Coronavirus advice and support
This fact sheet covers England & Wales. You will need different advice if you live in Scotland.
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 - extended
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was introduced to prevent the need for your employer to make you redundant. If you’re enrolled on the scheme you would be classed as a furloughed worker, which means you are kept on your employer's payroll, rather than being laid off.
The CJRS will now run until the end of September 2021.
Until the end of June 2021, HMRC will pay 80% of your wage to your employer up to a cap of £2,500. Your employer will need to cover National Insurance and minimum pension contributions.
For July 2021, HMRC will pay 70% of your wage to your employer up to a cap of £2,187.50. Your employer will need to cover National Insurance and minimum pension contributions.
For August and September 2021, HMRC will pay 60% of your wage to your employer up to a cap of £1875. Your employer will need to cover National Insurance and minimum pension contributions.
Your employer can also bring you back to work on part time basis. This will enable your employer to bring you back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, whilst still using the CJRS to claim for the usual hours that you haven’t worked.
To be eligible for the extended CJRS, you will need to have been on your employer payroll by 30th October 2020.
- Your employer will need to agree any hours that they expect you to work with you.
- Your employer should keep a new written agreement that confirms the new furlough arrangement.
- A flexible furlough agreement can last for any amount of time and as many agreements can be entered into as necessary.
- There will be no minimum period for which you have to be furloughed.
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, if you live in England; and
- from 23 October 2020, if you live in Wales.
- you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and have a unique ID number (or you have been notified of exposure by the NHS contact tracing app if you live in Wales);
- 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.
In Wales, from 14 December 2020, you can also claim the payment if you need to take time off work to look after a child who has been formally told to self-isolate. More information can be found on the GOV.WALES website.
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.
- New style Employment and Support Allowance can now be claimed from day one of illness.
- If you are claiming Universal Credit, you can do so without having to attend a jobcentre.
Visit Turn2us for more information about benefits and how to claim them.
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 contributions 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 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 Jobseeker's 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.
From 6 April 2020 the standard allowance in Universal Credit was increased by £20 per week. This increase will continue until the end of September 2021 and apply to new and existing claimants. The exact amount you will receive will depend on your situation.
The basic element in Working Tax Credit was also increased by £20 per week. This has been extended for a further six months and will be paid as a one-off £500 payment. To be eligible for the payment, on 2 March 2021 you would need to have been:
- receiving Working Tax Credit only;
- receiving both Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit; or
- receiving Child Tax Credit and are eligible for Working Tax Credit but do not get a Working Tax Credit payment because your income is too high.
If eligible, you will automatically receive the £500 payment by the end of April 2021.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 has issued several pieces of guidance for requesting a payment holiday if you are affected by coronavirus and struggling to pay your mortgage. The most recent guidance includes the following support.
If you already have an existing payment holiday in place
You can extend your payment holiday up to 31 July 2021, but only if:
- it doesn’t go over the six-month payment holiday limit; and
- there is no break in the support.
The payment holiday will not be recorded on your credit file. However, some lenders may review your bank account if you apply for more credit. As a result, in some cases this could affect their lending decision.
If you have already had a six-month payment holiday or didn’t ask for one before 1 April 2021
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.
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’ve already had six months of payment holidays and you are still unable to afford the payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. Discuss your situation and ask what forbearance options are available. Ask your lender how this will affect your credit file.
Possession action in the courts
FCA guidance also said that while lenders could continue with possession action, they should not have enforced repossession of a property before 1 April 2021. This does not mean that your lender will take court action now. However, if your lender starts new possession action or asks the court to re-start a claim that was previously suspended because of coronavirus, there are extra rules that they need to follow. For more information, see our Mortgage arrears fact sheet.
If your lender is threatening eviction or you have received a notice telling you that you will be evicted, contact:
- Shelter on 0808 800 4444 if you live inEngland;
- Shelter Cymru on 0800 049 5495 if you live in Wales; or
Information is also available on their websites.
Help to Buy customers
You can apply until 31 March 2021 for a payment holiday if you were affected by coronavirus and struggling to pay your Help to Buy equity loan. The Help to Buy website has an online Payment Holiday Application that you can use.
- If you have already had a payment holiday, you may be able to ask for a further three months.
- However, you will not be eligible to apply for another payment holiday if you have already had two payment holidays that total six months.
Interest will continue to be added to your equity loan during a payment holiday.
When an agreed payment holiday ends, loan payments will automatically return to the normal monthly amount. You will need to contact Help to Buy on 0345 848 0236 to discuss how you are going to catch up with the missed payments.
If you are worried about making repayments you should contact Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd on 0800 0937 937 to discuss your situation.
