Financial support and guidance for individuals
In this section
- COVID-19 Support Grant scheme
- Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme
- Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit
- Other changes to welfare benefits
- Help with rent and council tax
- Council Tax Discretionary Hardship Fund
- Support on mortgage, loans and credit cards
The government has awarded money to the council, as part of the COVID-19 Support Grant scheme, to provide support to vulnerable households and families with children particularly affected by the pandemic.
The funding will be used to help those struggling to primarily meet the cost of food and utility bills. As school holidays can be a particularly challenging time for families, anyone with children eligible for benefits-related free school meals will receive a COVID-19 Support Grant scheme.
As of Monday 16 August, under-18s and people who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate when identified as a close contact and, therefore, will not be eligible for a support payment, unless they test positive for COVID-19.
Who is eligible?
If you receive a positive COVID-19 test result or are told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate because of close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you may be eligible for a £500 lump sum payment.
The government has announced the Test and Trace Support Payment for people on a low income who must self-isolate for 10 days and cannot work from home during this period.
To be eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment, you must be a resident in Hillingdon and meet all of the following requirements:
- have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because you've tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has (if you have been identified as a close contact you are only eligible if you have not been vaccinated or only received 1 dose of the double vaccination)
- have been asked to self-isolate within 14 days of receiving your full vaccination
- be employed or self-employed
- be unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
- must be currently receiving one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-related Employment Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
The scheme is not to assist people who have a reduced income due to furlough unless they also meet all of the above eligible criteria.
If you are not receiving 1 of these 7 benefits and all of the other points apply, but you are on a low income and self-isolation will cause you hardship, you may still be entitled under Hillingdon's Discretionary Scheme. The qualifying criteria for this is:
- you are on a low income with no recourse to public funds (low income defined as less than £250 a week)
- you are awaiting the outcome of your application for 1 of the above qualifying benefits
- you have an outstanding appeal against a decision not to award 1 of the qualifying benefits
Please note: The discretionary fund is a cash limited pot of money allocated by the Department of Health and Social Care. When the funds are all allocated, no more awards will be made.
Individuals who qualify and who meet the criteria will be entitled to a £500 lump sum payable into their bank account. These payments will be subject to income tax but not National Insurance contributions.
Government guidance states the payments will only be eligible for positive COVID-19 results from Monday 28 September 2020 onwards (not before) until the scheme ends on Thursday 30 September 2021. Eligible people will be able to claim for each period of self-isolation.
To apply, you must provide:
- your 8-digit NHS Test and Trace reference
- a copy of the NHS Test and Trace notification you received. This can be a photo of the letter or email, but it must clearly show the date you received the notification and the Test and Trace ID
- a copy of your latest bank statement (issued in the last 2 months). This can be a photo but must clearly show proof of earnings
- proof of self-employment, such as a recent business bank statement (issued in the last 2 months), most recent set of accounts or evidence of self-assessment returns
- to consent to us verifying your loss of income, this may be by contacting your employer
- your National Insurance number
Who is not eligible?
You will not be eligible for the support payment if you:
- are quarantining after travelling abroad (unless you test positive during the 10-day quarantine period)
- continue to receive full wages while you self-isolate
- can work from home during a period of self-isolation
- are no longer required to self-isolate (your period of self-isolation ended before the Test and Trace Support Payment launched on 28 September 2020)
- have not received a notification from NHS Test and Trace telling you to self-isolate
- have been fully vaccinated against Covid 19 unless you test positive
The scheme has been extended to parents or guardians of a child/young person who has tested positive and been asked to self-isolate, they are able to claim the test and trace payment if they need to stay at home to take care of the child.
The applicant must meet the criteria below.
- They are employed or self-employed.
- They cannot work from home while undertaking caring responsibilities and will lose income as a result.
- They meet all the other means-tested eligibility criteria for a Test and Trace Support Payment or locally determined criteria for a discretionary payment.
- Their child or young person is aged 15 or under (or 25 or under with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC)) and normally attends an education or childcare setting.
- The child or young person has tested positive and been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.
Applications that overlap
A parent or guardian can claim the support payment more than once, provided their child or young person's self-isolation periods do not overlap. This applies irrespective of whether the parent or guardian is claiming for themselves, twice for the same child, or for two different children.
How to apply
You can apply online for Test and Trace and Discretionary payments. An assisted service to help you apply is available.
We are only able to accept an application that is received within 42 days following the 1st day of your self-isolation period starting. Any applications received after this period will be refused.
Please email email@example.com for any enquiries. If you require help and support in completing an application, please call us on 0203 949 5786.
What happens next?
We will review your application and carry out the necessary checks with the Department for Work and Pensions, for verification purposes and NHS Test and Trace to confirm your self-isolation status.
If we are able to verify your eligibility, you will receive this payment via BACS transfer. This payment will be for £500 and is subject to tax. However, you will not be taxed at the point of payment and will be contacted by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at a later date.
You may face prosecution if you have manipulated or falsified your position in order to obtain these payments, including failure to self-isolate, which puts others at risk. Any payment made as a result of fraud may be subject to claw back, as well as any grants paid in error.
Failure to comply with these requirements may result in a fine of up to £10,000.
If you are too ill to work, you can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
If you are self-isolating because of the coronavirus, you can now claim SSP. This was applicable from Friday 13 March and includes individuals who are caring for people self-isolating in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.
In addition, there has been a further relaxation of the Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed claimants affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus, ensuring their Universal Credit award will increase to reflect their lower earnings.
