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 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 benefits 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

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:

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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 2020 (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
    • Pension Credit
  • have claimed the Test and Trace Self Isolation payment within 42 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. 

Changes to the Test and Trace support payment for parents

Parents and carers of children who have been advised to self-isolate on or after the 8 March 2021 by their education setting or by NHS Test and Trace are now able to apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment of £500, if they meet the eligibility criteria. The extension of the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, which is administered by district and unitary local authorities in England, ensures that parents receive the financial support they need if they are unable to attend work due to childcare responsibilities.

Applications for the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme are made via the local authority in which the parent or carer resides, not the local authority where the setting is situated, if these are different.

To be eligible applicants must meet all of the criteria that:

  • you are the parent or guardian of a child or young person in the same household and need to take time of 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.
  • You are employed or self-employed
  • You cannot work from home while you undertake caring responsibilities and will lose income as a result
  • You meet all the other means-tested eligibility criteria for a test and trace support payment or discretionary scheme.

The child or young person:

  • Aged 15 or under (25 or under with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC) and normally attends an education or childcare setting
  • Has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or by their education settings because they have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID 19)  
  • Nurseries, schools, colleges and further education providers are required to provide a letter to all parents or carers of the children advised to self-isolate, to support their application to the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.

 

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.

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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 did the scheme start?

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

Will payments be backdated?

You have 42 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.

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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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 2020 (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

  • 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 experiencing or will experience financial hardship due to not being able to go to work. 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 or will be experiencing hardship 
  • Have made a claim within 42 days of the first 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 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 Attachment of Benefit (AOB), Attachment of Earnings (AOE), debit relief, overdrawn or County Court Judgement (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.

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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.

What if I don’t qualify for the Test and Trace Self Isolation Support Payment, or I do qualify but the Discretionary Payment of £500 doesn’t cover my loss of income?

MK Council has set up an enhanced payment scheme to support people facing financial difficulties due to self-isolating.  Payments may be awarded to those who:

  • don’t qualify for a payment under the Discretionary Scheme; or
  • do qualify for the Discretionary Scheme payment, but the award of £500 doesn’t cover the loss of income suffered during the self-isolation

How do I apply?

You don’t need to make a separate application for the Enhanced payment because your application will automatically be considered as part your claim for the Test and Trace Payment Schemes.

What evidence do I need to provide?

The evidence should’ve been provided at the time of your application was considered for the Discretionary Award, however if it’s decided that further information is required, you’ll be asked for this.

How much will I get?

The amount awarded will depend on your financial hardship and isn’t set at £500.  It’ll be considered based on your household loss during your self-isolation period and any debts and priority bills due. 

 

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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 though 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. 

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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 Councils 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 scheme runs from 1 December 2020 to 16 April 2021.

The first vouchers started to be issued on Monday 14 December 2020. 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 a vouchers worth £30 per child for the 2 Christmas holiday weeks and £15 per child for the February half term break. A further voucher worth £15 per child will be issued for the Easter 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 the 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 the Gov.uk guidance for employees.

The Job Retention furlough scheme has been extended to 30 April 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 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 online.

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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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 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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Universal Credit

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.

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 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: 11 May 2021