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Coronavirus advice and support (Scotland)

This fact sheet covers ScotlandYou will need different advice if you live in England & Wales.

Coronavirus has had a big impact on all aspects of people’s lives. Many people are having to manage on a reduced income. The government, banks and other organisations have said they may offer help if you have been affected.

This fact sheet explains what help is available if you have had your income reduced, need extra support or are finding it difficult to pay your household bills or debts because of the outbreak.

This fact sheet offers advice and help on the following areas.

  • Coronavirus and your income
  • Coronavirus and redundancy
  • Coronavirus and your home
  • Coronavirus and your bills
  • Coronavirus and your debts
  • Coronavirus: extra support

You will also find details of other National Debtline fact sheets which may help you.

Coronavirus and your income

You may get other kinds of help if you are self-employed. Business Debtline can give you more information, see www.businessdebtline.org.

Help for employees

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ended on 30 September 2021.

It was introduced to prevent the need for your employer to make you redundant. If you were enrolled on the scheme, you were classed as a furloughed worker. This meant that you were kept on your employer's payroll, rather than being laid off.

If you were furloughed at the end of September 2021, your employer will need to decide whether they want you to return to work or whether they are going to make you redundant.

If you haven't heard from your employer, you should contact them as soon as possible.

If your employer is making you redundant, see our Coronavirus and redundancy section.

In work and need to self-isolate?

Test and Trace Support Payment scheme

If you are on a low income and are asked to self-isolate, you may receive a payment of £500. Payment can be backdated from 28 September 2020.

You will be eligible for the payment if you live in Scotland and meet the following criteria:

  • you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and have a unique ID number; or
  • from 7 December 2020 you need to take time off work to look after a child aged under 16, who has been told to self-isolate.

And

  • you are employed and your employer can confirm you are unable to work from home, or you are self-employed and you can show that you are unable to run your business without social contact; and
  • you are claiming at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working tax credit, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit. From 7 December 2020 you will also be able to claim the payment if you are entitled to Universal Credit but not yet claimed.

If you don’t receive one of the qualifying benefits, local authorities may still be able to make a payment to you if you are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship from not being able to work.

Contact your local authority to make a claim. The payment won’t affect any other benefits and you can make further claims if you meet the criteria.

Statutory Sick Pay

The Government has announced changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for people affected by coronavirus who have to self-isolate. SSP will now be paid from the first day of sickness rather than the usual fourth day of sickness. You can claim SSP if:

  • you've been told by the NHS that you have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus or shows coronavirus symptoms;
  • you live with someone within the same household who has coronavirus or shows coronavirus symptoms; or
  • someone in your ‘support bubble’ has coronavirus or shows coronavirus symptoms.

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.

SSP is £95.85 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. To qualify, a worker must earn at least £118 per week.

If you are not eligible to receive SSP, you can claim Universal Credit and/or new style Employment and Support Allowance.

Visit Turn2us for more information about benefits and how to claim them.

Claim benefits

If you are unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay but coronavirus means you are too sick to work, you may be able to claim new style Employment and Support Allowance, as long as you have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last two to three years.

  • new style Employment and Support Allowance will now get paid from day one of your claim rather than the usual day eight.
  • You can now claim new style Employment and Support Allowance online.
  • Income and savings that you or your partner have will not affect your claim.

If you are able to work but have lost your job or work less than 16 hours per week, you may be able to claim new style Jobseekers Allowance as long as you have paid enough National Insurance contribution in the last two to three years.

  • You can get new style Jobseekers Allowance for up to six months and it will be paid every two weeks.
  • Income and savings that you or your partner/spouse have will not affect your claim.

If you aren’t able to get new style Employment and Support Allowance/new style Job Seekers allowance, or you can but need extra financial help, you will need to make a separate application for Universal Credit.

Important: Universal Credit can affect other benefits

Making a claim for Universal Credit may mean that you lose other benefits you currently get, such as tax credits.

Once you make a Universal Credit claim, your tax credit claim will stop and you cannot go back to tax credits. Before you apply for Universal Credit, try to get advice from a benefits adviser to check if you will be better off claiming Universal Credit. You can look for a local benefits adviser on the [Turn2us](https://advicefinder.turn2us.org.uk/ website).

