With the arrival of the a new pandemic virus in the UK all manner of everyday tasks can be disrupted. But what happens when the virus impacts on your ability to work and earn money to support your family and pay the bills? This article sets out to signpost a few useful tips and resources showing you how to financially survive the potential need to self-isolate, care for dependents or be off work during the pandemic virus outbreak in the UK.
How can I financially survive the pandemic virus and self-isolation?
First and foremost, look after yourself, family and friends. Should financial woes arise it’s the morale support and comfort of those around you that will help get things going again. Be wary of your mental state, particularly if you’re a lone parents. Also, never be too afraid or ashamed to ask for help from the charities and advice lines mentioned in this article. Whilst the tips below only scratch the surface, they may give you food for thought.
How can I financially prepare for the worst and find help with the debts and costs associated with pandemic virus and self-isolation?
The first thing you need to be prepared for is how your finances will be directly affected by the virus if you, or your family, get sick or have to self isolate. This impact could be felt for a number of reasons including, but not limited to:
- the need to take time off work unpaid in order to care for dependents (inc. the elderly)
- the additional need and cost to provide medication, food and support of family and friends in your local area
- your working hours can be affected particularly if you want low or zero hour contract. As a result the earnings that you’re currently on and the amount of statutory sick pay you may be entitled to can vary.
- the fact that if you have children, individual settings, play centres, schools and nurseries may have their own rules and restrictions on when children can attend their settings or not; in turn impacting on your ability to earn while caring for them at home.
- having a very small support network or ring of friends and family around you.
In all of theses circumstances there are government hotlines, advice and charities that can help. The Government’s Universal Credit guidelines for example, have been updated in relation to the pandemic virus outbreak. They provide a good level of clarity on how to get the mooney and support you may be entitled to.
If I’m in work and not claiming benefits what support am I entitled to?
If you’re unable to work due to the pandemic virus and are eligible via your workplace for Statutory Sick Pay you will get it from day one of your absence, rather than from the traditional fourth day of your absence. This is part of the Department for Work and Pensions retrospective legislation brought in from March 13th 2020.
The usual Statutory Sick Pay will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice, not just if you are infected by coronavirus. This will apply from 13 March 2020.
If you are a gig economy worker or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay but you’ll need to check your eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay via the Gov.uk eligibility checker. Some employers will then request a “Fit Note” from your GP. In theory they should directly approach the GP for this as there’s cost implications to it. However, in the case of the pandemic virus outbreak the NHS 111 service is setting up an online “Fit Note” request service that should be in operation soon to prevent the need to source the note from your GP during this time of high demand on the surgeries and practices.
Just to reiterate that point, if you believe you are infected and have had government advice to stay at home you should not be going to your GP surgery to request a fit note. This should be done online via the NHS 111 service once up and running.
How can I get additional financial support during a pandemic virus and self-isolation?
With Statutory Sick Pay being only £94 a week and the Universal Credit allowance for one person being just £317 a month, it it any wonder people are worried about paying their bills and keeping on top of their debts?
Combined that would total just £693!
That’s barely enough to cover most mortgage debts, let alone the day to day costs and bills that will keep coming. That being said, there are things that you can do. festival the most important thing is to take proper independent financial advice. There are plenty of debt management services and charities that will be able to give you tips and advice amongst which are StepChange and National Debt Line (details below):
Telephone: 0808 808 4000
Fax: 0121 410 6230
Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm
Saturday, 9:30am to 1pm
The above free advice services are government recommended and will give you lots of resources and ideas to help get you move to any potentially tricky financial times.
How can I get additional help with my mortgage, council tax and more during self-isolation?
If you have children and currently get support through the universal credit system, then you may be able to get some additional support with housing costs and extra money. The best way to find out if your entitled to this is via the turn2us website. They realise that over the coming weeks and months many will find that the pandemic virus outbreak will have an impact on their finances. They and keep their website and social media channels up-to-date with the rights of workers and the financial support available to all. They will also coordinate their work with other charities and frontline services to support people by combining and pooling resources.
The Turn2Us website is also a great place to search for grants available from grant-giving charities depending on your location, age, gender and current past jobs or health.
Here’s a few tips to help those struggling:
- Do NOT panic! Thousands will be in the same situation and there is support and advice. Whatever you do, don’t rush into payday loans.
- Contact your local council and find out if you are eligible for any discounts on council tax payments. This can be done via your local council website.
- Mortgage lenders will vary but often will be the ability to underpay and overpay mortgage is built into a lot of deals. Contact your lender today and see if you can may use of this facility or even if you can defer payments. Similarly, the Bank of England has reduced the interest rate to 0.25% again meaning that those on variable rate mortgages will see a slight drop in their monthly mortgage costs.
- If you’re entitled to benefits and universal credit and unable to get to the Jobcentre for appointments then make sure you call the paying office to let them know your situation. Failing to do this may slow or even halt your benefits and payments.
- Check with your local council or Citizen’s Advice service about whether you’re entitled to universal credit or the contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
- Prioritise the debts in order of importance from essential to non-emergency. Once you’ve found the essentials, contact the companies involved to see about the support they provide (particularly of use for the elderly).
- Often the utilities companies are flexible in terms of payment plans so it may be you can switch to a quarterly or six-month payment plan to delay payments temporarily. Note however that you need to keep an eye on how the payments shift because they’ll still need paying. In changing your payment regularity you’ll give yourself “breathing space” to plan out your coping strategy without making rash decisions.
- Cut your outgoings for non-essential frills and look into contacting your local food bank for assistance.
- Ultimately, don’t be afraid to ask any person or company you regularly pay money to for help, rather than waiting until it is too late. Remember, a few marks on your credit file won’t sink you credit score ship overnight; we just need to stop things snowballing and getting out of control by asking for help and seeking advice now.