Coronavirus – Financial help for individuals

 

The latest government updates on all aspects of Coronavirus including information on financial support available can be found at  www.gov.uk/coronavirus

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 which is 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

 

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.

There are benefits you may be entitled to if your income is low. You do not have had 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.

Benefit Who to Tell Where to find more information
Housing Benefit and  or a Council Tax Reduction Your Local Council. If you live in Milton Keynes, you can report the change in your circumstances www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/benefits-council-tax/do-it-online-benefits-and-council-tax
Universal Credit Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) www.gov.uk/universal-credit
Job Seekers Allowance Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance
Income Support Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) www.gov.uk/income-support
Employment and Support Allowance Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance
Pension Credit Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) www.gov.uk/pension-credit
Tax Credits HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) www.gov.uk/changes-affect-tax-credits

If you are not already receiving a benefit, the first thing you should do is make a new claim. To work out which benefit you should claim go to https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators

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 on-line

2. Recent Government announcements – extra help

The Government have announced a new financial support package for people on low incomes who are unable to work because they must self-isolate.

From 28 September 2020, if you are required by law to self-isolate and satisfy the conditions set out below, you may qualify for a Test and Trace support payment of £500. This payment will be made by local Councils on behalf of the Government.

The Government has asked us to get the scheme up and running by the 12 October 2020.

We are waiting for the Government to provide us with some detailed guidance. Until this is received the Council cannot accept applications or make payments. We will be updating this page with further details as we get them.

The information we have so far is set out below and covers the following questions.

Who can get the Test and Trace Self Isolation Support Payment?

To get the Test and Trace Support Payment, you must be;

  • asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because you have tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive;
  • employed or self-employed;
  • unable to work from home and will lose income as a result; and
  • currently receiving 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 or
    • Pension Credit.

How much is the payment?

If you qualify, you will be entitled to £500. This will be paid in a lump sum.  

Will this payment be taxed?

This payment will be subject to income tax. It will not be subject to National Insurance contributions.

When will the scheme start?

These changes will come into effect on 28 September 2020, alongside the legal duty to self-isolate.  We expect to have our systems in place by 12 October;

How long will this be in place for?

The scheme will run until 31 January 2021.

Will payments be backdated?

If you are eligible before 12 October, you will be able to make a backdated claim.

Anyone who meets the eligibility criteria and is asked to self-isolate on or after 28 September will be entitled to the new payment. Where necessary, payments will be backdated from 28 September 2020.

What about people self-isolating on or after 28 September who were told to begin self-isolating before 28 September?

The scheme will apply to people notified to self-isolate on or after 28 September, not before that date.

Can someone make multiple claims if asked to isolate multiple times?

A claim can be made for each period of self-isolation required. All eligibility criteria must be met and supporting evidence provided.

How will people apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment?

You will be able to make an online application or if you are unable to apply online you will be able to make a telephone application. We will publish a telephone number here and add a link to the application form as soon as we are able to accept applications. 

You will be asked to submit the following supporting evidence:

  • a notification from NHS Test and Trace asking you to self-isolate (this will include a Unique ID number);
  • a bank statement; and
  • proof of employment, or, if you are self-employed, evidence of self-assessment returns, trading income and proof that your business delivers services which cannot be undertaken without social contact.

Wherever possible, documents and evidence should be provided through online means. We will accept scans, photographs, screenshots and downloads of documents.

 

The Government will be giving Milton Keynes Council  £2,322,057 to help working age people who receive help with their Council Tax bill though a Council Tax Reduction.

Council Tax Reductions are available to people who are on a low income. You do not have to be unemployed to apply.  

  • If you have applied for a Council Tax Reduction or are already receiving a Council Tax Reduction you do not have to do anything else to receive this help. We will not take into account whether you have been affected by COVID-19 either directly or indirectly in assessing eligibility for this 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. Any extra help will be given automatically. 

The Government has asked the Council to reduce the bill by up to £150, for everyone who is working age and receives a Council Tax Reduction at any point in this financial year.

The financial year starts on 1 April 2020 and ends 31 March 2020. The hardship payment will be lower for people who do not start to receive a Council Tax Reduction until later in the year. 

If your bill is already less than £150 a year the bill will be reduced to nil. If your bill is already nil, no additional award will be made.

If you are finding it hard to pay any balance left on your Council Tax bill, after any Council Tax Reduction and the additional hardship fund credit has been applied, you should apply for a Discretionary Council Tax Reduction

 

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 (still in development)
  • 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 here 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 here Gov.uk guidance for employees

The Job Retention furlough scheme ends on 31 Oct 2020 and will be replaced by a new Job Support Scheme in which the Government will help top up the wages of anyone who works at least a third of their normal hours.

On 26 March 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 four instalments

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.

HMRC have been accepting claims for the second grant from August 2020. Claim for the second grant must be made on or before 19 October 2020. Check if you can claim a grant.

Payments 3 and 4:  A further extension was announced on 24 September 2020. More information on this extension to the scheme can be found on GOV.UK 

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 will cover three months’ worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January next year. This is worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.
  • An additional 4th grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February 2021 to the end of April 2021.

Who will get 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.

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 on line.

If you receive the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme grant from HMRC or your earnings change, you must tell us straight away. Please report the change on our benefits council tax/do-it online page

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

 

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, for one year, Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will be 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 1 Bedroom 2 Bedroom 3 Bedroom 4 Bedroom
Weekly LHA £70.00 £149.59 £189.86 £224.38 £299.18
Monthly LHA £303.33 £648.22 £822.73 £972.31 £1296.45

Source https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-lha-rates-applicable-from-april-2020-to-march-2021

Please note, we have not been told what will happen to these rates from April 2021. There is no guarantee that they will remain at this level.

 From 6 April 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.

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.

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

 

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.

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 here

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

Last Updated: 25 September 2020