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What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. You can read more about the symptoms and how to avoid it on the NHS website. You can read the government advice about coronavirus on GOV.UK and watch it in British Sign Language on the SignHealth website.
What restrictions are in place because of coronavirus?
The Citizens Advice website has information about:
- when you have to self-isolate
- when you need to wear a face mask or covering
- restrictions on meeting with people
- rules about entering the UK from abroad.
What effect is it having on public services?
In response to coronavirus many organisations have closed or restricted face-to-face services. You may find it more difficult to access services, particularly those that rely on volunteers.
Check the Wandsworth Care Alliance website for information about how local organisations are affected.
Check GOV.UK for information about how coronavirus is affecting the UK in general.
If you’re unwell
The NHS website has information about how to get a test if you think you have coronavirus symptoms.
If you have another health condition or disability it’s important to get medical help if you need it. NHS services have made changes to make sure it’s safe for you to get treatment during coronavirus. The NHS website has information about getting medical help with other issues.
If you feel stressed, anxious or depressed you can contact Talk Wandsworth for help. Talk Wandsworth are an NHS service that provides talking therapies like counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy.
If you’re employed and earning less
You may earn less if:
- you’re on a zero-hours contract and your employer offers you fewer hours
- your employer asks you to work fewer hours
- your employer asks you to take unpaid leave
- you’re furloughed
- you can’t do your job at home and can’t go into your workplace, for instance because you’re vulnerable to coronavirus or need to look after your children.
If your employer tries to reduce your pay you should check if they have the right to do this without your agreement. If coronavirus makes it difficult for you to do your job should check if you have the right to ask for adjustments to your role. The Acas website has information about a range of employment issues related to coronavirus. You can also contact the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 if you need advice about your employment rights.
If your employer has the right to pay you less you may be able to claim benefits. If you’re already claiming benefits you might get more money. You can use the Turn2Us or EntitledTo benefit calculators to check what you can claim. Citizens Advice also has information about support if you can’t pay your bills.
If you’re self-employed and earning less
You may earn less if you’re self-employed and your business is affected by coronavirus. The government has introduced additional support for businesses and relaxed the rules about self-employed people claiming benefits.
GOV.UK has information about support for businesses, including deferred tax payments, business rate exemptions, Statutory Sick Pay refunds, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and grant funding for some businesses.
You can use the Turn2Us or EntitledTo benefit calculators to check what benefits you can claim. Citizens Advice also has information about support if you can’t pay your bills.
Financial support if you’re self-isolating
If you’re an employee or worker and self-isolating due to coronavirus you can get Statutory Sick Pay from the first day you’re absent from work. Your employer may be able to claim back the cost of this from the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. Check the Acas website for information about sick pay for self-isolation during coronavirus.
If you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and will earn less as a result, you may be able to get a COVID Self Isolation Payment from Wandsworth Council. You can get these payments if you’re employed or self-employed. You can apply for a self-isolation payment on the Wandsworth Council website.
If your employer offers you less work
Your employer may offer you fewer hours if your workplace has to close or if there’s less work for you to do. Check the Citizens Advice website for information about lay-offs and short-time working. Contact the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 if you need advice about your employment rights.
If your employer sends you home
Before 1 July 2020 your employer could claim up to 80% of your wages from the government, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This was called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and was meant to reduce the number of people laid off due to coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close on 31 October 2020 and will be wound down before then. You can find information about how it will change each month on Gov.uk.
While you’re not working you’re called a ‘furloughed worker’. The Acas website has information about being furloughed.
If your employer tries to end or change your contract
If your employer’s business is affected by coronavirus they may dismiss you, make you redundant or try to change your contract.
If you’re dismissed or made redundant you should check whether this is fair and whether your employer has followed the right process. The Citizens Advice website has information about your rights when leaving a job.
If your employer tries to change your contract you should check whether they can do this without your agreement. Check the Citizens Advice website for information about changes to employment contract.
Contact the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 if you need advice about your employment rights.
If you’re worried about returning to your workplace
Before asking you to return to work your employer should consult you and make sure that your workplace is safe for staff, customers and anyone who might visit. If you have a health problem or disability you also have the right to ask for adjustments to help protect you from coronavirus.
