Find out what you’re entitled to
Depending on your situation, you might be entitled to financial help from the government. Sometimes there’s stigma or shame attached to receiving what some people call ‘benefits’ but there shouldn’t be. Everyone deserves support when they’re going through tough times. There are lots of reasons you might be entitled to support – like losing your job, someone leaving your household, or being a carer.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a monthly payment to help towards living costs, which is available to low earners or those who don’t have a job at the moment. The single monthly payment replaces some of the benefits you might already be getting, such as Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit or Income Support. You could get between £340 to £600 a month, depending on stuff like your age and if you are single. If you have children or a health condition, you may be entitled to more. Your partner’s income and savings will also be considered, even if they’re not eligible for Universal Credit.
Universal Credit Payments have been topped up by £20 a week since April 2020 in response to the pandemic, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in 2021’s Budget that this will continue until September 2021.
We know it’s a lot, but it’s important to apply for Universal Credit as soon as you need to. While filling out the forms can be stressful, especially if your circumstances have just changed, it’s better to get things in motion as soon as you can. Payments may take a while to arrange, so the sooner you apply the better.
Working while claiming Universal Credit? There are no limits on how many hours you can work, but the amount you receive will reduce as you earn more.
What about furlough?
Furlough is a pretty weird word, and one most of us had never heard of until 2020. The Furlough Scheme means that employers can get support from the government to pay their employees’ wages. Simply, it means employees get to keep their jobs when they might otherwise have been made redundant.
If you’ve been furloughed, your employer is able to claim 80% of your salary through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Your employer may also be able to top this up to 100% – but this is not always the case. If they can’t and you need that extra income, you might be able to take on part-time work elsewhere. Just check your place of work allows it and that it isn’t an organisation connected to them.
What if I’m self employed?
Not everyone works a 9-5. And not everyone has an employer. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, there is support available. You may be entitled to a grant via the Self Employment Income Support Scheme or a loan from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme or a Bounce Back Loan. The eligibility criteria and end dates for these schemes were updated during the recent Budget so make sure to check gov.co.uk.
I’m worried about my home
The first thing we often worry about when we’ve not got enough money is keeping a roof over our heads. If you’re struggling to make rent or mortgage payments because of the pandemic there is support available.
The pandemic has caused all kinds of financial stresses and the government introduced rules to help manage them, so do your research and get to know your rights.
If you’ve been struggling to pay your rent, you are protected from eviction until at least 31 March. Until then, landlords must give six months’ notice to vacate a property, (unless serious conditions have been breached such as illegal occupation or anti-social behaviour.)
For people with mortgages, most lenders introduced mortgage holidays, allowing payments to be deferred for up to six months. There are also other measures in place for various services such as payment holidays on credit cards and loan help, overdrafts and car finance. You’ll need to speak to your bank or the organisation responsible for your payments to find out more.
I can’t afford the basics
Food, water, electricity, when money’s tight it’s hard to know what to prioritise.
In recent years, food banks have become a lifeline for many – and there’s no shame in using them. You can find your local food bank here. You’ll need a referral to be able to access a foodbank – you can find out more about that here, or contact your local food bank for help.
If you’re struggling to afford the basics, you can find more support here. You can read more about Jo’s experience of using a foodbank here.