Covid Holiday Help scheme.   

The scheme has now been extended to 30 September 2021. 

The Council is committed to ensuring that children who receive free schools meals will continue to be supported during the holidays. Most of the help is provided through digital supermarket vouchers, which are automatically issued by schools to families who receive free school meals. In addition, qualifying families who are on a low income and have pre-school children are given vouchers through the Early Years nurseries and Children’s Centres.

The scheme initially ran  from 1 December 2020 to 16 April 2021 but has been extended to 30 September 2021 so that extra help can be provided over the summer school holiday period.

If your child receives free school meals or is a qualifying pre-school child, the school, nursery or children’s centre will have already issued you with vouchers as follows:

  • £30 per child for the 2 Christmas holiday weeks
  • £15 per child for the February half term,
  • £15 per child for the Easter Break and
  • £15 per child for the May half term.

Two sets of vouchers worth £30 each per child (total of £60 per child) are currently being issued for the summer break. 

  • The first set of £30 per child vouchers can be cashed immediately.
  • The second set for £30 per child can only be used after 17 August 2021.
  • In addition, The Summer of Play Scheme also provides healthy meals and snacks to children who attend ,for up to 4 weeks of the summer break.  

You will either receive a voucher code by email, by post or be able to collect from the school or nursery in person.

If you think you qualify but have not received your vouchers, you should contact your child's school, nursery or the children's centre that you attend.

This is additional help on top of the extra support already provided by the existing Food Bank Xtra and Local Welfare Provision Schemes. More information on these schemes and other help for people who are struggling to keep warm or fed can be found below (see the sections on Local Welfare Provision and Food Bank Xtra).

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Job Retention Scheme (Furlough Payments)

On 20 March 2020 the government announced a new 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ that aims to support businesses to help pay people’s wages.

Employers can contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of their workforce who remain on payroll but are temporarily not working during the Coronavirus outbreak. A simple, step-by-step guide is available for employers on GOV.UK.

How it works - Employers will need to:

  • Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify each employee of this change.
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal.
  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 gross per month.

i.e. the employer will need to make the wage payment and then apply for a reimbursement. If the employer needs short term cash flow support, they may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

If you are an employer you can find up to date information on Gov.uk Claims guidance for employers.

If you are an employee, you can find more information and check if you could be covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on Gov.uk guidance for employees.

The Job Retention furlough scheme has been extended to 30 September 2021.   

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Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

On 26 March 2020 the government announced its proposal for supporting the self-employed during the Coronavirus pandemic a further extension to the scheme was announced on 24 September 2020. 

The government is paying self-employed people, who are eligible for the scheme, a taxable grant in up to five instalments.

Check if you can claim a grant.

Payment 1: Worth 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £7,500. Claims had to be made on or before 13 July 2020. 

Payment 2: Worth 70% of average profits over the last three years, up to £6,570. The full entitlement (covering three months) is payable in one instalment in August and is fully taxable as income.

Payments 3 and 4:  A further extension was announced on 24 September 2020. 

An initial taxable grant will be provided to those who are eligible for SEISS and are continuing to actively trade but face reduced demand due to coronavirus.

  • The 3rd lump sum payment covers three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 80% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £7,500.
  • An additional 4th grant, was available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April 2021.

Payment 5: Claim the fifth grant before 30 September 2021, if you think that your business profit will be impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) between 1 May 2021 and 30 September 2021. 

  • If you’re eligible based on your tax returns, HMRC will contact you in mid-July to give you a date that you can make your claim from. It will be given to you either by email, text message, letter or within the online service.
  • The online service to claim the fifth grant will be available from late July 2021.

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Who gets this help?

The scheme is open to those who:

  • Are already in self-employment, who have a tax return for 2018/2019, and
  • Who have average annual trading profits of less than £50,000 pa, and
  • Who have lost trading / profits due to COVID-19, and
  • Whose self-employment makes up the majority of their income.

Who can't get help?

The following self-employed workers will not be able to receive the grant:

  • Those who started their self-employment on or after 6 April 2019, as they will not have submitted a tax return for 2018/19.
  • Those with average annual trading profits (loosely your taxable profits) of £50,000 or more.
  • Those who are also employed and their employed income is higher than their self-employed income.

