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Services during the Coronavirus outbreak

Our face-to-face service has been suspended. Please do not visit our offices.

We are offering advice by email and a very limited telephone advice service.

Please read the following advice before contacting us

Given the current situation with Covid-19, our advice is changing day-to-day, dependent on policy changes. We will regularly update the key information below, which may solve your query without you needing to contact us.

We will try to answer any further queries if you complete the form below. Please understand that we are very busy and may not be able to offer you individual advice quickly,  but will do our best.

You may also wish to go Money Saving Expert who have a lot of information updated daily.

1. If my employers tell me to take unpaid leave

If your employer asks you to take unpaid leave, because of child-care responsibilities or because they have no work, you need to check your employment rights. Most people with under 2 years of employment, do not have rights to challenge dismissal. Statutory notice period is one week. Given the current circumstances, the government is trying to support business to avoid this. You can Raise a Grievance with your employer. You can challenge if you feel you have been Discriminated Against.

If you are looking after your children, as they’re not at school, you can ask for Dependent/Parental leave– but this is not a statutory right.

Your employer should not ask you to work from home and not pay you your usual full wage/salary for this. If they do, you need to raise a grievance. However, please bear in mind, that if they dismiss you, if you’ve been there less than 2 years, you do not usually have rights to challenge this dismissal.

2. If you are not being paid

If you are having to self-isolate because of the Covid-19 pandemic, or are taking leave for children, and you are not being paid, there are a couple of benefits to which you may be entitled.

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be paid from the 1st day of self-isolation due to emergency legislation. This is paid if your employer cannot pay you contractual sick pay or paid leave. This is paid at £94.25 per week (the government are considering raising this).
    After seven days of sickness or isolation, your employer may want confirmation of your condition. This is now available online through the NHS website .
  • Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit which can be claimed to supplement income if you are unable to work or are low-paid and have savings of less than £16,000. It permanently replaces a number of other benefits, including Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. If you are already receiving any of these other benefits, take advice before claiming Universal Credit.
  • – If you live with a partner, they must claim Universal Credit jointly with you and their income and savings will be taken into account.
  • – You can claim Universal Credit alongside Statutory Sick Pay  However,  your Universal Credit payment will be reduced to reflect this.
  • – Universal Credit would support you to live and also help with any rent you cannot pay, although the rent element may be subject to a cap depending on the level of your rent and the size of your home.
  • – It will not help you with any mortgage payments.  A loan scheme called SMI is available for this if needed, although a 3 month mortgage ‘holiday’ is being put in place.
  • – Univeral Credit is paid after 5 weeks. However, you can ask for an advance payment if you need money urgently. This is an interest-free loan, that you have up to a year to pay back.
  • New Style Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is a benefit paid to people who have lost their jobs and have made sufficient recent National Insurance contributions, whether from employment or self-employment.  The £16,000 savings limit does not apply and is paid at a rate of £73.10 per week. If you have savings of less than £16,000, JSA can  be claimed in conjunction with Universal Credit, but if it is paid the same amount will be deducted from your Universal Credit payments.
  •  New Style Employment Support Allowance  may be available to people who are self-isolating or unable to work due to ill-health or injury.  Check whether you might be eligible.

3. Self-employment

HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. However if you are late filing your 2018/19 tax return you have until 23rd April to do so or you definitely won’t be eligible.

You don’t need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme. You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK.

If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.

4. Free school Meals and school closures

If you have children who would have been eligible for free school meals, the government has Guidance which asks schools to continue support to these children by delivering meals, making meals available for collection, or providing supermarket vouchers. You will need to ask your child’s local school what they are doing.

Only the children of key workers and children who have social workers or SEN are able to go to school from 23rd March. Employees are entitled to time off to look after their children but your employer may not be obliged to pay you (depending on your contract).

5. Trouble Paying Rent and Mortgage

Currently, there is no specific government guidance on people unable to make rent and mortgage payments. However, the government are announcing emergency legislation to help those unable to pay for their home. For renters, the government plans to support people to pay rent, as well as stopping evictions during this pandemic. We always strongly suggest you speak to your landlord about what you can afford to pay, and update them. For mortgages, the government will be looking at a temporary mortgage freeze. Talk to your mortgage provider if you are struggling to pay.

You many be able to get some or all of your rent paid if you claim Universal Credit.  You can find out how many bedrooms your household is entitled claim help with rent for at the Valuation Office website.  The maximum rents that Universal Credit (or Housing Benefit if you’re an existing claimant), may cover have been increased.  You can find the rates that will apply to you from April by entering your postcode here.

Following the guidance released by Ministry of Housing, emergency legislation will be in place to suspend new evictions from social and private housing during the national emergency. No new possessions proceedings will start. This is as landlords will get 3 month mortgage payment holiday including Buy-to-Let. Following this, it will mean that your landlord cannot start Section 21 or Section 8 Evictions. You must always keep them informed if you are struggling to pay rent

6. Energy Companies

Energy companies are exploring ways to avoid cutting people off for non-payment, or if they cannot afford to top up their pre-payment meter.  Disconnection of credit meters has been suspended but we recommend you speaking to your energy supplier as soon as possible as they may be able to offer you additional support and advice to avoid building up a longer term debt.

7. Rights to Refunds on Holidays/Services

Day by day, companies stop their services to the public (such as cinemas, theatres etc), and most international travel is suspended, with government guidance suggesting only essentials and emergency travel, as you may be turned away from the country you intend to travel to. As such, companies should provide you with a refund – or if they will give you credit or the chance to rebook. This may change, therefore, we strongly advice you contact our Consumer Service who are specialists in this area 0808 223 1133.

How To Contact Us – if this hasn’t answered your question

Email (new issues)

The quickest way to contact us is by using this form. We aim to respond within a few working days. Please expect to receive a call from an unknown number.

Telephone (new issues)

If you can’t use the form, you can call us Mon-Friday 10am-4pm but we have limited capacity and you may have to hold for a long time
0300 330 1162

Existing Clients

Only use this number if you have spoken to us before about the problem, or you want to cancel an appointment. You will need to leave a message and we will call you back Mon – Fri 10:00am – 4:00pm. We will only call  you back if we confirm you have an open case with us.
020 7386 9068

Debt

Only use this number if it’s about debt or click here to email us about a debt issue.
020 3137 6295
Mon – Fri 10:00am – 4:00pm

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