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

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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

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2. Recent Government announcements – extra help

In September 2020 the Government announced a new financial support package for people on certain low income benefits or suffering exceptional financial hardship, who are unable to work because they have been notified by the NHS that they must self-isolate.

From 28 September 2020, if you have received a notification to self isolate from NHS Test, Track and Trace with a unique 8 digit identifier number 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.

General information regarding the scheme is available on the GOV.UK website

The information set out below covers the following;

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

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

  • have been notified by NHS Test and Trace on or after 28 September (not before) that you must self-isolate; or 
  • have been identified as a close contact by the NHS COVID-19 App from 10 December 2020,

and

  • you’ve responded to any email, text, letter or phone call messages received from NHS Test and Trace and have provided any legally required information, such as your contact details. If you have tested positive you will also be asked to provide the details of people with whom you have been in contact; 

 and  

  • have a unique 8 Digit number provided by the NHS Test & Trace
  • be employed or self-employed;
  • be 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 or
    • Pension Credit.
  • have claimed the Test and Trace Self Isolation payment within 28 days of the first day of your self isolation.

You must meet all of the above criteria to be eligible for a payment but if you do not receive one of the listed benefits and are experiencing financial hardship, you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Test and Trace payment. 

How to claim

You can apply online or if you are unable to apply online you will be able to make a telephone application.

To make your claim you will need to have the following evidence available

  • your unique ID 8 Digit number as provided by the NHS Test & Trace
  • your national insurance number
  • your full name
  • your date or birth
  • your contact telephone number and email address
  • evidence of the benefits you receive and how much you get
  • recent proof of employment (most recent payslip), contract of employment or letter from your employer detailing your loss in earnings, 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. 
  • bank statements clearly identifying your account details / name and address, which are less than 3 months old.

If you can evidence all of the above and wish to make a claim please apply here

Please ensure you have all your documents ready to upload before you start the application process. We will accept scans, photographs, screenshots and downloads of documents.

Click to watch a 5 minute video on How to apply.   

If you are unable to use the online application process, you can call 01908 691691 to arrange for a member of our team to support you in your application.

Can I help someone else make an application, or make an application on their behalf?

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 asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

How much is the payment?

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

People in the same household can each make an individual application to receive the payment. Everyone in the household who satisfies the qualifying conditions can apply. If they are eligible they will receive £500 each. 

Will this payment be taxed?

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.

When will the scheme start?

These changes came into effect on 28 September 2020, alongside the legal duty to self-isolate.  

How long will this be in place for?

The scheme will run until 31 March 2021.

Will payments be backdated?

You have 28 days from the first date of your self-isolation period to make an application, we are unable to accept applications made after that date.

For example, if you were told to self-isolate on 28 September 2020, you must apply by 25 October 2020.

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

They will not be able to apply. The scheme only applies 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.

Discretionary Test and Trace Payment

If you are not receiving one of the qualifying benefits but are on a low income and self-isolation will cause you financial hardship you may qualify for a discretionary award payment.

To qualify for a £500 Test and Trace Discretionary award, you must;  

  • Have been notified to self-isolate isolate by NHS Test and Trace on or after 28 September (not before); or
  • Identified as a close contact by the NHS COVID-19 App from 10 December 2020. 

And

  • you’ve responded to any email, text, letter or phone call messages received from NHS Test and Trace and have provided any legally required information, such as your contact details. If you have tested positive you will also be asked to provide the details of people with whom you have been in contact; and

And

  • You have a unique 8 Digit number 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 suffering exceptional financial hardship due to not being able to go to work because. This may be due to limited income or not being allowed to claim benefits because you are a person from abroad. When you apply, you must be able to provide us with evidence that you are suffering hardship, 
  • Have made a claim within 14 days of the last day of your self-isolation

To make your discretionary award application you will need to provide he following evidence;

  • your unique ID 8 Digit number as provided by the NHS Test & Trace
  • your national insurance number
  • your full name
  • your date or birth
  • your contact telephone number and email address
  • your last 2 months bank statements clearly identifying your account details / name and address and all transactions for all bank accounts and savings you and your partner hold,
  • recent proof of employment (most recent payslip), contract of employment or letter from your employer detailing your loss in earnings, 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. 
  • evidence you are experiencing or will experience financial hardship as a result of this isolation period

If you can provide evidence all of the above and wish to make a claim please apply here

Please ensure you have all your documents ready to upload before you start the application process.