  • Universal Credit is based on your household situation so your or your partner’s income and savings may affect how much you will get.
  • If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit you do not need to call anyone. Claims can be made online. If anything needs checking the DWP will call you back.
  • There is a five week wait to receive your first Universal Credit payment. You can receive a month’s advance which you then pay back.

You can use Citizens Advice Help to Claim service if you need additional support when making a Universal Credit application. Visit Turn2us for more information about benefits and how to claim them. They have a benefits calculator to help you find out what you may be able to claim.

Already claiming benefits?

If you are claiming Universal Credit or Jobseekers Allowance you may need to meet certain requirements to continue to receive the benefit. This could be job searching, periods of time at work or attending regular meetings or assessments. Due to coronavirus these requirements were temporarily suspended, however they have now restarted. Call the Jobcentre Plus if you're worried about going to an appointment in person due to coronavirus.

If coronavirus means you are unable to carry out a task, you should phone the office paying the benefit to explain why. If you are claiming Universal Credit, inform your work coach and explain what has happened in your online journal.

Face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits had been suspended, they have now restarted for some people. You should only be asked to attend a face-to face assessment if you can’t be assessed another way. This will apply if you receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit and possibly Universal Credit.

If you have concerns about attending an assessment contact your assessment provider, using the contact details on your appointment letter. You can find more details on GOV.UK.

The Government has also temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. You can contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information.

Help towards your rent - changes for private tenants

If you rent privately, the maximum amount of help that you can get for your rent through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit depends on several factors, such as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate for the area you live in and the type of accommodation that you need. LHA rates have been increased across the UK. To find the rate that applies to your area, go to the Directgov website.

To find out more about how these changes may help you, please visit Turn2us. They have a benefit calculator to help you find out if and how much you may be able to claim.

Coronavirus and redundancy

Help if you’re being made redundant

Your employer may be able to use one of the government’s support schemes to help you stay in employment.

If you have been made redundant, you should check which benefits you are entitled to claim.

See our Coronavirus and your income section for more information.

Is your redundancy fair?

You can only be made redundant if your job is no longer needed. You have the same rights during the coronavirus pandemic as usual.

You should have a consultation with your employer if you’re being made redundant. Your employer should explain what is happening and you should get the chance to ask any questions. If 20 employees or more are being made redundant, your employer can carry out this consultation through a representative, such as a union representative. More information about the consultation can be found on the Money Advice Service website.

Your employer should be fair when deciding who they make redundant. They could, for example, ask for volunteers or check disciplinary records. There are some things that shouldn’t play any part in you being made redundant, such as your age and gender; you can find a list on the gov.uk website.

If you don’t think that your employer has been fair, contact ACAS who offer impartial advice on your workplace rights.

You might be offered ‘suitable alternative employment’ within your organisation or an associated company. You have the right to a four-week trial period in the alternative job. You do not have to take the job if you think it’s unsuitable, however you may lose your right to redundancy pay if you unreasonably turn down an offer of alternative employment. See the ACAS website for more information on alternative job offers from your employer. Your redundancy could be an unfair dismissal if your employer has suitable alternative employment and they do not offer it to you.

Redundancy pay

If you’ve been with your current employer for 2 years or more you would normally get statutory redundancy pay. You should receive:

  • half a week's pay for each year of employment up to age of 22;
  • one week's pay for each year between the ages of 22 and 40; and
  • one and a half week's pay for each year over the age of 41.

This is up to a maximum 20 years of work.

If your recent wage has been lower because you had been ‘furloughed’ your redundancy pay should be based on your pre-furlough salary.

The maximum statutory redundancy pay you can get is £16,140. If you were made redundant before 6 April 2020, these amounts will be lower.

You can calculate your statutory redundancy pay here.

If you don’t think you’re employer has paid the correct amount of redundancy pay, contact ACAS for more help.

Redundancy notice

If you are made redundant your job should not end straight away, you should get a paid notice period. Whilst your employer can give more, the statutory redundancy notice periods are:

  • at least one week’s notice if employed between one month and 2 years;
  • one week’s notice for each year if employed between 2 and 12 years; or
  • 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more.

Unless you are off work, you should receive your normal pay whilst working your notice period. ACAS has more detailed information about notice periods and the pay you should receive.