To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay for more information.
- When does SSP apply?
The government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to self isolate because of the coronavirus. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March. You should talk to your employer if you are eligible for SSP and need to claim.
- Do I need a sick note
From Friday 20 March onwards, those who have the coronavirus or are advised to self-isolate will be able to obtain an "isolation note" by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor. For coronavirus cases this replaces the usual need to provide a 'fit note' after 7 days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will also be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.
Extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those who are self-isolating and those in the same household caring for self-isolaters - payable from day 1 not day 4.
Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will now be available from day 1 not day 8 for eligible people unable to work because they are directly affected by the coronavirus or self-isolating.
Who to contact: your employer or Jobcentre Plus
- What if I am self-employed or not eligible for SSP?
If you are not eligible for SSP - for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week - and you have the coronavirus or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.
For more information on how to claim, visit the Universal Credit webpage and Employment and Support Allowance page.
- What if I am self-employed and receiving Universal Credit?
If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit and you have the coronavirus or are advised to self-isolate, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change took effect on 13 March and will last for the duration of the outbreak, to ensure that self-employed Universal Credit claimants will receive support.
Who to contact: If you need to claim Universal Credit but have the coronavirus or are self-isolating, you will now be able to claim and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus. Please visit the DWP website for more information.
If you are eligible for style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have the coronavirus or are advised to self-isolate.
On Monday 6 April, there was an increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element of £86.67 per month (equal to £20 a week) for one year. This measure will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and is in addition to the planned annual uprating in benefits in line with CPI of 1.7%. Universal Credit is administered by the DWP and Working Tax Credit by HMRC.
Assistance with council tax
The Council Tax Reduction (CTR) Scheme helps those in difficulties reduce their council tax payments, and the government has made available extra support to those already in receipt of this reduction. Existing recipients could receive an additional sum of up to £150 towards reducing their council tax payments.
There is no need to apply for this extra help if you already receive council tax reduction - the £150 reduction has been applied to existing claimants' bills and will be applied automatically for new claimants.
For residents not currently in receipt of CTR, you can check if you would be eligible below.
The government announced in the Budget on Wednesday 11 March that it would provide local authorities in England with £500 million of grant funding to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area.
If you are not entitled to help through either of these schemes, we will look sympathetically on residents struggling with payments, treating each resident individually with regard to their circumstances. The first option considered will be extending the standard 10-month instalment plan to 12 months or delaying the start of payments until other benefits or government support comes into payment. In some cases the help may involve reviewing income and expenditure details to develop a suitable payment plan which will be reviewed regularly.
Discretionary Housing Payments
In addition to council tax, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are payments that can be awarded on top of housing benefit and Universal Credit, and provide support with rent deposits and/or rent in advance and shortfalls in rent and/or rent arrears.
Universal Credit has replaced a variety of benefits previously offered and is a payment to help with your living costs. You may be able to get it if you are on a low income or out of work. The application for Universal Credit is done through the government website and can be accessed through the DWP website.
Housing benefits can help you pay your rent if you are unemployed, on a low income or claiming benefits.
Assistance with rents
Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates that are used to decide Universal Credit and housing benefit for private renters increased on Wednesday 1 April. In most of the country, the rates will be set at the 30th percentile of market rents. LHA rates are set by geographical areas known as Broad Market Rental Areas (BMRA). Most of Hillingdon is covered by the Outer West London BMRA.
The local housing allowance rate is set according to the number of bedrooms your household needs.
This increase is in addition to any support provided by local authorities through Discretionary Housing Payments.
Please note that you will not need to contact the council as we will update the relevant resident's benefit entitlement automatically once more detailed government guidance is received.
- If you wish to claim assistance with your rent or general living expenses, please contact the DWP for more information.
- If you are of working age, help with rent is part of Universal Credit. You claim Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions rather than from the council. Rules have been temporarily relaxed for anyone making a new claim and advance payments are available whilst a claim is being decided.
More information on universal credit can be found on the DWP website.
- If you are in supported accommodation, temporary accommodation or are a pensioner and you require help with rent via Housing Benefit (general living expenses are still dealt with by the DWP), for benefits queries - visit our benefits pages or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are experiencing financial difficulties in meeting your mortgage repayments because of the coronavirus, you may be entitled to a mortgage or rental holiday for 3 months. This includes landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of the coronavirus.
If you are a tenant experiencing financial difficulties because of the coronavirus, the government will ensure you do not face the threat of eviction for at least 3 months:
- The government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer repayment holidays of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to the coronavirus.
- This will also apply to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of the coronavirus.
- The offer of a payment holiday can be made available to customers who are up to date with payments and not already in arrears.
Who to contact: Customers who are concerned about their current financial situation should contact their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for them.
- Emergency legislation will be taken forward so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3-month period. This applies to private and social renters.
- At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants' individual circumstances.
Who to contact: If your landlord is not abiding by the rules, please contact our Housing team on 01895 556666
If you are experiencing difficulties paying back personal loans or credit card bills as a result of the coronavirus, you should read the following information:
- The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account their individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect.
- If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score.
Who to contact: If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender.
Discount scheme for over-65s
We offer a discount scheme on council tax for households where the taxpayer or their partner is aged 65 or over.
For more information
In order to ensure the continuity of services provided, by making sure that our staff remain healthy, please go online in the first instance:
- for council tax queries - visit our council tax pages or email email@example.com
- for benefits queries - visit our benefits pages or email firstname.lastname@example.org