Financial support for blood cancer patients affected by coronavirus

It’s an extremely anxious and difficult time, and while the primary concern is health, your financial wellbeing is also important. Many of you will be concerned about losing your jobs, paying your mortgage and how sick pay and benefits work. We hope that the following information is useful and may answer some of your questions on these issues, but you can contact us at Leukaemia Care and speak to our Welfare Officer who will be able to advise you further.

Correct as of 14/5/2020. We will update this with further information as soon as possible. Please get in touch with us at advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk for further help

Our Welfare Officer will be able to advise with:

  • Finding out what benefits you are entitled to
  • Let you know what other types of support you can access
  • Helping you apply for the support (e.g. completing forms, writing letters)

What help is available?

If your income has changed due to coronavirus, depending on the circumstances of your household, if your employer has asked you to reduce your hours, take unpaid leave or you have lost your job, you may be entitled to income-based benefits such as Universal Credit. Please see further on for more information on Universal Credit

Coronavirus updates

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has now announced that the Job Retention Scheme for PAYE employers will continue until the 31st October 2020  from the original June cut-off.
  • Across the UK furloughed workers will continue to receive 80% of their current salary up to £2,500 a month. The current scheme will extend a further month until July.
  • From the start of August furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time for their employer, although the employers are being asked to contribute towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. Employees will stay on 80% of income.

The government will provide more specific details and information will be made available towards the end of this month.

Coronavirus retention scheme

If you are self-isolating, either because you have symptoms or because you are extremely vulnerable, you can ask your employer to place you on the coronavirus retention scheme (furlough) as announced by the Government. Additionally, if you have already lost you job, you can go back to your previous employer and ask them to consider you for the furlough scheme instead.

This scheme means you stay employed by your company, but you stop doing any work.  Your employer can then ask the Government to pay for 80% of your wages until you are able to return to work. Whether or not the company gives you the other 20% is up to your employer, but the scheme guarantees you most of the money you usually get.

If you are still in financial difficulty with 80% wages, or your employer is not considering this scheme, please get in touch so we can look at further options for you.

Statutory Sick Pay:

If you are unwell from coronavirus (i.e. you have symptoms or have had a positive test), and if you earn above £118 per week, you will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer.

It is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. This will be paid from day one, rather than the usual day four, of your absence from work. You will need to provide your employer with a proof of sickness, ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online.

What if I am not eligible for SSP?

If you are self-employed or your earnings are below the lower earnings limit of £118 per week, you may make a claim for Universal Credit or New Style ESA (see below).

Self-employed income support (SEISS)

The following link will provide information on the self-employment income support scheme. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

The Government Self- Employment Scheme (SEISS) is now open for those workers eligible to receive 80% of average profits up to £2,500 per month to cover March to May’s income. Letter, texts or emails have been sent to eligible people with dates to apply between the 13th and 18th May. Payments are set to reach accounts from Thursday 21st May, most people will receive them by at least 25th May.

The system is in high demand and letters, texts and emails are slow or may not have been received. If you have not been contacted, don’t worry if you have not heard by the 17th May, you can use HMRC’S online tool to find out if you are eligible. If you are eligible you will be invited to apply. You will need your self -assessment unique taxpayer reference (UTR) number and your national insurance (NI) number to hand.

Due to the demand it may take a long time to set this up, so be prepared for the long wait. People have also been struggling to get on to the system when using a phone device so try a laptop/computer and it should work. One you have logged in with code and NI number it will tell you what you are entitled to from your average profit. You should see a lump sum figure that will be paid into your account for March, April and May.

How do I find out if I am eligible?

To find out if you are eligible you can check on the following link.

https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference

You will need your UTR number. If you have lost your UTR number please find the following link to find out what your UTR number is. https://www.gov.uk/find-lost-utr-number

The Tool is saying that I am ineligible, can I challenge it?

The tool is correct for the majority of cases, however a lot of people are surprised by ineligibility.

The following are some of the reasons you may be ineligible:

  1. Self-employment isn’t 50% of earnings, as you have not counted all other earnings from pensions, savings,  employment and property.
  2. You stopped self-employment or changed for a period. Make sure if there is something wrong with your tax record, you explain this to the HMRC.

If you are eligible for the scheme and the government gateway is saying you are not entitled you can ask HMRC to review your eligibility. You can contact them by telephone or on the following link.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/get-help-with-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme.

What do I do if I don’t have a Government Gateway Account?

If you do not have a Government Gateway account, please find the following instructions to create one. You will need your NI number, bank account and passport details to hand. You will also need your UTR number.

Instructions on how to create a Government Gateway Account

  1. Go to HMRC’s login page.
  2. Click the GREEN sign in button.
  3. Click “Create sign in details”
  4. Enter your email address where asked.
  5. You will now be emailed a confirmation code. Use this code to confirm your email address.
  6. You will now be issued with a User ID for your government gateway account.

What if I’m not eligible for the self-employment Income Support Scheme?

