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 05/11/2020. 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.

On 31st October 2020, the Government announced a second lockdown which is due to commence from midnight on Thursday 5th November 2020 and will last until Wednesday 2nd December. Due to the lockdown, some of the financial support that was previously available will be changing. 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
  • Letting 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

Correct as of 05/11/2020

On 5th November, the Chancellor announced the Coronavirus Job Retention (‘furlough’) Scheme was extended until the end of March. The scheme will be reviewed in January.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employees can be furloughed both full time and part-time. Employees do not need to have previously been on the furlough scheme to be eligible.

The furlough scheme will be extended until the end of March, although the exact details about the extended scheme have not been announced yet. The following is what is known so far:

  • The Chancellor has confirmed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be available across all four nations, so if you live in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, if it needs to lock down in that time, you should be able to apply.
  • If you have been furloughed you will continue to get 80% of your salary, up to £2,500 per month. This will be paid by the government. Your employer will not need to contribute to your wages but will need to cover your pension and National Insurance contributions.
  • In the UK, you do not need to have been furloughed before to take part. You do need to have been on your employer’s payroll on the 30th October to be eligible. Your employer therefore will have made real-time information (RTI) payroll submission on your behalf on or before 30/10/2020.
  • You can be furloughed if you are on a zero-hour contract, fixed-term, as well as agency workers.
  • As part of the revised scheme, if you have been made redundant since September you can be rehired and put back on furlough. This applies if you were employed on the 23rd September and have been made redundant.

You can also return to work part-time for your employer, whilst being furloughed for your remaining hours. You will be paid for any hours that you are in work and be furloughed for the hours you do not work. It is thought that your employer will have to cover your wages at a normal rate for any hours you do work.

Can I be furloughed if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?

In England, from 5th November, new guidance was issued and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are currently advised not to go to work if you cannot work from home.

“People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment” fit into this group.

If you are unable to work from home because you are following the public health guidance, you should speak to your employer and ask them to furlough you. See the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19#what-is-shielding

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.

There may be other things that you can apply for if you are unable to work from home due to COVID-19, including claiming benefits. You may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Please get in touch with our Welfare Officer to discuss other options.

Job Support Scheme

Correct as of 05/11/2020

The Job Support Scheme, which was scheduled to start at the beginning of December, has been postponed due to the furlough scheme being extended until the end of March.

We will update our advice when the Government publishes more guidance.

Self-Employment Income Scheme (SEISS)

Correct as of 05/11/2020

Applications for the first two grants have now closed.

On 24th September, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced extra support for self-employed people as the pandemic continues, to help people financially over the coming months. The Self-Employment Income Scheme has now been extended for another six months until April 2021.

The extension announced provides a further two grants. The third grant applies to those financially impacted by reduced demand because of COVID-19 between November 1st and January 31st 2021. The eligibility criteria for the third grant is exactly the same to the earlier grants, but will be calculated as 20% of three months trading profits and capped at a maximum of £1,875.

On Thursday 22nd October, the Chancellor announced that it would be extended and will now cover 40% of usual earnings (up to a maximum of £3,750) for the months November 2020 to January 2021.

New information as of 05/11/2020

On 5th November the Chancellor announced that the that support offered on the Self-Employment Scheme has been increased to 80% of average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500. This is an increase as self-employed workers were expecting to receive a third grant of 55% of trading profits for November to January (capped at £5,160).

This has now been increased three times since the SEISS 3 was first announced.

Applications for the third grant will open on 30th November, which covers the period of 1st November until 31st January 2020. You will need to declare that your business has suffered reduced demand due to COVID-19 between 1st November and the date of your claim.

The fourth grant covers February 1st to April 30th 2021, but the amount and eligibility is to remain under review and will be set in due course.

If you were eligible for the first two grants and your self-employment has continued to be impacted because of the coronavirus pandemic, you may be entitled to the third and fourth grant.

New information: The third grant does have a stricter eligibility criteria compared to the last two grants. If your business has been impacted by reduced demand due to COVID-19 between the 1st November and the date of your claim, you must declare this.

This is different from the first two grants, where any adverse impact due to COVID-19 meant that you qualified for the scheme. Please be aware that you will not be able to make a claim on the basis you can’t work/couldn’t work because you were self-isolating or shielding, or for additional expenses, such as PPE for the third grant. Again, this is different from the first two grants.

If you didn’t apply for the first two grants, you can apply for the third as long as you meet the eligibility criteria, and are actively trading and intend to continue to trade when you apply.

To be eligible for the grants, you must earn more than half of your income from self-employment and have submitted a tax return for 2018-2019. You must also have:

  • An average trading profit of less than £50,000 for the tax year 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.

To make your claim, you will need the following information:

  • Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • National Insurance Number
  • Government Gateway user ID and password
  • Your bank details

Self-assessment tax deferral

The Chancellor further announced that self-assessment taxpayers can now delay tax payments further. Those who deferred their payment on account instalment, which was due to be paid by 31st July 2020, initially don’t have to pay until 31st January 2021.