Your employer can make a ‘payment in lieu of notice’. This is where you get all your notice paid at once and your job ends straight away. Or your employer can put you on garden leave, this means you’ll be paid as usual but you don’t have to come to work.

Check your contract and speak to your employer if you’re unsure what notice period you should receive.

Finding a new job

You can contact the Rapid Response Service if you suspect you’re going to be made redundant or up to 13 weeks after you’ve been made redundant. They can, amongst other things, help with writing CV’s, find the right training and travel costs.

You can contact Rapid Response Service by email rrs.enquiries@dwp.gov.uk.

Insolvent employers

Your employer may be insolvent, this means they aren’t able to pay their debts. If your employer is insolvent and makes you redundant, they might be unable to pay you the money you are entitled to.

You may be able to apply for redundancy pay and other related payments from the Government, through the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS).

Find out more about your rights if your employer is insolvent on the GOV.UK website. There is also guidance available if you were furloughed and then made redundant because your employer is insolvent.

Coronavirus and your home

Help with your mortgage

The FCA guidance, which may have meant you could apply for a payment holiday, ended on 31st July 2021.

If you previously had a payment holiday which has ended and you can afford to make your mortgage payments again, do so. You will also need to contact your lender to discuss how you are going to catch up with the missed payments.

If you are finding it difficult to afford your mortgage payments, contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Ask your lender what forbearance options are available and how they will affect your credit file. Your lender should provide support that is tailored to your circumstances. For example, this may include an agreement:

  • to make reduced payments or no payments for a set period of time; or
  • to change the term of your mortgage.

The Government has also introduced temporary rules that mean no eviction action should be taken if you live in a Tier 3 and 4 area until 30 September 2021.

If you have received possession claim forms, are being threatened with court action or need extra support, contact:

Information is also available on their websites.

Help with your rent

The Housing and Property Chamber has rescheduled hearings that had previously been postponed due to coronavirus. If you had a case that had been postponed, you will be notified when you should attend the Tribunal.

The temporary ban on evictions has now ended. However, all mandatory grounds for eviction have become discretionary. This means that the tribunal can decide not to evict you if they wish.

If you are contacted by a sheriff officer who is threatening eviction, contact Shelter for help.

The Government has also passed a temporary law to protect tenants in Scotland during coronavirus. In most cases, your landlord will now need to give you six months' notice before they can start legal action to evict you. These new rules will be in place until at least 31 March 2022. There are some exceptions, such as where a landlord is ending the tenancy due to antisocial and criminal behaviour, or because the landlord or their family need to move into the property. ​More information can be found at Shelter Scotland.

If you are a private tenant, new rules also came into force on 1 October 2020 which cover the process a landlord should follow if they are considering repossession action against you.

  • Your landlord should provide you with clear information relating to the terms of the tenancy, the amount of arrears and your rights in relation to the repossession proceedings.
  • Your landlord should try to agree a reasonable plan to with you. They should consider affordability, taking into account your personal and financial circumstances.
  • You should be allowed time to consider and seek advice on any proposed payment plan.
  • A full list of the pre-action requirements that your landlord now needs to follow can be found on the GOV.SCOT website.

To help with negotiations, SafeDeposits Scotland has a free resolution service. Either you or your landlord can approach them. Their aim is to try and stop tenants being evicted.

The Scottish Government have produced a private rented sector (PRS) tenant resource which has detailed information on dealing with rent arrears during the coronavirus pandemic.

If your landlord is unhelpful and you need more support, contact Shelter Scotland on 0808 800 4444.

If you claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with help towards housing costs, you may be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment. A Discretionary Housing Payment can give you extra money to pay towards your rent. You should be able to claim online. Check with your local council.

The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund

The Scottish Government fund offers interest-free loans to private and social sector tenants who are struggling to pay their rent because of the impact of coronavirus.

The fund can be used to cover up to a maximum of nine months of your rent costs. This can include:

  • rent arrears that have built up since 1 January 2020; and
  • up to three months future rent payments.

For more information and a link to the online application form, see GOV.SCOT.

Extra help from your council if you are at risk of eviction

Councils have been given extra funding to provide grants to tenants who have:

  • fallen behind on their rent because of the pandemic; and
  • are at risk of eviction.

The aim is to help you to reduce or pay off your rent arrears and to prevent homelessness. Grants may be available if you rent privately or through a social landlord, such as a local authority or housing association.