Discretionary Evidence Guidance

In addition to the above the following list is also intended to guide local authorities and applicants as to what evidence they can provide to demonstrate financial hardship:

  • Is the customer in receipt of a Council Tax Reduction and therefore has already demonstrated the need for support prior to this additional loss of income
  • Has the customer provided evidence from their employer that they are on a low income for the period and has demonstrated with bank statements that their savings are not enough to support them during their self isolation period.
  • Has the customer other debts and/or rent arrears that shows a need for financial support. 
  • Does the customer have an AOB, AOE, debit relief, overdrawn or CCJ that indicates that they are struggling financially
  • Does the customer have other members in the family household that are also self-isolating and have lost in income which is increasing the likelihood of hardship to the family household
  • Is the customer already using food banks so has needed support prior to this additional loss of income
  • Has the applicant needed to use alternative support schemes over the last three months? For example; mortgage breaks, financial support (family or loans), utility payment breaks/plans , 

Each local authority has to determine for itself whether particular situations not listed above are better evidenced through an income and expenditure assessment form.

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
  • are no longer required to self-isolate i.e. your period of self-isolation was before the scheme was launched on 28 September 2020
  • have not received a notification from NHS Test and Trace telling you to self-isolate.

Registering with Test and Trace 

  • To apply for the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment, you’ll need to register with NHS Test and Trace and provide your local authority with an NHS Test and Trace Account ID. This is an 8-digit code that is sometimes also referred to as a CTAS number. If you test positive for coronavirus, or are told to self-isolate by contact tracers, you will be provided with the Account ID ready to take to your local authority.
  • Anyone who receives notification of a positive test result (including app users who initially report their symptoms through the app and are referred on to the test booking system) will be able to apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment providing they meet the other eligibility criteria.  
  • When someone receives a positive test, they are legally obligated to self-isolate and will be provided their NHS Test and Trace ID via the email and mobile number they provide when ordering the test.
  • Individuals will not be eligible for the payment while they wait for a test, nor if they test negative.
  • If the NHS COVID-19 App has told you to self-isolate because you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will need to follow some steps to request your Account ID. This is because the app is anonymous, so you need to register with NHS Test and Trace by following a link in the app. You must do this while you are in your self-isolation period. You cannot request your Account ID after you’ve finished self-isolating.
  • To start the process, select ‘Financial support’. This button appears on the home screen of the app when you’ve been told to self-isolate because you’ve been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus.
  • You’ll be taken to a website which will ask you for some information to check whether you could be eligible. None of the information you provide will be passed back to the NHS COVID-19 App. The app is designed to protect your privacy and does not know who or where you are.
  • If your answers show that you may be eligible for the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment, there are 4 steps to apply for the payment.

Step 1 - Confirm who you are with NHS login

  • You need to log in or register with NHS login so we can check who you are. If you are registering, you will receive a confirmation link in an email. When you read the email, make sure you keep the existing screen open so that you can continue to the next step.

Step 2 - Enter personal details

  • You will be asked to enter your name so that NHS Test and Trace can carry out some checks. None of your personal details will be given to the app.

