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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.
The government advice is updated daily so you should check it regularly.
What effect is it having on public services?
Current government guidance is that everyone should stay at home wherever possible and limit contact with other people. In response to the outbreak many organisations are restricting or closing 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 can’t work
You may not be able to work if:
- you’re sick
- you need to self-isolate and can’t work from home
- you need to look after your children while schools are closed.
Check the Citizens Advice website for information about your rights if you can’t work due to coronavirus. You can also read about other ways you and your employer can support each other on the Acas website. You can contact the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 if you need advice about your employment rights, but you may find it difficult to get through at the moment.
If you don’t get paid when you can’t work
If you’re self-employed or on a zero-hours contract you may not get paid when you can’t work but you might be able to claim benefits. If you’re already claiming benefits you might get more money.
Check the Citizens Advice website for information about claiming benefits if you don’t get sick pay. You can also check if you’re entitled to more support using the Turn2Us or EntitledTo benefit calculators.
If you’re employed and earning less
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 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. Check the Citizens Advice website for information about financial support if you can’t pay your bills. You can also check if you’re entitled to more support using the Turn2Us or EntitledTo benefit calculators.
If your employer sends you home
If your employer keeps paying you they can claim up to 80% of your wages back from the government, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This is called the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention scheme’, which is meant to reduce the number of people laid off due to coronavirus.
Your employer can choose whether to pay you the other 20% of your wages. While you’re not working you’re called a ‘furloughed worker’. Acas have information about being furloughed.
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.
If you’re self-employed you can get a grant from the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. This is a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
If you’re self-employed you can use the Turn2Us or EntitledTo benefit calculators to check if you’re entitled to benefits. Citizens Advice has information about support if you can’t pay your bills.
If you’re worried about returning to work
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. Acas has guidance about your employment rights when returning to work and how to raise an issue about safety.
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
The government has postponed medical assessments for ESA, Universal Credit and PIP. Routine Jobcentre appointments are cancelled but you can visit if you need help making a new claim or have an urgent enquiry.
If you’re claiming Universal Credit you can use your online journal to stay in contact with your work coach but it may take longer than usual for them to respond.
Check the Citizens Advice website for information about managing benefit claims during the coronavirus outbreak.
If you can’t pay your rent
The government has announced a temporary ban on evictions until 25 June 2020. If you have rent arrears you may need debt advice in future but you won’t be forced to leave your home now.
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.
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
The government are providing deliveries of essential supplies to people who are extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. You can register yourself or someone else for this service on GOV.UK. If you’re not sure whether your medical condition makes you extremely vulnerable you should register anyway.
NHS Volunteer Responders can also 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.
- Age UK Wandsworth are collecting food and household goods and delivering food parcels to vulnerable residents, prioritising people over the age of 60.
- 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 vaccines.
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.