Corona-Finance: Money

Corona-Finance: Money

I’ve been hit with a fine for not wearing a mask. I can’t believe it. Is this going to mess up my credit rating?

As these are so new, it’s difficult to say for sure but normally, things like parking fines or speeding tickets only affect our credit scores if we don’t pay them. It seems likely the same will apply to Covid-related fines.

If we get taken to court for non-payment, lose the case and fail to pay the fine within 30 days, this will appear on our credit file and affect our rating for up to five years. In turn, poor credit ratings affect our ability to obtain a loan or the interest we have to pay when we borrow money as we’ll be seen as a higher risk.

It’s worth knowing that police and Transport for London officers have enforcement powers for these fines, and that fines paid within 14 days are reduced from £200 to £100. Those receiving repeat fines on public transport or in an indoor setting will have them doubled each time. After the first fine, there will be no discount. For example, receiving a second fine will amount to £400 and a third fine will be £800, up to a maximum value of £6,400.

More info, including how to make your own mask

I’m self-employed or on a zero hours contract. Can I get statutory sick pay? If not, what can I do if I need to self-isolate?

To get SSP you need to be an employee (not self-employed) and earn an average of £118 per week. For those of us that can’t claim SSP, the government announced they are making it easier to claim Universal Credit and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). Some of the measures that have been put in place to make claiming easier include:

Not needing to provide a ‘fit note’ to make a new claim for UC or ESA;
A month’s UC paid upfront as an advance without needing to attend the jobcentre;
The seven day wait for new ESA claimants has been reduced, and will now be payable from day one.

More info:

Also, the government have now announced that self-employed workers may be able to receive a one-off grant in June. The grant (The Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme) is available to self-employed workers who have an average trading profit of less than £50,000 over the past three tax years. Or, if we have only been self-employed for one year (2018/19 tax year) our earnings must be less than £50,000.

The grant is only available to people whose self-employed earnings make up more than half of their annual income. The government will be in touch directly with those of us who are eligible for the grant. The grant will cover a three-month period (March – May) and will cover 80% of lost earnings up to £2,500 per month (so £7,500 in all).

More info on The Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme is available on the government’s website:

I don’t have much in savings but does my house (or my car) count as an asset that will affect whether I am eligible to claim?

Assets are not taken into account when claiming Universal Credit, but savings of £6,000 and up are. Owning your own home and car will not stop you claiming UC. In fact, there may be some extra benefits you can apply for as a part of the Universal Credit claim.

This info is from the government in relation to UC:

Owner-occupiers who are leaseholders can get help with service charges paid as a housing element within Universal Credit. Although you normally have to serve a waiting period of approximately nine months from the date of your Universal Credit claim before you can receive this help.

Help with mortgage interest payments is available in the form of a loan on which you will be charged interest. This is separate from your claim for Universal Credit. Please read our Support for Mortgage Interest Loan guide for more detailed information about this loan

Read more here:

I’ve been offered an emergency grant of £500 but I’m worried, will it affect my benefits claim?

According to our friends at Turn2us, the grant should be treated as a ‘gift’ unless it increases our savings or investments to over the £6,000 limit. It’s more complicated if we have between £6,000 and £18,000 stashed away.

There is a factsheet about grants on the Turn2us website here:

If a grant is not treated as a grant, appeal and make reference to the Turn2us information.

I’m self-employed and eligible for the government’s Covid-19 support package, providing 80% of my income up to £2500/month for 3 months. But my business has grown rapidly, and my income for the most recent tax year is far higher than the 2 before. Will the government calculate my support from an average of the last 3 years income, or just from the most recent tax year?

HMRC will calculate your average profits based on any tax returns you’ve submitted over the last three tax years.

This means that if the average profit over the three year period is under £50,000, you’ll be eligible for the scheme. If the average profit over the three year period is over £50,000, you will be ineligible for the scheme.

If eligible, you’ll get 1 payment to cover the whole length of the scheme, which will be paid in June.

More here: 

I’m having trouble paying my TV license – what should I do?

