Financial wellbeing during the pandemic

 

During these worrying times, your financial well-being is also important. Many households experiencing a reduction in their income, unexpected childcare, home schooling, self-isolation and social distancing.

 

If you are struggling financially there are options available to reduce outgoings or contribute to household income.

 

We thought we would put together this overview of help and guidance which may be available to help our members through these difficult times.

 

Please remember, if you think you might struggle to meet your Hoot loan repayments, contact us immediately so we can discuss your individual circumstances. More details here

Housing and Energy Bills

Housing and Energy Bills

Mortgage Payment Holiday

 

If keeping up with your bills and food on the table may be a challenge, speak to your mortgage provider. Many banks have agreed to offer ‘forbearance’ (tolerance and help) on mortgages, giving customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time. Find out more here.

 

Top tip – If you are going to apply for a mortgage holiday, it’s best to do it online where possible, as phone lines are likely to have huge backlogs.

 

Help for Renters too

 

If you are struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus outbreak you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a repayment plan. As well as universal credit housing help, new rules mean landlords in England & Wales won’t be able to start new eviction proceedings for at least the next 3 months,. Find out more here.

 

The government has increased Local Housing Allowance. If you already get Housing Benefit, you should get more.

 

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, check to see what you’re eligible for. If you’re now out of work or your income is now much less, you may be entitled to Universal Credit or Housing Benefit.

 

Check with your local council to see what you can get.

 

I’m worried I’ll be evicted

 

The government has passed emergency legislation that means landlords can’t start the eviction process for at least three months.

 

This is not an eviction ban. It just means landlords have to wait longer before they can get the ball rolling. They won’t be able to start now until the middle of June.

 

While this does give tenants some breathing space, it doesn’t protect them indefinitely.

 

It’s currently not clear how the government will protect tenants once these three months are over.

 

Council Tax help

 

Many councils are offering help to residents who are struggling to pay their council tax because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is being done on a council-by-council basis, so contact your local authority. Bear in mind though that you’ll still have to pay the full amount over the year, so when you start paying again your bill each month will be bigger than normal.

Loans and Credit

Loans and Credit

Have a Hoot loan?

 

The Financial Conduct Authority has released new guidance so banks and lenders are able to give customers who are struggling a three month break from payments. This does not include credit unions.

 

If you are experiencing financial difficulties and have an outstanding Hoot loan, please contact us at the earliest opportunity to discuss your situation.

 

If I don’t pay my loan, will it harm my credit score?

 

If you have an agreement with us, such as a repayment holiday, it won’t affect your credit score. If you miss a payment without an agreement in place, it will be treated as a missed payment and could harm your score. That’s why it is important to contact us if you think you are going to struggle to repay your loan.

 

If you make sure that you speak to us to discuss an arrangement, it’ll make it easier when things go back to normal. With a good credit score, you can get the credit you need when you need it, improve your financial footing, and move on up to a better future.

 

Other lenders

 

Most lenders have help in place to help if you are struggling with repayments due to the coronavirus. Options include payment holidays, debt restructuring & waiving fees for missed loan payments. Contact the lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation.

 

It’s important to know that interest will still be added to your balance, so your balance will increase when you resume payments after the break.

 

If you’re struggling with payments and want to apply for the three month break, contact your lender as soon as possible. Banks and lenders are likely to be much busier than usual, so it may take a while to get a response. Please remember that this scheme does not apply to credit unions.

 

 

 

Credit Cards

 

Credit card companies have a range of options to help those struggling due to the coronavirus. Help includes waived fees for missed payments, lower interest payments, temporarily increase credit card limits and in some cases a payment holiday of up to 3 months. So if you’re struggling, get in contact with the credit card provider and discuss the best option for you.

Wages and Benefits

Wages and Benefits

What happens if I’m self-isolating?

 

If you’re self-isolating, you should be entitled to your usual, contractual sick pay from your employer.

 

 

What is the rate of statutory sick pay (SSP)?

 

You qualify for SSP if you normally earn over £118 a week. If you have symptoms of coronavirus you will get £94.25 a week of SSP. SSP is now payable from your first day sick, not the fourth.

