Young woman in lockdown with mask looking at mobile phone

Life in Lockdown

The year 2020 hasn’t exactly panned out the way we hoped, has it? Many of us have had ups and downs through the Coronavirus crisis but it’s okay not to feel okay. The main thing is to know there’s help to get us through

At the risk of wishing our lives away, most of us will be glad when 2020 is over. Come the next New Year’s parties, assuming we’re able to mingle by then, many will be hoping we never hear the word lockdown again.

One thing those of us who are online can be thankful for is the internet. Video calls mean grandparents see grandchildren. Bill-payers who’d usually settle accounts in cash can pay online. Shoppers browse websites if not shop windows. And people struggling can reach out to find help when they need it. That’s why we’ve devised our Top 5 Tips for using the worldwide web to keep us on top of lockdown.

The public health message of digging in and waiting for the risk to clear has certainly been received. But there’s no need to suffer in silence with the kind of things that only get worse without help. Debt can’t wait. Anxiety can’t wait. Abuse can’t wait.

It’s easy to say the sick and needy must come first but everyone of us is important. And trained workers are eager to help, not wait until after lockdown, when things are so much worse.

Only just coping? Put Google to use

Although the medical emergency hogged the limelight, there has been a heroic effort from community projects across the UK.

People discharged early from hospital received care, and care homes and hospices shared endless compassion… also without enough PPE. Millions of our neighbours stepped up as volunteers to distribute food parcels and pick up prescriptions. Community Hubs were established in each council area, bringing charities in to share the load with social services teams.

Most of us have had a leaflet through the door but, if not, go to the local council’s website and search ‘coronavirus’. This should take you to details of the nearest Community Hub and how to reach them. We have to stay alert to our own needs and reach out when the warning signs appear. Call now.

Jump the queue for advice

There are numerous websites for every type of advice we might every need. In fact, the Citizens Advice website has just about everything we need in one place. Swotting up on our rights or next steps online beats queuing or waiting, sometimes weeks, for a local advisor. But they’re not the only advice agency in town.

For housing queries or rent arrears, there’s Shelter and local support charities to search for online. (Search: housing advice + [our town].) We should also be able to easily find our council’s housing team.

For mental health, there’s MIND, although there are dozens of great agencies, each with something different to offer. The same goes for domestic abuse, sadly on the rise during lockdown, where Women’s Aid is one option but there are others. Similarly, kids at risk might turn to Childline, while concerned adults might approach the NSPCC. Every type of illness or disease usually has a specialist charity that in turn has a website, we just need to look them up.

Money help is all over the internet too. Now really is the time to check everything is in place for when lockdown lifts. Start with the Quids in! Future-Proof Finance Quiz, to see what we might want to think about now, next and in future. From there, we can find advice on how to make those changes from MoneySavingExpert, the Money and Pensions Service or direct from the likes of National Debtline or Turn2us. See our list of national contacts here but don’t forget there will be local agencies too.

Food on the table

Food fast became the key issue during this crisis. Panic-buying, mile-long queues and empty shelves proved that. It’s been a bit of a nightmare.

Community Hubs set up in every area of the UK have teams on standby to help people unable to shop for themselves. To find the number, we can visit the local council’s website and usually just have to search for ‘coronavirus’. This should take us to a page about the help available.

We don’t want to keep going out if we don’t have to so, if we have the money, buying in bulk is the best idea. It’s a good way to keep costs down too. Stick to some basics and don’t get tempted by offers for things we don’t need. This article could help.

Buying in bulk is only an option if we have somewhere to store everything safely. A fridge and a freezer, and an oven make everything easier (and cheaper). But not everyone has what they need. Grants are available, though, and the best place might be to start is Turn2us who can often help. This article has more details. In Wales, the Discretionary Assistance Fund could help with buying appliances. Scottish residents on low incomes should be able to access grants too, according to Citizens Advice (see here).

Finally, recipes for cheap eats can be found everywhere. We have a few on this website but our favourite expert is Lorna Cooper, who set up Feed Your Family For Around £20. She recently featured in Quids in! (read it here) and you can find her fantastic website here.

Boosting our income

The first rule for people on low incomes to max the cash is to go through a benefits check. We are entitled to all sorts that many of us don’t even know about. A big one, for example, is help with council tax when we’re claiming Universal Credit. There is over £30 billion of unclaimed benefit, so it’s worth a look. We can visit Turn2us to see what we can claim. If we’re going to claim Universal Credit but feel a bit wary of the online process, LearnMyWay will walk through the process first.

Finding work is an option, even during lockdown. A lot of places have been desperate, with staff off sick, shielding or looking after children. If we’re not at risk, and no-one else at home is, now could be an ideal time to find work for two reasons: Employers have needed people so badly, some dropped their need for online applications and interviews – just call. After lockdown, there could be mass unemployment, so get that foot in the door! See this Quids in! article on finding work during lockdown.

Finally, stuck at home, many of us are having a general clear-out. Remember, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. There’s a big market for ‘pre-loved’ stuff, whether at car boot sales or online through gumtree or eBay. For those of us with a talent for making things like jewellery, greetings cards or soft toys, for example. We could be selling these online too at somewhere like Etsy. Check out our Income Max guide.

Beat lockdown, virtually

Lockdown is a good time to think about sharpening our skills, whether that’s learning a language or taking up life drawing. But growing our IT skills is a gift we can keep giving ourselves. LearnMyWay offers easy-to-follow online courses about, well, being online. As we’ve been able to follow a link to find this page, we’re well on the way to being able to watch videos… So why not make a video call? So why not make a video? So why not start up our own YouTube channel?

Quids in! has produced a guide to getting started with LearnMyWay. Being online should give us a head start to saving, experts reckon, around £800 a year. (And if we find work online, the cash benefit is even greater.) All the tricks on how to shave costs are built into the LearnMyWay courses, (and there’s loads on this website too, of course). So getting stuck in right now to explore the internet properly makes great use of our time. We can grows our skills for using all the world wide web has to offer AND get ourselves better off too! What are we waiting for

As a fast-track to some of those savings we can find online, try the Quids in! Future-Proof Finance Quiz. Answer a few simple questions about money habits and it will suggest steps to boost the bank balance. Some steps we can start today, clicking through to online tools that help, for example. Some require starting new habits over time. Some need working towards in future. It’s dead easy. If there’s too much to take in at the end – just pick out a couple of things to start with.


Samaritans

Samaritans offer free support and the chance to talk to someone if things are getting on top of us. As well as their phonelines and offering email support, they also have loads of really helpful info on their website. Everything from dealing with working from home to worrying about our friends or relatives is covered. It’s well worth a browse.

Email: jo@samaritans.org
Call (free and 24 hours): 116 123