How to access support in Scotland if you have been affected by COVID-19
In the last few months, both the UK and Scottish Governments have made multiple announcements on the financial and other support available for people, businesses and charities affected by COVID-19.
This document aims to pull together all that information in a single place.
In addition, we urge everyone to follow the latest medical advice at www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus.
Please note that this information is correct as of 20 May 2020 and may be subject to further updates as the situation develops.
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(Last updated 7th May 2020)
If you're worried about losing your job:
- For the first time in history, the UK government is stepping in to help pay people’s wages – paying grants to support as many jobs as necessary.
- Grants will be paid to any employers who retain their staff. Any employer in the country – large, small, charitable or for-profit – who promises to retain their staff, will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are kept on payroll, rather than being laid off.
- Employees who were on the payroll on 19 March or earlier are eligible. The UK Government has extended the cut off period for those eligible for support.
- Grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – which is above the average income. The cost of wages will be backdated to 1 March and will be open initially for at least three months – and the UK Government will extend the scheme for longer if necessary.
- Employers will be free to top up the remaining 20 per cent, but this is not mandatory.
- There will be no limit on the number or total value of grants paid out.
- The UK Government will also cover the cost of National Insurance and pension contributions. Employer contributions for furloughed staff will be paid by the UK Government on top of 80 per cent of salary costs. This could save businesses an extra £300 a month for each employee under the scheme.
- Workers on the Job Retention Scheme who are planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate.
- HMRC have worked day and night to get the scheme up and running, and it is now open for applications from employers.
- Further information on the scheme can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme.
- If you are worried about being laid off, please make your employer aware of this information as soon as possible.
If you are looking for work:
- The Department for Work & Pensions have launched a new site to advertise thousands of critical jobs across the UK - https://jobhelp.dwp.gov.uk/.
If you are a key worker and believe you need a COVID-19 test, please read the following information:
- Advice on who classifies as a key worker is available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-access-to-testing/
- Appointments for the drive-through testing centres can be booked at https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/eligibility
For those entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):
- You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
- If you are self-isolating because of COVID-19, you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people self-isolating in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine. To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay for more information.
- How soon does SSP apply? The UK 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 caused by COVID-19. 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? Those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate are able to obtain an ‘isolation note’ at https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ after seven days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.
If you are self-employed:
- The UK Government are launching the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, to make sure people who work for themselves get the financial support they need. The Government will pay self-employed people across the whole UK who have been adversely affected by coronavirus a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for three months – but this will be extended for longer if necessary.
- Self-employed people who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC directly, asked to fill out a simple online form, and HMRC will pay the grant directly into their bank account. The Treasury expects people to access the scheme by the beginning of June.
- The scheme will only be open to those with trading profits up to £50,000, meaning 95 per cent of people who are majority self-employed will be eligible for the scheme.
- HMRC will also ask people to demonstrate that the majority of their income comes from self-employment, and, to minimise fraud, only those who are already in self-employment, and who have a tax return for 2019, will be able to apply. Anyone who missed the tax filing deadline in January has 4 weeks from 26 March to submit their tax return.
- If you are newly self-employed and ineligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, you can claim up to £2,000 from your local authority. You will be eligible if you became self-employed on or after 6th April 2019, over half your income is from self-employment, and your trading profits were below £50,000 in the financial year 2019-20. Further information is available at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/service/coronavirus/newly-self-employed-hardship-fund.
- Right now, you can more easily make a claim for Universal Credit (UC) or new style Employment and Support Allowance. For more information on how to claim, please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance. You will now be able to claim online and access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus.
- The minimum income floor on Universal Credit has been suspended for 12 months. This means self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate that is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. If self-employed claimants’ work, and therefore earnings, have significantly reduced due to the impact of COVID-19 guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, and the wider economic impacts of the outbreak, their Universal Credit award will increase to reflect their lower earnings.
- If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.
- The UK Government have increased Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year. The Universal Credit standard allowance will increase by £86.67 per month (equivalent to £20 per week), on top of the planned annual uprating. Together these measures are estimated to benefit over 4 million of our most vulnerable households.
- You no longer need to phone the Government as part of your Universal Credit claim. New changes mean that if there is information that needs to be verified as part of your claim, the Department for Work and Pensions will phone you. This is in response to the large volume of calls to Universal Credit phone lines and will mean you do not face long waits on the phone trying to get through to a member of staff.
