This information is being regularly updated in line with latest Government guidance and advice. The content of this page was checked and updated on 3 April 2020.

The spread of coronavirus may be having an impact on your work and benefits. It's important to rely on reputable sources of information for what this might mean for you. Information is changing frequently so check regularly - www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Please note ...If you are an extremely vulnerable person you can  register for extra support in relation to coronavirus, you can register on gov.uk

Please make sure you access the range of support that is being made available by the government before you access crisis services; however, if there are delays in accessing these financial support measures help with food and fuel is available via Sunderland City Council, Sunderland Foodbank and some other smaller local providers.

Details of foodbank opening times / distribution points are on Sunderland Information Point.

https://www.sunderlandinformationpoint.co.uk/kb5/sunderland/directory/results.page?adultchannel=6_4

For more information on the Councils Scheme see https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/crisis-support

Please note Gentoo also provide a crisis support scheme for their own tenants.

Protect yourself from scammers

Trading Standards are warning residents to be vigilant during the COVID-19 crisis and protect themselves from scammers. There are cases reported throughout the country where vulnerable people have been tricked into handing over bank cards, money and other personal details in the belief that they will be used only to obtain essential items like food and medication. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case.

Our advice is to never provide bank details or bank cards to anyone and seek any help you need from family and friends wherever you can. If this isn't an option for you and you are self-isolating, help is available from the Council's COVID-19 hub.

If you think you may have been the victim of a scam like this, report it to us through the consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

If you're looking for work

Many employers are looking for new staff as a result of the COVID19 crisis, please follow the find a job link if you are interested in looking for employment. https://www.gov.uk/find-a-job

The DWP want claimants to continue to look for work and  urge claimants to explore opportunities where able to do so. Their Twitter feed @JCPinNTW continues to post those key worker jobs across our region and they encourage people to follow that feed.

If you're already claiming benefits

The Department for Work and Pensions will provide reliable up to date information

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses

Jobcentre Plus will be taking a pragmatic approach to the situation and the difficulties some of their customer may face accessing IT for job search - claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness.

JSA customers who were required to attend a Jobcentre Plus in order to receive their fortnightly payments, will no longer have to attend, and payments will be made to customers as normal, this has been extended for appointments for at least 3 months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020.

If you already have an assessment appointment arranged for another benefit claim, you do not need to attend.

When claimants tell the Department for Work & Pensions in good time that they are staying at home or that they have been diagnosed with coronavirus, they will not be sanctioned.

From 24 March Job Centres have announced additional measures to reduce unnecessary travel, increase social distancing, protect their customers and staff - and ensure payments can be made as quickly as possible:

  • Face-to-face is reduced to an absolute minimum with offices being closed to all but most vulnerable people whose claims/transactions can't be completed through any other method
  • Strict social distancing measures will be in place
  • Signs will be placed in Job Centre windows asking everyone to claim online and/or over the phone but with a number on the sign for those that need to speak to a colleague in the Job Centre instead

The Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element will be raised by £1,000 a year, for the next 12 months.

If you need to make a new claim for financial support

You still can  - find out how to claims by calling  Job Centre on 0800 055 6688 Textphone: 0800 023 4888

Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month's advance up front without physically attending a job Centre.

The 7 waiting days for Employment Support Allowance for new claimants will not apply if you are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home - so it will be payable from day.

People who need to claim New Style Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note. Instead of completing a claim form for New Style ESA please advise our customers to ring 0800 328 5644 and an agent will take the claim over the phone.

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/  

https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

If you're self employed

Self -employed workers can apply to have a direct cash grant of 80% of their profits, up to £2,500 per month for at least 3 months.

You can apply if you're a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
  • half of your income comes from self-employment

Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000

You cannot apply for this scheme yet - HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-gives-support-to-millions-of-self-employed-individuals

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-schemehttps://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

Please note

  • You can continue to work as you receive the support
  • The grants will be taxable and will need to be declared on tax returns by Jan 2022
  • Company owners who pay themselves a dividend are not covered
  • Any payments are not expected until June

It may also be wise to contact your bank at this time to see if any overdraft can be extended

Tax Issues & Queries

HMRC has set up a helpline 0800 015 9559 to support businesses and self-employed individuals concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus.

An additional telephone number has been provided for HMRC: 0800 024 1222

The next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021.

If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020- you will need to do this to qualify for the cash grant, noted above.

Self-Assessment income tax payments due in July 2020 and VAT payments due from March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

https://www.gov.uk/difficulties-paying-hmrc

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

If you cannot wait until June

You should look to claim Universal Credit and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend Job Centre Plus. If awarded the Universal Credit rate is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

If you have an overdraft with your bank

Some banks have scrapped overdraft fees and others have introduced new interest free buffers. For more information contact your bank.

If you are employed and worried about being finished from your job or having to work short hours

If you cannot work , Statutory Sick Pay will be available from day 1 rather than day 4.

A new Job Retention scheme is being set up to cover the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month. This scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st, and open initially for at least 3 months.

Your employer may apply for this grant, and employers are also able to top up salaries further if they choose to.

The employer will then have to claim the money via an HMRC portal that is to be set up.

Those engaged in work will have to agree to change their contract and will become furloughed workers.

If you're on a zero-hours contract, you will be able to access Universal Credit and the new Employment Support Allowance.

For residents who have been subject to the Benefit Cap, and a job ends, or when earnings reduce below the monthly earnings threshold the Grace Period (when the Benefit Cap will not be applied for 9 months) still applies. If you are capped seek advice immediately.