 

What if I’m self-employed and self-isolating?

 

For those self-employed, you can make a claim for Universal Credit and ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance. Check the government websites for more details.

 

 

Do I still get paid if where I work is closed during this period?

 

If you’re currently not working because your company has temporarily closed, the government has confirmed you can get 80% of your wages, capped at £2,500 a month. Wages will be backdated to March 1st.

 

You will get this if you’re a worker in a PAYE system, even on a zero hour contract.

 

My child’s school is closed

 

If you’re a key worker (NHS, emergency services, supermarket worker), you can send your children to school. You can see a full list of key workers here.

 

If you need to take time off to look after your children at home, you should talk to your employer about your options. Parents are entitled to take time off in this situation, but this may not all be paid.

 

What about Universal Credit and benefits?

 

Universal Credit is available for those on a low income (there is no longer a minimum) and who are unemployed. The amount has been increased due to the coronavirus.

 

The amount you get depends on various factors, such as age and if you live with anyone. You can apply for Universal Credit on the government website, but the process may take longer than usual.

 

I already claim Universal Credit and Housing Benefit

 

If you claim the Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you should also see an increase, as this is going up in line with rent costs.

Household Bills

 

Energy bill help

 

Energy suppliers are offering some help to those who may struggle to pay bills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. All energy providers have suspended disconnections and most are also pushing back bill dates for those struggling financially. Find out more here.

 

I have a prepayment meter — how do I top up?

 

If you’re a vulnerable adult or are self-isolating, Ofgem recommends you choose someone you trust to top up your meter. You’ll need to hand over your top-up card or key to do this. Make sure you keep the recommended two metres distance apart when doing so.

 

If you have a smart meter, you might be able to top up online or via an app. Plus, some energy companies can post you prepaid top-up cards and keys.

Get in touch with your energy supplier to see if either of these options are possible

 

Water bill help

 

Water companies in England and Wales have stepped up efforts to help customers who have lost their jobs or had their incomes cut during the coronavirus crisis. The companies are encouraging households with immediate or short-term issues paying their bills to get in contact so that they can receive help.

Car Repayments help

 

If you can’t afford to pay for your car due to coronavirus, speak to your finance provider. Some lenders will be happier to assist than others, but you might well be offered some solutions to make the payments more manageable and allow you to keep the car. For example, they could allow you to defer the payments for a short period of time, or they might be willing to extend the period of the loan to reduce the cost of the monthly payments.

 

Can’t get a MOT?

 

Drivers who have an MOT due from Monday 30 March will be automatically granted a six-month extension because of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, if your vehicle’s MOT was due to expire on 3 April, it will now run out on 3 October. However you will still have to keep your car in a roadworthy condition and garages will remain open for those needing repairs.

Media and subscriptions

 

I can’t pay my TV licence

 

Contact TV licencing directly if you are struggling to pay and they can try and help. They have a reduced team so it may take longer to get through.

If you are self-isolating and can’t make a payment at a PayPoint, it’s possible to make payments online and via phone.

Licence fee charges for over 75s have been delayed until August.

 

Sky Sports Customers

 

With most live sport suspended, Sky Sports customers can now ‘pause’ their subscription – which means you can stop paying for the time being. You can do this online – log in to your account and go to the Pause Sky Sports page. While your account is paused, you will still have access to all 11 Sky Sports channels. As soon as live sports returns, Sky says it will automatically reinstate your subscription.

 

BT Sports Customers

 

BT Sport has now said its customers can get a bill credit for one month. This will cover both the basic subscription and any HD add-on. Alternatively you can choose for BT to donate your credit to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Find out more here.

 

Mobile Phone Contracts

 

Mobile phone users are being offered extra data and free calls by some firms to help them keep in touch during the pandemic. Visit your mobile providers website for further information. With Three, for example, visiting the NHS website for the latest health advice and updates will not count towards your data allowance.

 

Other Subscriptions

 

Many companies are letting members freeze subscriptions for services unavailable due to coronavirus restrictions. For example, PureGym is letting members freeze membership for free for one month and Odeon Cinemas are automatically stopping payments for those with Odeon Limitless membership. Check company websites for more information.