Step 3 - Register with NHS Test and Trace

  • You will get an email and text message from NHS Test and Trace within one hour.  Communication hours are between 7.30 am to 8.30 pm. If you register outside of these hours, there may be a delay in receipt of the email or text message until opening hours resume. Read about what to do if you have not received this email or text message.
  • These messages will include a link which you need to follow to complete your registration with NHS Test and Trace. You must do this while you are still in your self-isolation period. You will not be able to apply for the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment without completing this step.
  • Once you have completed your registration, you will receive a final confirmation email and text message from NHS Test and Trace. You will then be subject to the legal obligation to self-isolate

Step 4 - Apply to your local authority

  • Once you have received this second email or text message with your NHS Test and Trace Account ID, you can apply for the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment from your local authority. Receiving an NHS Test and Trace Account ID does not necessarily mean you will be eligible for the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment. You must request the Account ID during the self-isolation period. Once you have this, you can claim up until 28 days after your self-isolation period started.
  • Your local authority may also ask you to provide additional evidence to prove your eligibility.

Appeal Rights

The council will write to the customer to confirm the decision but as this is discretionary there are no appeal rights to an Independent Tribunal. But the customer can ask the council to look at their case again if they are not happy with the outcome of their request. This would need to be made in writing, stating the reasons you are asking for a review of the decision and be signed and dated.

Review Requests should then be sent to TestTrace.NBC@northampton.gov.uk and it will then be dealt with by a Senior Benefits Officer/Manager and the outcome notified in writing within 28 days. 

Fraud

You may face prosecution if you have manipulated or falsified your position in order to obtain these payments, including failure to self-isolate which puts others at risk. Any payment made as a result of fraud may be subject to claw back, as may any grants paid in error.

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

Self-isolating

  • If you have coronavirus symptoms, you must stay at home and begin to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started. You must also book a coronavirus test at one of our testing sites or for home delivery.
  • People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive will be contacted by Test and Trace and told to stay at home for 10 days from the point of that contact, even if they do not have symptoms.
  • If you have been notified via the NHS COVID-19 App, you can refer to the countdown timer in the app to understand how long you should self-isolate for.
  • This virus is difficult and deadly, with millions of people carrying the virus but not displaying symptoms. That’s why it is vital that you stay at home for the full self-isolation period advised by NHS Test and Trace, even if you feel well.
  • Self-isolation means not leaving your home for any reason - even for exercise, food shopping or collecting medication. This will minimise the risk that you unknowingly spread the virus to others and help protect your friends, family, colleagues and community.

What are the penalties for not self-isolating?

As well as new support measures, from 28 September, you could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a positive test result for COVID-19, or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to self-isolate because you are a contact of someone who has had a positive test result.

From this date, if you test positive for COVID-19, it will also be an offence to knowingly provide false information about your close contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

The police also have the power to investigate and fine those who do not follow the rules without a valid reason. This includes employers who do not allow staff to stay at home when they have been told to self-isolate.

Failure to comply with these requirements may result in a fine of up to £10,000.

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The Government will be giving Milton Keynes Council £2,322,057 to give extra help to working age people who are on a low income and 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

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Covid Winter Grant Scheme/ Covid Holiday Help scheme

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

The Council is committed to ensuring that children who receive free schools meals will continue to be supported during the Christmas and February holidays. More than £700,000 is being spent on ensuring families are warm and fed over the winter.

Most of the help will be provided through digital supermarket vouchers, which will be 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 will be given vouchers through the Early Years nurseries and Children’s Centres.

The first vouchers started to be issued on Monday 14 December 2020. If your child receives free school meals or is a qualifying preschool child, the school, nursery of children’s centre will issue you with a voucher worth £30 per child for the 2 Christmas holiday weeks and £15 per child for the February half term break. You will either receive a voucher code by e mail, 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 (Link to Local Welfare Provision  Link to Food Bank Xtra )

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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 has been extended to 30 April 2021.   

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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 80% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £7,500.
  • 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.

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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 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

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

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

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-lha-rates-applicable-from-april-2021-to-march-2022 

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 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.

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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 here

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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: 24 February 2021