Along with the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak, there are compelling socio-economic pressures for people and families, many of whom are facing serious financial and wider difficulties.
There are various sources of help, much of which is set out below.
For the purposes of this Blog, the provisions discussed are UK-centric. There may be equivalent support programmes available for other jurisdictions, for which internet searches will help identify.
Coronavirus Act 2020 (UK)
Help and support has become available to those struggling during this current lockdown and many additional resources were made possible by the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which has been extended to provide for changing circumstances throughout the pandemic.
In this unprecedented time for society, many members and their families globally are facing new and extreme challenges. Individual jurisdictions may have provisions for health and welfare that vary broadly to reflect the specifics of each.
In addition to the central Government support for employees e.g. furlough, the UK State Benefits system has been refined in a way that creates a better ‘fit’ with the often time-critical factors for claiming and receiving financial support.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for example, is now paid from the first day of sickness to employees. Self-employed people unable to work, would potentially be eligible to claim Universal Credit.
In all cases of new claims for State Benefit there will be no requirement to attend appointments (Job Centres) or any face-to-face assessments or reviews in person.
Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits have been automatically increased for all existing claimants, by £20 each week (for one year only – concluding 30 April 2021).
Additionally, support for rent via either Housing Benefit or Universal Credit has been adjusted to at least 30% of commercial, local market rents.
Find out more information on the Citizens Advice Bureau’s website.
Financial problems brought about by the outbreak and the impact of lockdowns have created major pressure-points for millions in maintaining monthly payments for mortgage/rent and other liabilities. Government has set legislation in place to help protect security of tenure for tenants, while prohibiting recovery action for mortgage/rent arrears (through to April 2021).
Notwithstanding Government measures to help protect households from the immediate impact of the outbreak/lockdowns (reduced household income, arrears of regular bills), there is no doubt that many households are likely to be under serious pressure to pay bills for which they have insufficient regular household income to keep up to date with payments.
There are some excellent, free sources of expert support and guidance in relation to coping with financial pressures, accrued debts and most importantly, how best to negotiate affordable payment terms with creditors at this time.
www.stepchange.org: An excellent online resource for anyone with concerns about managing their household budget and finding a way to balance household living costs with paying regular bills. Also, very effective in helping to reach an agreement with creditors due to loss/reduction of regular income.
www.nationaldebtline.org: Online support for helping people with balancing household budgets, achieving manageable repayment arrangements and dealing with arrears.
CIOB Benevolent Fund
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Disclaimer: This Blog content is intended as an outline guide only and should not be regarded as an authoritative interpretation of Statutory provisions. Links to relevant, external resources are provided for the purpose of helping guide members to good sources of information. Always seek advice in relation to individual concerns.