- The UK Government have also deferred income tax self-assessment payments. Income tax self-assessment payments for July will be deferred until the end of January 2021.
Getting support from your local council:
- The ‘Scottish Welfare Fund’ has received additional funding to provide crisis grants for those in financial emergency. Details on how to apply via your local authority can be found at https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-welfare-fund/apply-or-track-your-application/.
- The council tax reduction scheme has received additional funding. To find out if you are eligible please visit https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/help-with-your-council-tax-council-tax-reduction-s/.
- Details on how to apply for a council tax reduction via your local authority can be found at https://www.mygov.scot/council-tax/discounts-exemptions-and-reductions/.
- The Scottish Government have indicated their intention to establish a £70 million ‘Food Fund’ to support households who may be worried about accessing food whether due to an income drop or self-isolation, including older people. Local councils are free to deploy this funding as they see fit, so questions about how to access funding are best directed to them in the first instance. You can find their contact details at https://www.mygov.scot/find-your-local-council/.
If you are struggling to meet your mortgage repayments:
- The UK Government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer ‘repayment holidays’ of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to COVID-19.
- This will also apply to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.
- The offer of a payment holiday can be made available to customers who are up to date with payments and not already in arrears.
- 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.
- A fund has been launched to provide interest-free loans to landlords for lost rental income on a single property. You can apply at https://covidlandlordloan.est.org.uk/.
If you are struggling to pay your rent:
- A new law will ensure you do not face the threat of eviction for at least 6 months. The new legislation will protect renters from being evicted if they fall into rent arrears as a result of coronavirus. This will extend the minimum period of arrears required to evict from three months in a row to six months in a row.
- The UK Government have announced that from this April, all new and existing private renters claiming Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will benefit from additional housing support. All Local Housing Allowance rates will be uplifted - worth an extra £14 a week on average for existing claimants and any additional Universal Credit claimants who rent in the private sector.
- If you are experiencing issues paying your rent, please tell your landlord as soon as you can. We need landlords to help their tenants immediately as part of an overall society response. We cannot have people being made or at risk of being made homeless at this difficult time.
If you are struggling to pay your energy bills:
- Customers who are unable to top up their meter or can’t afford to pay their bills should get support from their supplier. You are advised to contact your energy supplier immediately to discuss how you can be kept on supply.
- If you are a pre-payment or pay as you go customer who cannot leave your home, your provider should help you stay supplied. This could mean someone else can be sent to top up your card, a pre-loaded gas or electricity card is sent in the post, or funds are added to your credit.
- Disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended. If you are in financial distress, you may also be able to have your debts or bill payments reassessed, paused or reduced where needed.
If you struggling to pay off personal loans or credit card bills:
- The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers’ individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect.
- If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender.
- 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.
If you are a student experiencing financial difficulties:
- A £5 million package of emergency financial support has been put in place to help students facing hardship. Students should apply directly to their institutions.
- Further information for students is available at https://www.studentinformation.gov.scot/coronavirus
If you are worried about facing insolvency:
- Scotland’s insolvency service, Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), has suspended sale and eviction from property in ongoing bankruptcy administrations until further notice.
- The evidence requirements for individuals seeking debt relief through bankruptcy have been amended to allow faster access, providing protection from debt enforcement.
- AiB is reducing the need for face to face contact, allowing access to debt relief to be maintained by accepting electronic signatures on protected trust deeds and other documentation.
- If you have an ongoing debt payment plan but are worried about how you will be able to pay, AiB will not be revoking these programmes.
- The latest information is available from Accountant in Bankruptcy here: https://www.aib.gov.uk/aib-covid-19-business-continuity.
If you are concerned about your current benefit claim:
- The UK Government are suspending all benefit reviews and reassessments. This includes if you are claiming any of Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. This measure will allow vulnerable people to be assured about the continuity of their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak and to ensure resources are focused on helping new claimants access support.
- The UK Government is suspending face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits for the next 3 months. This move is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus.
- The UK Government have increased the basic element of Working Tax Credit by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021. Depending on your circumstances this increase could mean up to an extra £20 each week.
- The UK Government are protecting tax credit payments so that if you can’t work your normal hours due to coronavirus you will still automatically receive your normal payment.