Help with your rent
In March 2020, the Government introduced temporary regulations to protect tenants. The regulations have been updated several times and set out how much notice your landlord must give you before they can start court action to evict you.
In Wales, from 29 September 2020 until 30 September 2021, regulations say that in most cases a landlord must give you six months' notice.
In England, new regulations say the following notice is needed if your landlord wants to end your tenancy because you owe rent.
- From 1 June 2021 to 31 July 2021, in most cases where there is less than four months of rent arrears, a landlord must give you four months' notice.
- From 1 August 2021 to 30 September 2021, in most cases where there is less than four months of rent arrears, a landlord must give you two months' notice.
- From 1 June 2021 to 30 September 2021, if you owe four months or more of rent arrears, in most cases your landlord only needs to give you four weeks’ notice.
In England, from 1 June 2021, if your landlord uses the section 21 process only, you must be given four months’ notice.
The section 21 process can only be used for assured shorthold tenancies. Your landlord does not need to give a reason, such as rent arrears, for asking for the property back. However, your landlord must follow certain rules. Also, they will need a court order and to use court bailiffs to evict you. Check your paperwork. It will tell you the reason that the landlord has used to ask for the property back.
From 27 March 2020 until 20 September 2020 the court service suspended (stayed) most possession action because of coronavirus. This temporary stay has now ended. This does not mean that your landlord will begin court action.
If you cannot afford to pay your rent or already have arrears, contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss your situation.
If your landlord starts new possession action or asks the court to re-start a claim that was previously suspended because of coronavirus, there are extra rules that they need to follow. For more information, see our Rent arrears fact sheet.
If you have received possession claim forms, are being threatened with court action (including eviction) or need extra support, contact:
- Shelter on 0808 800 4444 if you live in England; or
- Shelter Cymru on 0800 049 5495 if you live in Wales.
Information is also available on their websites.
Discretionary Housing Payment
If you claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with help towards housing costs, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. A Discretionary Housing Payment can give you extra money to pay towards your rent. To apply, contact your local council. Check whether you can claim online.
Tenant Saver Loan Scheme
The Tenant Saver Loan Scheme offers loans to certain private sector tenants in Wales to cover rent arrears that have built up since 1 March 2020.
However, the Welsh Government has said that it is introducing the Tenancy Hardship Grant to replace the Tenant Saver Loan Scheme. If you have already received a loan through the Tenant Saver Loan Scheme, your loan will be converted to a grant. You should be contacted later in July 2021 when the new grant scheme starts.
For more information, see the Tenancy Hardship Grant section.
Tenancy Hardship Grant
You may be able to get help from the grant if you:
- are living in private rented accommodation in Wales;
- have fallen behind with your rent by more than eight weeks between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 because of coronavirus reasons; and
- were not receiving housing-related benefits when you built up your rent arrears.
To apply for the grant, contact your local authority. If your application is successful, the local authority will pay the grant to your landlord on your behalf.
For more information, see GOV.Wales.
Coronavirus and your bills
Help with your Council Tax
Councils in England have received guidance from the Government on how they should use new funding to help households in their area.
If you currently get help from the Council Tax Reduction scheme (also called Council Tax Support) and are of working-age, you may see your council tax bill for 2020-2021 reduce by a further £150.
- You do not need to have been directly affected by coronavirus to be eligible
- You do not need to apply to the council for this extra reduction. Councils already have details of households that get help through the Council Tax Reduction scheme and should contact you directly.
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 from your water company
Water companies have agreed to help customers in a variety of ways because of the coronavirus crisis. Water UK has said that companies are:
- stopping new court applications on unpaid bills during the current restrictions, and stopping any enforcement visits;
- actively offering payment breaks or payment holidays for anyone in financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus; and
- adjusting payment plans urgently to help with sudden changes in household finances.
Each water company will have its own scheme, contact them directly to see what help can be provided.
A full list of possible support and more detail can be found on Water UK's website.
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, overdrafts and catalogues
The FCA has issued several pieces of guidance for requesting a payment holiday if you are affected by coronavirus and struggling to pay your credit debts. The most recent guidance applies from 25 November 2020.
- If you have been affected by coronavirus and have not yet had a payment holiday, you are entitled to a six-month payment holiday.
- If you’ve had a payment holiday previously or are currently on a payment holiday, you will be able to extend up to a total of six months.
You have until 31 March 2021 to ask your lender for a payment holiday. After this date, you may also be able to extend your existing payment holiday up to 31 July 2021. However, you cannot go over the six-month limit that the FCA guidance allows. Interest will continue to be added.
