What to do if you can't pay your bills.
Check what benefits you can get?
If you can't afford to top up a pre-payment metre
If you are claiming benefits
The government has postponed all face-to-face benefits assessments or appointments at the Jobcentre Plus until at least 19 June 2020.
This means you don’t have to go to:
- interviews if you’re starting a claim for JSA, ESA or Universal Credit
- medical assessments for ESA, Universal Credit or PIP
- appointments with your work coach
The Jobcentre Plus might still ask to talk to you by phone.
You can still go to the Jobcentre Plus – for example if you want to hand in a form.
If you’re ill or you’re following guidance to self-isolate
Don’t go to the Jobcentre Plus. Tell the Jobcentre Plus you’re ill or self-isolating by:
- calling the office paying your benefit
- updating your online journal if you get Universal Credit
You won’t have to search for work or do work-related activity.
Help for renters – you'll be protected from eviction in the coming months
If you'll struggle to pay rent during the coronavirus outbreak you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a repayment plan.
It's also worth checking whether you're receiving all the financial help with housing you're entitled to, which could come from benefits such as universal credit.
The Government has also now announced that landlords won't be able to start eviction proceedings for at least the next three months, protecting private and social tenants (and private landlords can be given a three-month payment holiday on their buy-to-let mortgages if their tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus). It's introducing emergency legislation for this, though it's not yet clear when this will come into force.
Beyond this three-month point, you'll be expected to work with your landlord to establish an affordable repayment plan which takes your circumstances into account.
The Government has also said that existing protocols for social landlords dealing with rent arrears will be extended to include private landlords too, to "support engagement" between landlords and tenants and help them solve disputes. It will ask landlords to be compassionate and allow tenants to stay in their homes wherever possible – while associations representing local government and housing associations have already said that no social renter should be evicted due to coronavirus.
Help for mortgages
If keeping up with your bills and food on the table may be a challenge, speak to your bank. On Tuesday 17 March, banks agreed with the Chancellor that they will offer 'forbearance' (tolerance and help) on mortgages.
This means they all should offer those struggling a three-month 'holiday', allowing customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time. (Though it's worth noting this is a voluntary agreement with banks – it isn't compulsory for them to offer mortgage holidays.)
If you are going to apply for a mortgage holiday, it's best to do it online where possible, as phone lines are likely to have huge backlogs.
Help for the self employed
The Chancellor confirmed that self-employed people across the UK will be able to get an amount equivalent to 80% of their income, based on their average monthly profits – again, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
Grants will start to be paid at the beginning of June, as a taxable lump sum covering March, April and May. And while the scheme's initially to cover these three months, the Chancellor has said it may be extended.
Those eligible will be contacted directly by HM Revenue & Customs – the Government hasn't said when this'll be, only that it will happen "once the scheme is operational". At that point you'll be asked to fill in an online form, and the grant will then be paid directly into your bank account.