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/government-publishes-further-details-of-its-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay- New eligibility calculator

https://www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking

If you are a business owner

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will support lenders to offer loans up to £5m with no interest due for six months:

  • Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but who are 'furloughed', and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off
  • All employer across the UK - small or large, charitable or non-profit - will be eligible for the scheme
  • The government grant will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month, with employers being able to top up salaries further if they choose to
  • Support with the cost of wages will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and will initially be available for at least three months, with the option for the scheme to be extended if necessary
  • If any of your employees have a zero-hours contract, please let them know they'll be able to access Universal Credit and the new Employment Support Allowance
  • If you employ fewer than 250 employees, you will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. other government support for businesses

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

If you're off sick or told to stay home because of coronavirus or you need to look after dependents

Different Employers may have different rules, so please speak to your employer and check out the guidance below.

If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online, instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor. For more information on how to obtain this note go to https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/

Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020 after regulations were laid on 12 March 2020 - employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/checking-your-employment-contract

New guidance on employees working in the critical sector - classed as key workers has been published.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rules-on-carrying-over-annual-leave-to-be-relaxed-to-support-key-industries-during-covid-19

If you're worried about any impact on your finances

There are some good sources of money advice and support if you're worried about any impact on your finances.

Check with your bank or building society to see if the two changes to the bank interest rate affects your monthly payments

Citizens Advice https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/

Stepchange 0800 138 1111 https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/coronavirus-affecting-finances.aspx

Money Advice & Pensions Service 0800 138 7777 www.moneyandpensionsservice.org.uk  

Money Advice Service https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/coronavirus-and-your-money

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/coronavirus

National Debtline  0808 808 4000  https://www.nationaldebtline.org/

If you rent your home and are worried about being evicted or own your home and worried about mortgage repayments

Under new legislation, all new evictions will be suspended, and no new possession proceedings will be permitted during the period of this national emergency.

Changes and disregards to Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-housing-allowance-lha-rates-applicable-from-april-2020-to-march-2021

https://england.shelter.org.uk/legal/housing_options/covid19_emergency_measures/benefits_and_income

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-chancellor-rishi-sunak-provides-an-updated-statement-on-coronavirus

Mortgage lenders will support customers who are experiencing financial difficulties by giving them mortgage holidays for up to 3 months. Contact your lender.

If you are worried about not being able to pay your Council Tax

The government has announced a new £500 million Hardship Fund so local councils can financially support people. Sunderland Council have announced the following additional financial support for residents.

The support for  working age residents, will be based on those residents who receive support via the Council's existing Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme.

The LCTS scheme is based on a claimant's specific financial circumstances, so the support will differ from case to case.

The extended scheme will start on 1 April 2020 and will provide up to £150 of extra supportIf you are an existing recipient of LCTS and your financial position has not changed, you do not need to claim this additional support

The Council  are currently working to re-issue council tax bills for all 20,000 current working age claimants on the LCTS who will benefit. Additionally, the council will not collect Direct Debit payments from all working age residents who receive LCTS during April 2020 - in respect of the 2020/21 council tax charge. Please note that Direct Debit payment arrangements already in place for previous years will still be collected as normal.

If you currently receive LCTS and your circumstances have changed OR if you think you will now be eligible for LCTS, please make a claim soon as possible. Details can be found at: https://www.sunderland.gov.uk/housing-benefit-council-tax-support

If you are worried about paying your energy costs

The Government has agreed measures with energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19 - including proposal to ensure vulnerable customers who may fall into debt remain supplied with energy while in self-isolation and to ensure no one faces any additional hardships in heating or lightening their home during the outbreak

Importantly, the government has also asked energy suppliers not to disconnect anyone on a credit meter during the outbreak.

Some of the measures include:

  • nominating a third party for credit top up
  • referring customers to 3 rd party debt organizations for support
  • being sent a pre-loaded top up card so that their supply is not interrupted
  • debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended

For more information please contact your supplier and look at the information below.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-agrees-measures-with-energy-industry-to-support-vulnerable-people-through-covid-19

If you have a prepayment meter, these links will be useful.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/problems-with-your-energy-supply/problems-getting-to-or-topping-up-your-prepayment-meter/

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/energy-firms-move-to-help-customers-unable-to-top-up-due-to-coro/

If you were entitled to free school meals for your children

Schools will continue to provide free school meals to eligible pupils, this may be a hot or cold meal in school (for thus still attending) or a meal or food parcel delivered or collected.

From 31 March 2020 a national scheme to provide supermarket vouchers online has been launched where schools who have selected to use the scheme , can send a redemption eCode from the system directly to the parent or carers of the pupil(s) eligible or choose a supermarket voucher for those you have no access to an email address or the internet. You should check with your child's school regarding the arrangements that have been made. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools

If you have costs associated with your car

Your car, van or motorcycle's MOT expiry date will be extended by 6 months if it's due on or after 30 March 2020 - but you must keep your vehicle safe to drive. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-mots-for-cars-vans-and-motorcycles-due-from-30-march-2020

PLEASE NOTE THIS INFORMATION IS CHANGING DAILY SO PLEASE KEEP CHECKING

If you wish to speak to someone locally about your circumstances, there are several organisations in the city you can telephone, but they are reporting high levels of demand so please bear with them when you call, the lines may be engaged.

Sunderland Welfare Rights Service are also able to advise via email.

Local providerContact details

Sunderland Welfare Rights Service

0191 520 5555

Email welfare.rights@sunderland.gov.uk

Shiney Advice and Resource Project

Washington & Coalfields areas

07477875783

s.copley@shineyadvice.org.uk

Sunderland West Advice Project

West area

07768985074

swap@pallionactiongroup.co.uk

 

Citizens Advice Sunderland

North & East areas

0300 330 1194

Dedicated debt line on 0191 415 8998

enquires@citizensadvicesunderland.co.uk

FISCUS07983 355 212   City wide
Christians Against Poverty0800 328 0006   City wide