The government has introduced a range of measures to help individuals, families, and sole traders in Scotland who are struggling to cope financially due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve been affected, what financial assistance is available to you and how do you access it?
If you have to self-isolate because of coronavirus, and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, you can now claim from the first day of sickness instead of the fourth day. The new ruling also applies if you care for someone in your household who has to self-isolate.
Statutory Sick Pay is paid to individuals earning a minimum of £118 per week – payments currently stand at £94.25 per week, but will increase to £95.85 on 6th April 2020, and last for up to 28 weeks.
Once the new SSP legislation comes into force in the coming days, if you’re eligible, you’ll be able to make a retrospective claim backdated to 13th March.
Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Statutory Sick Pay isn’t available if you’re self-employed or earn below the £118 per week threshold. In these cases, if you need to self-isolate and you’re eligible, you should claim contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
As with SSP, contributory ESA can now be claimed from day one of your illness, so how much can you claim?
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit for people on low incomes. It’s typically paid monthly, but in Scotland you may be eligible for fortnightly payments. How much you get depends on your age and other circumstances, such as whether you’re single or living with a partner.
If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and are self-isolating, the new rules mean you don’t have to attend the Jobcentre as normal – you can still receive your benefits uninterrupted if you contact the relevant office. For more information on Universal Credit, the helpline is 0800 328 5644.
You may be entitled to a three-month payment holiday on your mortgage repayments if you’re affected by coronavirus and are struggling to keep up. You should contact your lender and they will assess your situation.
You’ll have to make up the payments later on, however – possibly by extending the loan term, or by increasing your current payments over the rest of the term – and the interest on the missed payments will still accrue.
If you’re a private or social tenant, your landlord cannot start proceedings to evict you for three months at least. In Scotland you’re offered further protection if there’s a delay in receiving your benefits payments, or a failure in the benefit payment system. In these cases you’re protected from eviction for six months.
Energy companies throughout the UK have said they’ll suspend disconnection of credit meters at this time. If you’re worried about continuation of your gas and electricity supply, you should get in touch with the provider as there are several ways they can help you, including sending a pre-loaded top up card to prevent a break in supply.
If you’re affected by the coronavirus outbreak and are worried about getting into serious debt, or are already experiencing severe financial problems, Scotland Debt Solutions can help.
There are various debt remedies in Scotland that can help you out of a debt spiral, including the government-backed Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) and the Scottish trust deed. We specialise in supporting Scottish residents escape their debt problems, and can offer tailored advice for your individual circumstances. Please call to arrange a free consultation.
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