Company directors who pay themselves a salary or dividends won't be covered by this scheme, but they could get support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees if they operate a PAYE scheme.

Difficulty managing between payments 

Anyone who has had a drop in income and is finding it difficult to manage financially may be able to claim Universal Credit or an increase in any means tested benefit that they are already receiving.

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Impact on benefits

The grant payment will be treated as earnings for benefit purposes.

On the government's business support website it states: The grant is recognised as income for the purposes of Universal Credit and Tax Credits and may impact the amount claimants are entitled to.

For Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction - If you receive the grant, your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction award will be recalculated to take it into account as income, from the date it is paid for the next 3 months. For example, if you receive a grant of £3,000 on 1 June 2020, we will take this into account as earnings of £1,000 a month in June, July and August. If you are doing less work or not working at all, we will assume that most of your expenses connected with your self-employment are reduced or nil, unless you have told us otherwise. You can tell us about any changes to your expenses online.

If you receive the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme grant from HMRC or your earnings change, you must tell us straight away. You should report the change using our Report a Change In Circumstances online tool 

 More information on the Government grant for people who are self-employed can be found at www.gov.uk.

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Local Housing Allowance Increase

The Local Housing Allowance is the maximum amount of help that people renting from a private landlord can claim from Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

From April 2020, Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates were set at levels that mean housing support from the benefits system is sufficient to cover 30 per cent of all rental properties in the local area. This has not been the case since 2012 and will mean that the number of private rental properties that are affordable to people on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will increase. The average increase in Milton Keynes is £25 a week (£109 a month).

The new amounts for Milton Keynes from April 2020 are as follows:

  • Room in a Shared House: £70 a week or £303.33 a month

Self contained with:- 

  • 1 Bedroom: £149.59 a week or £648.22 a month 
  • 2 Bedroom:  £189.86 a week or £822.73 a month
  • 3 Bedroom: £224.38 a week or £972.31 a month
  • 4 Bedroom: £299.18 a week or £1296.45 a month

Please note, these rates have been frozen and did not change from April 2021. 

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Universal Credit

From 6 April 2020 up until 30 September 2021 the government increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit by £20 per week for all new and existing Universal Credit customers. This means that for a single Universal Credit customer (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance increased from £317.82 to £409.89 per month (£411.51 From April 2021). 

If you need to apply for Universal Credit, after making a claim for UC online, the Universal Credit team might phone if they need more information or if you cannot verify your identity online. 

The DWP have told us that there are a high number of customers who are not answering their phone due to the call coming from a ‘private’, ‘number withheld’ or ‘0800’ numbers that the DWP are using. If you have made a claim for Universal Credit, please be aware of this and answer any calls, you can hang up if it’s not DWP and you don’t want to speak to them. In relation to security, DWP will send you a message via your UC Journal advising you they will be calling you soon. When on the call DWP will provide digits from your UC Account Number and your postcode, so you know it is a genuine DWP call.

Tax Credits

Working Tax Credits payments have increased from 6 April 2020 –  more about what's happening and who this affects.

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3. Food Bank

Milton Keynes Council and MK Food Bank have teamed up to offer more help to local people in crisis. More information is available on our Foodbank Xtra page 

You can also check the Foodbank website mkfoodbank.org.uk for the latest information on emergency food services and opening times or call the Foodbank Helpline on 01908 565852 to discuss your situation.

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4. Local Welfare Provision

Milton Keynes Council provides a Local Welfare Provision scheme (LWP) which aims to:

  • Prevent serious risk to health, well-being or safety
  • Provide essential support in the event of an emergency
  • Help people to be part of the community

More information on the scheme and how to apply can be found on our LWP page.

5. Other Support

Policy in Practice have created a welfare support page Your income and Coronavirus (COVID-19) to clearly show what support you might get if your income is affected by Coronavirus. The page is updated as and when changes are announced by the Government. Information is provided on what to do if:

  • You are self-employed
  • You are paying rent
  • You are paying a mortgage
  • Your child qualifies for Free School Meals
  • You have a prepayment meter
  • You pay Council Tax

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Last Updated: 7 September 2021