Those who will struggle to pay their tax bill for 2019-20 tax year can apply to the government’s time to pay scheme, which has been extended by twelve months until January 2022. You can pay this in smaller instalments spread over twelve months.

VAT payment deferral

For businesses that have deferred VAT payment to March 2021 because of COVID-19, they can now spread that March payment over 11 smaller interest-free payments during the financial year 2021/22 instead of paying it as a lump sum in March 2021. You will need to opt in to this scheme, which should be up and running in early 2021.

Bounce Back Loan

Bounce Back Loans have been extended and struggling businesses will be given more time to pay back their Bounce Back Loan under the new ‘pay as you grow scheme’. The deadline was originally November 4th 2020, but this has now been extended to the end of November 2020.

You will be able to borrow a maximum of £50,000. The amount is capped at 25% of your total turnover for the calendar year 2019. An estimate can be provided by new businesses.

For the first 12 months, there won’t be any interest or payment fees charged, but after 12 months, the bank charges will be set at 2.5% per annum.

Businesses can now pay the loan back over 10 years instead of six at 2.5%; however, the first year is interest-free. Payments can be suspended up to six months for struggling businesses, or you have the option to make interest-only payments temporarily for up to six months. You are able to do this three times within the loan period. However, you can also repay the loan at any time without paying a fee.

Within the period of the loan, repayments can be paused entirely for up to six months. This option is only available once you have made a minimum of six payments.

Track and Trace Support Payment

If you are told to self-isolate because of coronavirus after 28th September, are in work, and in receipt of certain means-tested benefits, you will be able to claim the Coronavirus Self-Isolation Payment of £500 if you can’t work from home. You will be able to claim for this payment every time you receive a notification asking you to self-isolate (10 days if you have tested positive; 14 days if someone in your household has tested positive).

You will need to be receiving one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit.

If you are asked to self-isolate because of coronavirus and you don’t receive the above eligible benefits, but you are on a low income and experiencing financial hardship because you can’t go to work, check with your local authority. The council may decide to make a payment to you.

You will need to provide proof of your employment to qualify, and it will need to be confirmed by you to ensure that you’re unable to work from home.

If you are self-employed, you will need to show evidence of self-assessment tax returns. You will also need to provide proof that you cannot run your business without social contact.

Both you and your partner will be able to make separate claims for the £500 payment if you need to self-isolate, regardless if you have a joint claim for Universal Credit, and this won’t affect your benefits. You will, however, need to log the payment on your online journal.

You can receive the self-isolation payment and Statutory Sick Pay at the same time.

How do I claim Coronavirus Self-Isolation Payment?

The payment will be paid by your local authority. If you are told to isolate by the NHS Track and Trace after the 28th September, you can make a claim for the Coronavirus Self-Isolation Payment to your local authority, and will be able to get your payment backdated. As soon as you receive the notification advising you to self-isolate, contact your local authority online or by phone. You can backdate any claim you make to 28th September. If you want to find contact details for your local council, see the following link: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council

In Scotland and Wales, you can apply for the £500 self-isolation support grant through the “Test and Protect” service if you are receiving means-tested benefits, and this will be administered by local authorities. The Welsh government will be releasing more information on how to apply at the end of October.

In Northern Ireland, you can apply for the £500 self-isolation support grant if you’re told to self-isolate through the “Test, Trace, and Protect” service and are receiving certain means-tested benefits.

In addition to claiming the £500 self-isolation payment, you may be able to claim for Statutory Sick Pay if you are told to self-isolate because you have been in direct contact with the virus. This is the case if you are an employee and can’t work from home, as long as you earn at least £120 per week.

If your earnings are too low to claim SSP, you may be able to claim Universal Credit if you’re on a low income and you have savings of less than £16,000.

Working from home due to coronavirus

If you have been required to work from home since 6th April 2020, even if you have only worked part of the year, you can claim for tax relief for the year. You can claim £6 a week tax-free, and will not need to provide evidence of your extra costs. An employed worker who pays 20% basic rate of tax and claims tax relief on £6 a week would receive £1.20 per week.

This is worth a total of £62.40 or £124.80 a year, so worth claiming. Although you won’t receive a cheque, your tax code will be changed, resulting in you paying less tax each month for the rest of the year so you will earn more.

To make a claim for the exact costs incurred above the weekly amount, you will need to provide evidence such as receipts, bills or contracts.

How to claim for the tax relief

HMRC has set up a new dedicated service to process the claims. You can claim since lockdown started on 23rd March 2020.

Before you start you will need your Government Gateway ID and password. If you don’t have one, you can create one as part of the process.

If you have not already made a claim for tax relief, visit the following website to make your claim: https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home

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. Payment holidays on credit cards, car finance and personal loans have been extended for six months.

General financial support - if you can’t pay your mortgage

New as of 02/11/2020

Mortgage payment holidays will now be extended following the government announcement on 31st October as we head into a second coronavirus lockdown. This was due to end on 31st October 2020. Check online with your lender to see if their application portal is open.

Homeowners who have not yet had a mortgage holiday can request a pause in repayments that can last up to six months.

If you have already had payments deferred, you can extend your mortgage holiday until you reach the six-month period.

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 31st January.

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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