The payment holiday will not be recorded on your credit file; however potential lenders may still be able to find out that you didn’t make these payments as originally agreed in other ways, for example, by looking at your bank statements.
If your payment holiday has ended and you can afford to make your regular payments again, do so. You may also need to discuss how you are going to repay any missed payments with your lender.
If you have already had a total of six months payment holidays and you are still unable to afford the payments, contact your lender as soon as possible. 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 have already had six months of payment holidays but still can’t afford your full payments, a CVPP may be an option. Contact us for advice.
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 has announced measures, such as a payment freeze, to help customers in temporary financial difficulty because of coronavirus. You can apply for support outlined below from 25 November 2020.
If you have already had the payment freezes detailed below, or if you expect your financial difficulties to be long term, 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.
If you have a payday loan, the availability of a payment freeze has been extended, however you must apply before 31 March 2021.
- If you have not yet benefited from one, your lender should allow you a one-month payment freeze.
- No interest will be added during this payment freeze.
- The payment freeze will not affect your credit file.
If you have already had a payment freeze and are unable to make up the deferred payment please see our Payday loans fact sheet and contact us for advice.
Buy now pay later, rent-to-own and pawnbroker debts
If you have any of these types of lending, the availability of a payment holiday has been extended until 31 July 2021, however you must apply before 31 March 2021.
- If eligible you can ask for payment holidays of up to six months in total. Payment holidays can be requested up to three months at a time.
- If you have already benefited from a payment holiday, you can request a further holiday up to a maximum of six months.
- The payment freeze will not affect your credit file.
- Interest will continue to be added during the payment holiday.
After the payment holiday ends, you should be allowed to repay the deferred payment in an affordable way.
If you have been granted a payment holiday, the firm should extend the redemption period for that item. If the redemption period has already ended, the firm should agree not to sell the item and suspend any sale for the payment deferral period.
If you are having payment difficulties due to coronavirus but have not been granted a payment deferral, the firm could still consider extending the redemption period. If the redemption period has already ended, the firm could still agree not to sell the item and suspend any sale. The firm can take these steps if they think it is likely that you'll still be able to recover the item.
Buy now pay later
If you have been granted a payment holiday and your agreement is within its interest-free promotional period, this should be extended to cover the period of the payment holiday.
Rent to own
If you have been granted a payment holiday, firms should continue to allow you to rely on insurance and warranties during the payment holiday or extended agreement.
If you have motor finance, the availability of a payment holiday has been extended until 31 July 2021, however you must apply before 31 March 2021.
- If you were up to date until coronavirus caused you temporary difficulty in paying, you should be given a three-month payment break if this is the best option for you. You may still be asked to make a token payment of £1.
- If you have already been given a three-month payment break, you can ask for another payment break of up to three months. You can still ask for your second payment deferral after 31 March 2021, but your payments cannot be deferred beyond 31 July 2021.
- This should not affect your credit files unless you need more help, for example, if interest on the payments needs to be frozen. Potential lenders may still be able to find out that you didn’t make these payments as originally agreed in other ways though, for example, by looking at your bank statements.
- Your lender should not normally repossess goods if they know that you need to use them and are only experiencing temporary financial difficulty because of coronavirus. This guidance about repossessing goods is currently in place until 31 January 2021. From 31 January, lenders will be allowed to repossess goods and vehicles but only as a last resort.
The rules which bailiffs in England and Wales have to comply with were updated due to coronavirus. While the coronavirus lockdown restrictions were in place, bailiffs were not allowed to take control of goods at residential premises or on highways.
Bailiffs can legally resume entering and taking control of goods in people's homes from 3 December 2020.
Magistrates' court hearings
Magistrates' courts are limiting the number of cases that are being heard. If you have been told to attend a magistrates' 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.
If you have questions about an outstanding magistrates’ court fine, you should contact the National Compliance and Enforcement Service by emailing NCESBCT@justice.gov.uk or by calling 0300 123 9252.
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.
Clinically extremely vulnerable
The Government has released new guidance for individuals who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
In England, if you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, extra support may be available to you. Contact your council if you need urgent help getting essential supplies and cannot rely on supermarket deliveries, family, friends or neighbours
In Wales, the Government has also provided guidance for individuals who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. The guidance also has a list of organisations which may be able to help you in a variety of areas such as mental health and employment.
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.
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.
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
If you live in England you can apply to the welfare assistance scheme, each council runs their own scheme. Vouchers can be given to help pay for day-to-day essentials such as a hot meal, furniture or household appliances. Contact your local council to see if they can benefit from the scheme.
If you live in Wales you can apply for an Emergency Assistance Payment. The payment can help cover the cost of food, clothing, gas, electric and emergency travel.
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.