- The UK Government has also uprated Child Benefit, other tax credits rates and thresholds, and Guardian’s Allowance by 1.7 per cent with effect from 6 April 2020. The full list of rates and allowances is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rates-and-allowances-tax-credits-child-benefit-and-guardians-allowance/tax-credits-child-benefit-and-guardians-allowance
Further financial support:
- You can check whether you are eligible for any of the social security benefits delivered in Scotland at https://www.mygov.scot/benefits/social-security-scotland/. If you have recently started to receive Universal Credit please be aware you may now be eligible for other benefits as a result.
- Citizens Advice Scotland able to support you access a range of support, from claiming benefits to getting help with your mortgage or rent. To access their resources please visit https://www.cas.org.uk/ or call 0800 028 1456.
If you or someone you know is abroad and is trying to return home:
- The UK Government is working flat out to get British travellers stranded abroad home, and have partnered with key airline providers to ensure that tourists stranded abroad can get home.
- Where commercial routes do not exist, the UK Government has pledged £75 million to enable additional charter flights and to ensure that tickets home are affordable.
- Airlines have committed to offer alternative arrangements where routes have been previously cancelled. They will allow passengers to change tickets, as well as provide the latest advice and information as the situation changes.
- British tourists stranded abroad should first check if there are commercial routes available by checking airline websites, FCO travel advice pages and local British embassy social media.
- If there are no commercial options, please visit the UK Government’s foreign travel advice page and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, they will be advertised by the embassy, on FCO Travel Advice Pages and if you register for updates you will be contacted via email.
- Further advice from the UK Government on a range of travel-related issues is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus.
If you are a foreign national concerned about your visa expiring while in the UK:
- The UK Government have extended the visas of foreign nationals who cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation, until 31 May. This extension will apply to anyone whose visa expired after the 24 January but were unable to return home as a result of coronavirus.
- This scheme will be kept under review in case it requires extending.
- Anyone in this situation should email the COVID-19 immigration team at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.
- The UK Government have announced that all NHS frontline staff with visas due to expire before October 2020 will have their visa extended for one year. Doctors, nurses and, paramedics, midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists will automatically have their visas extended, free of charge, for one year.
If you are concerned about an older person in need of support:
- Age Scotland has a free, confidential helpline which provides information, friendship and advice on 0800 12 44 222. It should be available Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.
- Practical advice for helping older relatives and friends through this difficult time is available at www.age.scot/5waystohelp.
If you feel vulnerable but do not have a support network:
- A new helpline has been set up for people who would be at high risk if they contracted Coronavirus, but are without support from family or their community. In particular, people who are any of: (1) aged over-70, (2) disabled, (3) requiring the support of mental health services, (4) pregnant, (5) unable to get online or (6) receive the flu jab for health reasons should contact the helpline on 0800 111 4000. This helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
- The helpline will support you to get essential food or medication, emotional support, or information for vulnerable children and adults.
If you are worried about your mental health or wellbeing:
- Advice on mental health can be found on the NHS Inform site, available at https://www.nhsinform.scot/your-mental-wellbeing
- If you're feeling distressed, in a state of despair, suicidal or need emotional support you can phone Samaritans for free on 116 123.
If you are a veteran:
- All Armed Forces Pensions, War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme regular payments will continue to be made as usual. However, due to COVID-19, there have been some changes to Veterans UK Services. The latest information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-changes-to-veterans-uk-services.
- A new website, www.HeadFIT.org, has been designed specifically for the defence community to provide 24/7 access to self-help tools that can enhance mood, drive and confidence, and help you manage the stresses of everyday life.
- The Unforgotten Forces partnership received extra funding. Further information is available at https://www.poppyscotland.org.uk/get-help/unforgotten-forces/about-unforgotten-forces/.
If you are pregnant:
- The latest advice for pregnant women and their families from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is available at https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/.
- Generally, people should stay at home and avoid travel, only leaving their home for essential purposes.
- Car, motorcycle and van owners will be granted a 6-month exemption from MOT testing from 30 March 2020. This will allow people to carry on with essential travel. During this period vehicles must still be kept in a roadworthy condition.
- What if my MOT is currently due but I’m in self-isolation? The Department of Transport is working with insurers and the police to ensure people will not be negatively affected as a result of self-isolating.
- Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-mots-for-cars-vans-and-motorcycles-due-from-30-march-2020.
If you wish to report a business you believe is behaving unfairly:
- Unfair business practices such as overpricing or making misleading claims, can be reported to the Competitions and Markets Authority at https://www.coronavirus-business-complaint.service.gov.uk/.