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.  

Income changes

Government announcements – extra help

Food Bank

Local Welfare Provision

Other support

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.

1) Already on Benefits

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 here 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

2) 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. 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 here

 

Recent Government announcements – extra help

On 20th March the Government outlined a package of measures to protect people’s jobs and incomes as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus.

The Government has announced that they will be giving Milton Keynes Council an extra £2,322,057 to help people who are on a low income and receiving help with their Council Tax bill though a Council Tax Reduction

  • If you have applied for a Council Tax Reduction or are already receiving a Council Tax Reduction you will 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 for everyone who is working age and receives a Council Tax Reduction, at any point in this financial year, by up to £150.

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.

We will be processing this additional reduction in stages.

  • Stage 1: If you were receiving a Council Tax Reduction on 1 April 2020 you should have received a new lower Council Tax bill around 15 May 2020.
  • Stage 2: If your Council Tax Reduction started after 1 April 2020, you will receive a new lower bill around 28 May 2020.
  • Stage 3: If you have received a Council Tax Reduction at any time since 1 April 2020 and are jointly liable for Council Tax with someone who is not your partner, you will receive a lower bill in week commencing 8 June 2020. 

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 . 

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 likely to be 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 leve

 From 6 April the government is increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit by £20 per week. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit customers. This means that for a single Universal Credit customer (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

If you need to apply for Universal Credit please do not worry if you cannot get through to the UC Helpline after making a claim for UC online.  We have been told by the DWP that they have redeployed staff and are all working hard to contact everybody who needs to verify ID or needs an appointment as soon as possible, to ensure payments are received on time.

The DWP have also told us that there are 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.

DWP is aware of customers trying to reach them for re-assurance on their claim but they would like to concentrate on calling you so please only call if you are unable to use UC online.
The DWP staff are working 7-days a week to process claims into payment and the more customers they get through to first time the quicker they can work through payments and advances.
 

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

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

Employers can now 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. The Scheme is now open for applications.  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 dictionary definition of a 'furloughed worker', is one who has been granted a leave of absence; it is 'temporary leave of employees due to the special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole'.

The information published so far about the Job Retention Scheme suggests it will only apply to those employees who are not working due to the Coronavirus, to help safeguard their job. There therefore appears no system in place – apart from the benefit system – for those workers on reduced hours. This may change in the future, but for now we assume this approach.

On 26th March the government announced its proposal for supporting the self-employed during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The government will pay self-employed people, who are eligible for the scheme, a taxable grant in two instalments

Payment 1: Worth 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £7,500. If you’re eligible and have not already claimed the first grant you must make your claim 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.

The scheme will not be extended further. You’ll be able to make a claim for a second and final grant in August 2020. Find out more about the extension to the scheme.

 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.

HMRC contacted people who they think may be eligible directly during the week beginning 4th May 2020. Anyone contacted is asked to use the eligibility checker available on gov.uk. This is open to anyone to use, not just those who have been contacted by HMRC. 

After checking eligibility, the applicant must either log into or create their government Gateway account, where they will be presented with a calculation of the amount of the grant and asked to fill out a simple online form, complete the declaration and supply the bank account details into which they would like the grant to be paid. 

The applicant does not need to provide any information about their income as the calculations are all done by HMRC based on the tax returns submitted. HMRC will check the claim and expects to make payments from 25th May 2020 or within six working days of the application being submitted.

Applicants should keep a copy of the calculation and a record of the claim reference number. It is also important to keep evidence that the business has been adversely affected by Covid-19, such as business accounts showing a reduction in turnover, confirmation of any Covid-19 related business loans, dates the business had to close due to lockdown restrictions and dates the applicant or their staff were unable to work due to Covid-19 symptoms, shielding or caring responsibilities due to school closures.

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 6th 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 

As most people will not receive the first grant until early June, 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.

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.

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

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: 8 June 2020