If you cant get out to make a TV license payment at PayPoint, you can pay using your debit or credit card, or over the phone. If your income is reduced because of Coronavirus, contact the TV License service directly, and they will try to help.

All of their information relating to Coronavirus and payments can be found here:

I’ve booked a holiday abroad, but am no longer allowed into the country due to border closures. Can I claim on insurance for the flights and accommodation costs?

According to Martin Lewis: Check your cancellation rights – can you cancel for free? If the travel company/flight operator have cancelled, then you are entitled to a refund, but you may be offered a voucher instead.

Which? advise you not accept the voucher, as it is unknown if you will be able to use this in the future. If you wait for the foreign office to say you can’t travel, then most insurance companies will cover.

Which? has up to date info on its website, with lots of questions and answers dedicated to holiday questions:

My kids get free school meals. Now that schools have closed will I be able to get help towards the cost of feeding them?

The government’s scheme of replacing free school meals during the coronavirus shutdown went live on 31st March. Now, parents and carers of the 1.3 million schoolchildren in the UK who are eligible for free school meals can get a £15 weekly voucher. The vouchers are only eligible in term time weeks.

The voucher can be used in a number of supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrrison’s and Asda. The vouchers will be distributed by schools, either through a digital code that can be used via a smartphone in supermarkets, or via a gift card that will be sent out/collected from the school. Some schools will also be keeping their kitchens open (or using off site caterers), and will be able to deliver the school dinners or have them collected by a parent or carer.

The voucher scheme will not include the universal free school meals given out up to Y2.

For more info on the scheme, see the governments website here:

For those of us who don’t qualify for free school meals, there are loads of resources out there to bring down the cost of cooking for kids. Do a search online for ‘cheap meals for kids’, there will be recipes and videos with ideas and suggestions. Ask around to see how other parents are coping – maybe you could team up to share batch meals between you.

There will be family support available at community centres and at the local council and if you’re renting from the council or a housing association, society or charity, they might well have help available.

You don’t need to start foraging or poaching but you may need to start asking for help. It’s worth doing a search on Facebook for local support that is springing up – type your town or village into the search bar. Look through the other food related questions here too, to see if they inspire you with some ideas.

Updated 06/04/2020

I’ve lost my income due to coronavirus. I can’t pay my rent. What help is available?

Check if you can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If not, you may be entitled to benefits, so check and apply as soon as you can. Check here to see what benefits you can apply for.

You can check if you are eligible for Universal Credit here and you can apply for Universal Credit here:

There is also information on applying for New Style ESA here

The government has put a hold on all new evictions for 3 months, and it is always worth discussing your situation with your landlord. For more information on your rights as an employee, check here

And for housing advice, check the Shelter website

I’ve lost my job and can’t pay my upcoming bank loan instalment. Is there any help available?

In the first instance, contact your Bank – check for the guidance on your Bank’s website, many banks are asking for customers to contact them on social media and email. The phone they are reserving for vulnerable people who do not have access to the internet.

Banks are helping by giving people extensions to loans, mortgage holidays of 3 months, instant access to savings such as ISA’s and savings that would usually be tied into agreements.

For more information on the kind of help available from banks, check here:

Will my bank do anything to help me get through this?

According to the Money and Pension Serivce, a number of banks have offered help including increased credit limits on cards and cash withdrawal limits, as well as potential credit card repayment ‘holidays’.

As with all credit, just because we’re offered it, doesn’t mean we have to take it, but an emergency is an emergency. It pays to be cynical when banks offer to help us out because the more we’re in debt, the more money they make.

See more on which banks are stepping up here:

I’ve bought a ticket for a festival that’s now been cancelled. Can I get a refund?

Each festival will have its policy; it is worth checking in with them. Glastonbury, for example, announced it would roll over the tickets purchased for 2020 for entry to Glastonbury 2021.

If you bought your ticket from an official seller, then you should be entitled to a refund if the event is cancelled or postponed. However, this may not be the case if you bought from a re-selling site or private seller, this may not be possible.

Find more info here:

Some shops are refusing payments in cash because of Coronavirus, but I don’t have a card – what can I do?

