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 1/8/2020. 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

From the 1st August, shielding was paused in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales, shielding will be paused on the 16th August.

Where shielding is paused, some finances and practical support that was previously available has been withdrawn. This blog sets out the remaining support available.

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)

The Coronavirus job retention scheme (furloughing)

The scheme has now closed to new entrants, so your employer cannot place you on furlough now unless you have already been furloughed for at least three weeks before the end of June. Please get in touch for other options if you think you cannot work but cannot be furloughed.

During the daily briefing on the 29th May, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the emergency programmes will be changing in order to re-open the economy. The furlough scheme will be changing but it will not continue indefinitely. The scheme will remain until October. The following will show the changes made to the furlough scheme:

  • In June and July, the government will continue to pay your employer 80% of your salary, up to £2,500 per month. The employer can top your salary up to 100%.
  • From August, the government will continue to pay your employer 80% of your salary, up to £2,500 per month, but your employer will be asked to cover the national insurance and any pension contributions.
  • From September, the government will pay 70% of your salary, up to £2,190 per month. Your employer will be contributing 10% of your salary, to bring it up to 80%, and will be capped at £2,500 per month.
  • The government will pay your employer 60% of your salary from October, up to £1,875 per month. Your employer will be expected to cover 20% of your salary to bring it up to 80% capped at £2,500 per month, if you are still furloughed at this time.

From 1st July, you can also return to work part-time for your employer, whilst being furloughed for your remaining hours. Your employer will have to cover your wage for any hours that you are in work; for example, you could go back to work for two days, your employer would pay you for those two days, and the government would pay you the 80% for the remaining three days, until September.

If you were shielding because you are extremely vulnerable to severe COVID-19 and have been furloughed before, you can ask your employer to continue to keep you on the coronavirus retention scheme (furlough) if you still cannot work (e.g. if your doctor advises against working).

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

NOTE: You can no longer receive SSP whilst shielding. However, you can claim if you’re advised that you are unable to work because of your diagnosis or any other illness.

If you are unwell from coronavirus (i.e. you have symptoms or have had a positive test), or you’re self- isolating, 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, such as the ‘isolation note’ that is available 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).

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.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a welfare benefit available to those on low or no income. Therefore, it may be useful if you are unable to work completely, or if your income has fallen too low due to less work, or it is paid monthly. 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
  • To be eligible you must have paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last two to three years – National Insurance credits also count.

Self-Employment Income Scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also announced that the Self-Employment Income Scheme (SEISS) – the Government grant to self-employed people whose businesses have been affected by coronavirus – will also be extended. The new applications opened on 1st August for eligible people. This will be the final grant for applications to the scheme.

Applications for the first grant are now closed. You can make a claim for the second and final grant, which will be open for applications on 17th August 2020 and will close on the 19th October 2020.

The second grant will be worth 70% of your average trade profits, capped at £2,190 a month and is taxable at a total of £6,570. You can claim for the second grant, as long as you’re eligible, regardless of whether you claimed the first grant. HMRC will contact you if you’re eligible. In order to apply for the grant, you need to be adversely affected by coronavirus on or after the 14th July 2020 to claim it, although you can keep working. The second grant is based on profits for three tax years. The final grant will be paid the same way as the first one. There will be one payment, a single instalment covering the three months average monthly profit.

The Chancellor has said that there will be no further changes or further extensions to this scheme, so consider applying if you are eligible.

If you are self-employed and need further income, you can also apply for and get Universal Credit, but once you start receiving self-employed income support too this will be classed as income. This means that any Universal Credit you receive will decrease.

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

How do I find out if I am eligible for the second SEISS?

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% or more of your 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 should 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 your 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 from £2,000 to 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.

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.

  • 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

It is a myth that being self-employed means you are automatically not entitled to benefits. It is worth exploring all options if you are currently unable to work.

Please see the section above on Universal Credit for more information.

General financial support: If you can’t 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.

General financial support: 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 had announced a ban on evictions, so your landlord couldn’t start court action for at least three months. However, this ban ends on the 23rd August 2020. If your landlord decides to start proceedings to evict you now, they will need to issue you with a three-month notice in England, six months in Wales and Scotland and 12 weeks in Northern Ireland. They can now start court proceedings, which can be heard in courts from the 24th August in England and Wales. If your landlord issued you with an eviction notice during lockdown, they could begin court proceedings from the 24th August.

It is important that you continue to pay your rent if you can. 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 their hardship funds.

General financial support: If you can’t pay your mortgage

The Government has announced that if you can’t pay your mortgage because of coronavirus, you are able to ask for a three-month payment holiday. You can apply for a payment holiday until the 31st October 2020. You won’t be able to do this if you’re already behind with your payments before you apply. Get in touch with your mortgage provider to find out more.

If you have already taken a mortgage payment holiday since March, it will last for three months automatically. If you are still struggling to make payments, you can ask your lender if you are able to extend your payment holiday for a further three months.

Another option could be to arrange with your lender for a partial payment holiday, if you are able to make some payments towards your mortgage but can’t afford to pay the whole amount.

Mortgage lenders will not be able to repossess your home until after the 31st October.

General financial support: 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 can’t top up your prepayment meter because of coronavirus, your supplier will be able to help you find ways to keep your energy supply. Therefore, you need to 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.

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.

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