This scheme cannot be accessed by all self-employed people, for example it you earn more than £50,000 a year, or if you income is less than half from self-employment. Unfortunately you will not be able to claim if the eligibility requirements are not all met. There are other things that you can try:

Bounce Back Loan:

The bounce back loan scheme (BBLS) is a new scheme to enable smaller businesses to access finance during the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme helps small and medium sized business to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The loan can be used to support your income and can be used for newly self-employed people or limited company directors. They are interest free and payment free for the first year. Although this is a loan and not a grant, it is an option. The scheme has been available since the 4th May and is 100% backed by the government.

Where can I get a bounce back loan from?

You will need to contact the bank directly and fill in a short online application. All banks charge the same 2.5 annual interest (after the first 12 months at 0%)

To complete your application, you will need your account number, annual turnover, the amount you want to borrow, a copy of your tax return and you will need to confirm that your business has been directly impacted by coronavirus.

It might be worth knowing that bounce back loans DO NOT affect your eligibility for other Government personal support. You can still apply for a bounce back loan and get the self-employment support grants, and you may still be eligible for Universal credit.

You can find information on universal credit on the following link.

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

Tax announcement

The government announced it will delay the next set of self-assessment tax payments to January 2021, in a bid to help the self-employed. If you pay the majority of your tax via self-assessment, then usually you make two payments each year to pay off the previous year’s tax bill, one by 31 January (when your tax return is due) and the other by 31 July. The Chancellor announced that there will be no payment due by July this tax year, allowing people more time to pay their tax bill.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly. Some who are self-employed and unable to work due to coronavirus may be able to claim. However, you won’t be eligible to apply if you have £16,000 or more in savings.

To apply for Universal Credit – call the Universal Credit helpline 0800 328 5644 or apply online: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit. You can also  check which benefits you are entitled to using the Turn2Us or the Entitled To benefit calculators on the following websites: https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/Intermediary  https://www.entitledto.co.uk/

If you require assistance in applying, please contact our Welfare Officer.

You will need to provide the following information:

  • Savings
  • Pension
  • Childcare Payments
  • Existing Benefits
  • Details of your partner, if you have one

Contribution-based employment support allowance (ESA)

According to government advice, if you are directly affected by coronavirus or self-isolating, you can apply for this. To be eligible you must have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last two to three years – National Insurance credits also count.

As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government is changing the rules so you’re eligible to claim ESA from the first day of sickness/self-isolation rather than from the eighth day, as previously. The new rule will be backdated to Friday 13th March.

For more advice on how to apply, please contact the Welfare Officer.

If you are struggling to pay your bills

It is very important that you do not ignore your bills. Speak to the organisation you owe money to, as they may be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.

Your bank or building society may be able to help you with debts or let you delay loan or credit card repayments, so it is worth checking with them.

Please get in touch with the Welfare Officer if you need further assistance with this.

If you can’t pay your rent

You should speak to your landlord as soon as possible. If you are struggling to pay your rent during the coronavirus outbreak, let them know your situation.

The Government has announced a ban on evictions – your landlord can’t start court action for at least three months. Beyond this three-month point, you’ll be expected to work with your landlord to establish an affordable plan which takes your circumstances into account.

It is important that you continue to pay your rent. If you do fall behind, you should start dealing with rent arears. You can also check if you can get extra financial help.

If you are already claiming benefits like housing benefit or tax credits, you might get more money if your income is reduced.

You can check your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from the hardship fund. Check your local council on GOV.UK.

If you can’t pay your mortgage

The Government has announced that if you can’t pay your mortgage because of coronavirus, you might be able to have a three-month payment holiday. You won’t be able to do this if you’re behind with your payments.

Get in touch with your mortgage provider to find out more.

If you can’t pay your energy bills

Speak to your energy supplier as soon as you can. You might be able to set up a payment plan with them to help spread the cost of your bills.

If you have a prepayment energy meter

If you can’t top up your prepayment meter because of coronavirus, your supplier will be able help you find ways to keep your energy supply.

Tell your supplier as soon as possible if you can’t top up. You will find their contact details on their website or on your bill.

If you can’t pay your water bill

It’s best to speak to your water company as soon as you can if you’re having problems paying your bill.

You may be able to claim for a Council Tax Reduction. This is administered separately by your local council and there is usually a link on their webpage to make an online claim.

You may be able to apply for a budgeting loan or a hardship payment. Some local charities and councils can provide financial help too.

If you have debts, then you should be able to contact creditors about getting a freeze to allow you to submit a budget and make an affordable repayment offer.

You may be able to apply for a discretionary housing payment from your council if you have a shortfall for your housing costs.

As the situation is changing rapidly, we will try to keep you informed of the changing developments that may affect you. If you are worried about your financial situation, employment, benefits or struggling to pay bills, please contact our Welfare Officer at Leukaemia Care. You can contact them by emailing advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk, or call our helpline on 08088 010 444. The team will take note of your details and then the Welfare Officer will call you back.

Campaigning & Advocacy

As a charity we are actively involved in campaigning on behalf of patients and their carers, which we feel is an important part of the work that we do. We are passionate about doing everything we can to improve the experience of patients throughout their cancer journey.

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