Some shops are going ‘cash-free’ as a way to try and stop the spread of Coronavirus. If you can’t get (or don’t want) a regular debit card, you could consider getting a prepaid card.

There are sometimes fees with prepaid cards so make sure to do your research! To read more about prepaid cards, check out this article on uSwitch and see Money Saving Expert’s top prepaid card picks.

Coronavirus means I’m not earning. I am going to fall into debt. Fast. Help.

Okay. Take a moment and try not to panic. (We know that can be hard.)

The first thing we recommend is taking a quick money health-check, which the Quids in! Future-Proof Your Finances Test can take us through. It’s a list of simple yes/no questions to help us identify anything we might try to keep costs down and income up. At the end, it explains why it’s good to try the things we don’t yet have in place and offers some guidance on where to start.

We might be able to save money somewhere but there could also be extra income we can get hold of, like emergency benefits or grants. Are you in East London, Gloucestershire or Bath & North East Somerset? If so, you can call your local Quids In Centre who will be happy to go through the money health-check with you. The Centres are run by Clean Slate.

Usually, the first four steps for protecting ourselves against debt is to:
1) List our income and all our outgoings to see how short we might be
2) Look at what can be cut or where extra cash could come in
3) Contact any companies, landlords or official bodies we owe money to and explain the situation and ask them to help
4) Contact Stepchange Debt Charity or National Debtline if we feel we’re unable to keep on top of debts.

See our Useful Links page here.

I have the kids off school and no money. We are going crazy in the house, we don’t have a garden – none of us are ill. We tried to go to the park but it’s small and everyone had the same idea and the kids just all want to go on the swings and slides so we had to bail. Is anything else open?

Currently, the National Trust has now closed all of its car parks and gated gardens, as well as the cafes and houses.  Car parks are open only to key workers with a permit.

Please check if there is a place near to you and if they are open as things are changing rapidly. You must not have symptoms and maintain social distancing.

Read more:

There are lots of resources online that are free – a good place to look is Twinkl, which has a home learning support page, weekly planners and a mountain of printouts and ideas.

You can also check out Mumsnet for a list of other free resources and links:

Many childrens’ authors and illustrators are running online drawing, story writing and poetry tutorials for free on Youtube, and if you need to wear them out, Joe Wicks is running a youtube exercise class for kids (and adults!) every school day morning at 9am

I don’t have much food in and I’m scared I’ll be asked to self-isolate. It sounds like all the supermarket shelves are bare anyway. What is your advice?

We can understand why people buy in a panic but it isn’t helpful when we all need to eat and keep clean. While you’re able to get around, pick up what you can, when you can. Start with the long-life stuff, (which is why people went crazy for dried pasta and tinned foods).

Shops are re-stocking constantly, so don’t despair. One idea is to look at booking a supermarket delivery online. They’re stretched at the moment so it can be as much as a week before they’re able to get supplies to us. Once booked, see how long we can keep adding to the shopping basket for. (Sainsbury’s, for example, allows shoppers to keep changing their order until 11pm the night before delivery.) At least we’re on their delivery schedule. It’s possible that a lot might be out of stock but be prepared to consider alternatives: No mince, buy meat that can easily be diced by hand. No cabbage or spinach, could sprouts make a change. Get creative or try some new recipes.

Checkout: our Corona-Finance top 5 tips for stretching a food budget.

I keep getting more and more calls from numbers I dont know. What’s going on?

It’s shocking but scam calls are on the up during this crisis. Some even say they are offering help from the government to write off all our debts, for example. The trouble is, a lot of real help is going to need to be made available by phone.

As older people are often targeted, Age UK have some good advice on how we can all protect ourselves:

1. Never reveal personal details – even if our bank rings us, tell them they need to prove who THEY are!

2. Hang up – this is no time for politeness, don’t accept anything dodgy

3. Call them back – ask for a number and, if possible, look up at that number online to check it’s legit

4. Don’t be rushed – scammers will pressure us so we don’t notice what they’re up to, if they’re pushy, hang up! If the caller really has our interests at heart, they’ll understand.

Read more:

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