If you are at risk of eviction, contact your council directly for more information about how to apply for this help.

Any grant payment is separate to the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments.

Coronavirus and your bills

Help with your Council Tax

Your 2020-2021 council tax bill

Some councils are changing the months during which they collect council tax payments for the 2020-2021 tax year. Instead of collecting payments from April 2020 to January 2021, some councils are collecting payments from June 2020 to March 2021. This means that if you usually pay your council tax in 10 instalments, the months that you would not pay council tax would be April and May 2020, rather than February and March 2021. Check with your council to see if they are making this change.

If your council is not making this change and you will struggle to pay your council tax, contact your council and explain this to them.

Councils may give further help if you are dealing with exceptional circumstances.

Help from your energy provider

Energy providers have agreed that the disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended. Also, if you are self-isolating and unable to top up your pre-payment meter, you can:

  • nominate a third party for credit top ups;
  • have a discretionary fund added to your credit; or
  • have a pre-loaded top up card sent so that your supply is not interrupted.

If you are struggling to manage repayments to your energy provider, contact them to see what help they can provide. New guidance means that your debt repayments and bill payments could be reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.

If you are a vulnerable person, you could ask your energy provider to place you on the Priority Services Register. The Priority Services Register can help to make sure that you receive all the appropriate support you need. You can find out who may be classed as vulnerable and what help is available by visiting Ofgem

Help with your water bill.

In Scotland you’ll usually pay for your water through your council tax bill.  However, if you have a water meter then you’ll pay Scottish Water.  If you have a water meter and are struggling to pay your bill, contact Scottish Water to see how they can help.

Help from your mobile or broadband provider

Most of the main broadband and mobile companies have introduced a range of measures to try and help.

  • Providers will help if you are struggling to pay your bill, they will make sure you are treated fairly. Contact them if you are struggling to pay your bill.
  • They have committed to remove all data caps on fixed broadband services. Check with your provider if you aren’t sure if this applies to you.
  • You could now be offered a new package to help you stay connected. Some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from home phones or mobiles. Contact your provider to see if you could benefit from this.

Help with your TV licence

TV Licensing have taken steps to help if you are struggling to pay your TV licence.

  • If you are unable to keep up with payments, call them on 0300 555 0300 to see how they can help.
  • All arrears letters have stopped being been sent to people who have fallen behind on payments.
  • Collection visits by officers have also been stopped.
  • If you are in financial hardship and urgently need to stop your Direct Debit payments, call them on 0300 790 6068. If you are unable to get through, cancel the Direct Debit with your bank. You will need to make up any payments that you miss later on.

TV Licensing has fewer staff answering calls at the moment so it will more difficult to speak to someone. If you need to make a payment, there are other ways you can try and pay.

Coronavirus and your debts

Credit cards, store cards, personal loans and catalogues

The FCA guidance, which may have meant you could apply for a payment holiday, ended on 31st July 2021.

Contact your lender as soon as possible if you are struggling to make your repayments. Discuss your situation and ask what options are available. Ask you lender how this will affect your credit file.

FCA guidance says that your lender:

  • should take your circumstances into account when discussing a repayment arrangement;
  • should not pressurise you into repaying your debt in an unreasonably short time; and
  • should recognise vulnerability and respond to the needs of vulnerable customers.

For more information, see the FCA’s Consumer Credit and coronavirus: Tailored support for clients.

Step Change Covid Payment Plan (CVPP)

If you are unable to afford your full payments, a CVPP may be an option. Contact us for advice.

Overdrafts

The FCA has confirmed that it expects banks to contact overdraft customers who have received temporary support to determine if they still require assistance. If you need further support or if you ask your bank for help for the first time, the bank should:

  • provide tailored support such as reducing or waiving interest;
  • agree a programme of staged reductions in the overdraft limit; or
  • support you to reduce your overdraft usage by transferring the debt.

Your bank should not reduce your credit limit or suspend or remove an overdraft facility if that reduction, suspension or removal will cause you financial hardship.

Other bank debts

If you are struggling to pay unsecured bank debts that are not covered by the new FCA measures, you can still contact your bank to explain your situation. Each bank will consider what help it may give on a case by case basis. Go to their website to see what help is available. You can also call your bank, but be aware that you may have to wait some time.