Check the Acas website for information about your employment rights when returning to work and how to raise an issue about safety.
Check the Citizens Advice website for guidance about what to do if you’re worried about working.
If you need help claiming benefits
If you’re working age and aren’t already claiming benefits you’ll probably need to claim Universal Credit. You can apply for Universal Credit online without calling or visiting the Jobcentre. If you need help claiming you can call our national Help to Claim service on 0800 1448 444.
Help to Claim can also help you understand what benefits you can claim and how much you’ll get.
If you’re already claiming benefits
At the beginning of the national lockdown the DWP suspended appointments at Jobcentre Plus, medical assessments for disability benefits and claimant commitments for Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit. This is now changing and the DWP may contact you to ask you to attend a medical assessment, to speak to your Work Coach or to make yourself available to work.
Check the Citizens Advice website for information about how coronavirus may have changed your benefits.
If you can’t pay your rent
At the beginning of the national lockdown the government stopped landlords from evicting tenants by preventing possession proceedings. The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords can now evict tenants through court proceedings. Courts are currently prioritising evictions that involve anti-social behaviour and other crimes, but your landlord can now take you to court if you haven’t been able to pay your rent.
Check the Citizens Advice website for information about what to do if you can’t pay your rent. You can also check if you’re entitled to help with your rent using the Turn2Us or EntitledTo benefit calculators. If you’re at risk of becoming homeless due to eviction you should contact your local council’s housing department.
Other financial support
- mortgage payment holidays
- support for people who can’t top-up prepayment energy meters
- other financial support.
The Money Advice Service also have a step-by-step guide to managing your money during the outbreak.
If you need help with food and other essentials
You may be able to get a Crisis Grant from Wandsworth Council. This support comes in the form of supermarket vouchers that can be used for groceries and fuel vouchers for pre-payment meters. You can apply for a Crisis Grant on the Wandsworth Council website.
NHS Volunteer Responders can help by collecting and delivering shopping, medicine and other essential supplies. You don’t have to be on the shielding list to get this support, just vulnerable for another reason (physical health, mental health, disability, pregnancy or age). You can refer yourself to this service by calling 0808 196 3646.
If your children normally get free school meals they may still be able to get these. The government has asked schools to provide meals, food parcels or supermarket vouchers. Check with your children’s school for more information.
Local organisations are also providing essential supplies to residents but demand for these services is currently very high.
- Regenerate Rise are organising food parcels for Roehampton residents.
- Wandsworth Foodbank are open but you need a food voucher from a charity or similar organisation.
If you’re a victim of domestic abuse
Staying at home can be difficult for anyone experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse. GOV.UK has information about the help and support available.
Support if you’re isolated
- NHS Volunteer Responders can arrange calls to check-in with you and make sure you have food, medicine and other supplies. Volunteers from this service can also help you attend hospital and medical appointments.
- Age UK Wandsworth are offering telephone befriending for older people through their Be-A-Friend service.
- Wandsworth Carers Centre are offering telephone support and weekly webinars for Carers
- The Furzedown Project are offering telephone befriending for older people through their home visiting service
- The Resident has a list of coronavirus mutual aid groups in London.
Watch out for scams
You can find information about common coronavirus scams on the Which? website:
- fake testing kits and supplements
- fake hand sanitiser and face masks
- emails and texts saying that you’ve been fined for not staying at home
- emails and texts saying that you can claim a payment, refund or compensation
- calls from people claiming to be from your bank, mortgage lender or utility company
- people coming to your house and offering to do your shopping
- people asking for donations for a Covid-19 vaccine.
A scam might not involve being asked for money or your bank details. Some scammers just want your personal information or for you to click on a lick so you download malicious software. Check Money Saving Expert for information about how to spot a scam and what to do if you get scammed.
If you have a holiday booked
If you need more help you can get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service.
How you can help
If you want to support local organisations helping people affected by coronavirus you can donate to Age UK Wandsworth, Wandsworth Carers Centre, Wandsworth Community Transport, Wandsworth Foodbank and Regenerate Rise.