Our Welfare Services Team is busy helping beneficiaries navigate the social and financial implications that the coronavirus has thrown into the air.
“Many of the calls we’re receiving are from people whose income has been affected,” says Welfare Services Lead Carrie Pearce. “From retained firefighters worried about their primary source of income to families where one member has been furloughed, we know people are worried about how to provide for their loved ones.”
So we’ve pulled together a few tips to help your money go further.
As people are spending more time using electricity and heating as they spend more time at home, energy costs are likely to increase. The government is working with energy companies to support vulnerable customers during this time.
If you’re facing financial difficulties, your energy provider should be able to support you. This could include bills being reassessed or reduced, and the disconnection of energy supplies will be completely suspended during this time.
If you’re on a pre-payment metre and cannot get out of your home to top up credit during isolation, speak to your provider about maintaining your energy supply.
Mortgages and rent
The government has announced payment holidays for customers that are facing financial difficulty as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Under the government’s policy, you can apply for a payment break for up to three months, as long as you are up-to-date with current payments. The mortgage holiday also applies to buy-to-let landlords and is designed to encourage landlords to offer flexibility to tenants who are struggling to meet rent payments. The government’s new legislation also protects tenants from eviction.
This means that from now until at least the end of September, landlords must provide three months’ notice in advance of starting eviction proceedings. The courts have also suspended all proceedings for and enforcement of possession orders for 90 days, with effect from 26 March.
Credit card providers have offered a range of measures to support their customers. These include a temporary increase to credit card limits and payment holidays, waiving fees and refunds for withdrawing cash on a credit card, but you’ll need to check with your individual provider. Most applications for a payment holiday can be done online.
Credit reference agencies, such as Equifax and Experian have agreed to an emergency payment freeze, with new guidance to ensure that an individual’s credit score is not affected during the agreed payment holiday. This payment freeze can apply to loans, mortgages, store cards and credit cards. You must negotiate with your provider for these holidays and not simply cancel any direct debits.
Travel costs and car insurance
Most public transport companies are allowing customers to cancel season tickets if you’re working from home, and some pre-booked tickets can be cancelled with full refunds. It’s important to look at your terms and conditions for both.
If you are no longer using your car for work, you can ask your provider to switch your premiums from Business use to Social use, which this can reduce your premiums. If you are not using your car at all, you can register the car as being off the road and cancel your policy, which will also exempt you from the vehicle tax.
TV subscriptions and broadband
With the majority of sports fixtures being cancelled, you’re unlikely to be watching BT Sports or Sky Sports. For this reason, Sky are currently allowing their customers to pause subscriptions free of charge, which can be done online. They’re also offering a number of free extras during lockdown.
BT is offering several options, including reclaiming a month’s credit. If you have fibre broadband, you can sign up to BT’s flexible package and get BT Sport free for three months. The BBC has also announced that for over 75s, its TV license fee will not come into force until 1 August 2020.
More information about help with managing your money or other issues affecting you can be found on the Government website.
We’re still here for you
If you’re struggling with your finances or any other factors affecting your wellbeing, give us a ring. Our Support Line remains open and our Welfare Support team is poised and ready to support you, signpost to advice, or just offer a friendly listening ear. Call us on 0800 389 8829 or make an enquiry online.