Ask you lender how any arrangement that you agree will affect your credit file.

Avoid taking out more credit unless you know that you can afford to pay it back.

If you have debts which are now unaffordable, contact us for advice. While you are waiting to receive the advice you need you can send your creditors a letter asking them to hold action on your account due to coronavirus.

Payday loans, Buy now pay later, rent-to-own, pawnbrokers and motor finance

The FCA guidance, which may have meant you could apply for a payment holiday, ended on 31st July 2021.

If you are unable to make your repayments, you should contact your lender now to discuss your situation and what support is available. Under current FCA guidance, lenders are expected to:

  • provide tailored support which reflects your individual circumstances;

  • offer a range of shorter and longer-term options;

  • not pressurise you into repaying your debt in an unreasonably short period of time;

  • put in place an affordable repayment arrangement which takes into account your wider financial situation, including other debts and essential living expenses; and

  • suspend, reduce , waive or cancel any interest, fees or charges to prevent your balance escalating after a repayment arrangement has been agreed.

    Lenders should be clear on how any repayment arrangements will be recorded on your credit reference file.

Sheriff court fines and hearings

As the courts have temporarily suspended their counter facilities for the payment of fines, you may need to choose another way of paying. For most fines you can use the court online payment system or automated phone system. However, for penalties that need your driving licence to be endorsed, you will need to send your payment and driving licence by post. For more information, see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

If you have missed payments on a fine and can now afford to pay the arrears, do so. If you have financial difficulties and are struggling to pay, contact a Fines Enforcement Officer straightaway. Call 0300 790 0014 and explain your situation.

If you have been told to attend a court hearing, it is important that you attend. However, to avoid an unnecessary journey, we suggest that you contact the court that is dealing with your case to check whether your hearing is going ahead.

Benefit overpayments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped taking action to recover the following benefits for three months:

  • DWP benefit overpayments;
  • tax credit debts being managed by the DWP; and
  • social fund loans.

These overpayments started to be collected again from July 2020.

If you previously repaid by direct debit, you will receive a letter from the DWP before repayments start again. If you stopped the repayment with your bank, you may need to set up the repayments again from July 2020. Speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647 if you are unsure.

If you previously repaid through your wages, the DWP will write to you to see if an alternative repayment plan can be set up. If you previously repaid through your benefits, you will be notified of repayments starting again by a letter or Universal Credit journal entries.

The DWP will also restart other methods of recovery such as using debt collectors.

If you are experiencing financial hardship and think you will struggle to afford the repayments you were previously making, speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.

Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme

Repayments to the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme also started again in July 2020. You’ll be notified by letter and don’t need to do anything. These loans are usually through credit unions or other not-for-profit organisations.

Coronavirus: extra support

Check insurance policies

Check if you have an insurance policy which could increase your income or cover payments on essential items such as your mortgage. Contact the insurer to see what help you may be able to receive. You may have:

  • payment protection insurance;
  • mortgage payment protection insurance; or
  • accident, sickness or unemployment insurance.

Shielding

The Government has issued extra advice for those at the highest risk of Coronavirus. . The mygov.scot website has more information about help you may be able to receive if you are at the highest risk of Coronavirus.

Free school meals

If your child is eligible for free school meals and has to be at home for reasons relating to coronavirus, the school should make sure that they provide you with food parcels. During the coronavirus pandemic the free school meals scheme may run during the school holidays as well as term time. Speak to your child’s school to check that this is being done for you. More detail can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Food banks

If you are struggling to buy food, many food banks are staying open to support people during the coronavirus crisis. However the numbers of sessions are being reduced and you will be given or sent a pre-packed food parcel. You can find your local food bank through The Trussell Trust.

Grants

Many charities offer non-repayable grants to people who are struggling financially. To see if there are any grants which may be able to help you, visit Turn2us.

Council assistance support schemes

In Scotland you can apply for a Crisis Grant. The grant can cover the cost of an emergency, such as an unexpected crisis or a gap in your normal income.

Debt advice

To get personal advice on how to deal with your debts, use our Digital Advice Tool. Tell us about your situation and your debts, and our tool will advise you on the solutions suitable for you.

Visit www.nationaldebtline.org and click ‘Get started’ in the ‘Find debt solutions’ box.