Information and advice

*Information last updated: Friday April 3rd, 3.45pm.

We would like to reassure you that we are working hard to keep you up to date with the latest information regarding what the Coronavirus outbreak means for you.

Scroll down for how to get advice and information from us. You’ll also find answers to some commonly asked questions.

Please note that all information below is correct at time of going to press, but information and guidance is changing rapidly. Please keep an eye on our social media pages for the most up to date information:
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How do I reach Citizens Advice services in West Sussex?

* For services in the Arun and Chichester area, please click here.

All of our advice locations are closed for face-to-face advice due to the outbreak.
However, you can still get information and advice from us without leaving your home.

Call us on Adviceline: 0344 477 1171 (Monday to Friday, 9am-4.30pm)

Chat to us via web chat, or use our email service – click here
*Our phone lines can be busy; if you can’t get through on the phone straight away, please try again.  Alternatively, you could contact us using web chat, email or self-help as above.

For all the latest Coronavirus information and guidance in British Sign Language, please visit the Signhealth website.

Please click here to read a message from our CEO, Emma Cross, on Coronavirus and how we are supporting local people.

Commonly asked questions:

Please note: information and guidance on Coronavirus is changing rapidly. All information is correct at the time of going to press.

Please click on the sections below to access the information. 

Local support and help if you're at risk or vulnerable

I have a health condition which makes me extremely vulnerable to Coronavirus. I know I need to stay at home, but how do I get supplies? Is there any extra support for me?
The government is setting up a new service for people who are especially vulnerable to Coronavirus. We don’t have much information yet, but we understand there will be support to help you get essential supplies. You’ll also be able to register for this service if you are a carer for someone who is vulnerable.

Registration is now open: click here to find out more.

You can also register for local support via the Community Hubs, as below.

 

Someone I know needs extra support: they don’t have a computer or phone, they have a mental health condition and they’re isolated. What can I do to help?
Local councils in West Sussex have set up Community Hubs to give extra help to people who may be vulnerable, with things like food, medicine, emotional and mental health support, and more.

Please click here for further information.

You can report yourself or another person as vulnerable via the pages below, for localised support.
Please note: eligibility criteria may vary:

Adur and Worthing Councils: please click here
Crawley Borough Council: please click here
Horsham District Council: please click here
Mid Sussex District Council: please click here
West Sussex County Council: please click here

 

I’m disabled and I’m worried about how I’ll get supplies – is there any help for me?
Check the above questions for information on the vulnerable person’s register and the local Community Hubs, for the extra support available locally. If you have friends, family or trusted neighbours you could ask them for support with shopping, etc. A number of supermarkets are setting aside specific opening times for older or vulnerable people and carers to shop away from the general public. Many local communities are setting up support schemes to help people with shopping etc. Many foodbanks are arranging delivery of emergency parcels. You can check with your local Citizens Advice what may be available in your area.

 

I can’t get food for myself or my family – what should I do?
In many cases we will be able to refer you for a foodbank voucher, and we can point you towards local services. Please click here for further information on local services in West Sussex. 
Benefits

My income has dropped due to the Coronavirus outbreak; I’ve been made redundant or dismissed, but I can still look for work. What benefits could I apply for?
If you are no longer employed but you are able to work, you may want to consider claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (previously known as Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance):
This is a benefit payable to people who are actively seeking work and who may not qualify for means tested benefits such as Universal Credit For example, you may have more than £16,000 in capital or savings, or your partner may still be working and your income is too high to qualify for Universal Credit.
To qualify for New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will need to meet the two tests that are applied:

  • You must have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions for at least 26 weeks, in the previous two tax years from your claim date.
  • You must have been credited with Class 1 National Insurance contributions for 50 weeks at the lower earnings limit for the previous two tax years. For 2019/20 the lower earnings limit was £118 per week.

This benefit is paid at a flat rate for 6 months.
To claim, please click here, or call 0800 055 6688.
If you are confused and you’d like more information, please contact us.

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance:
This benefit (for people seeking work) has been replaced with Universal Credit for most people.  
Click here for more information on the different types of Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Universal Credit:
Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit paid to people of working age, who are on a low income.  It does not depend on your National Insurance record, and is not taxable.  You can claim if:

  • You are looking for work
  • You are unable to work due to sickness or disability
  • You are a lone parent
  • You are caring for someone
  • You are working and your income is low.

To qualify for Universal Credit, there are some criteria you would need to meet. For example you must have under £16,000 in savings and not be subject to Immigration Control.
There are other qualifying criteria: please click here for the full list.

If you are already in receipt of other benefits, including Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, it is important that you check eligibility to see if you would be better off, remaining on those. Your existing benefits may stop if you receive Universal Credit, and you may receive less income.

Universal Credit is calculated according to your personal circumstances, and is made up of various elements that may or may not apply to you. For example, if you have a mortgage, the Housing element will not apply. However it may apply if you are renting.
For further information or advice, please contact us.
You can also use a benefit calculator.

 

What help can I get if I have to self-isolate?
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:

  • they have Coronavirus
  • they have Coronavirus symptoms, for example, high temperature or new continuous cough
  • someone in their household has Coronavirus symptoms
  • they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

If someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. Those who live alone must self-isolate for 7 days. Employers might offer more than SSP – ‘contractual’ sick pay. If an employee or worker cannot work, they should tell their employer:

  • as soon as possible
  • the reason
  • how long they’re likely to be off for

You can now request an isolation note online, if you’re off work for more than 7 days due to Coronavirus.
See the guidance on the ACAS website for further updates.

 

I’m self-employed, and my work’s been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. What help is there for me?
The government has announced the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme: – worth 80% of profits paid up to £2.5k per month – over 3 months with possible extension. If you’re eligible, HMRC will contact you to apply, and send you the money.

**Please note, you’ll need to submit your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for 2018-19 by 23 April 2020.**

For full eligibility criteria and further information on claiming, please click here.

 

I receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). I am waiting for an assessment. Will I still have to go?
Face-to-face assessments for PIP and ESA have been suspended for 3 months. The assessments will go ahead based on the information that has been sent in. The Assessors may also carry out telephone interviews if they think it necessary. The DWP says they will contact everyone who has an appointment, to tell them about these arrangements.
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-to-face-health-assessments-for-benefits-suspended-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

 

I have never applied for benefits before, are there any tips?
Most benefit claims are straight forward. Many benefits require you to apply online, so if you struggle with the internet it may be helpful if you get support from someone you know and trust. Some benefits are claimed over the phone. Try to get together all of the information you think you might need and follow the guidance. There are instructions on how to apply for different benefits.
You will also find details of phone numbers if you need to make a telephone claim: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Beginner-s-Guide-to-Benefits/Claiming-benefits

 

Should I still go to the Jobcentre?
Jobcentres are only open for urgent enquiries, for people who are homeless and people who cannot access digital channels. Here is how to contact your local Jobcentre: https://www.gov.uk/contact-jobcentre-plus

 

I am a European National and might lose my job because of coronavirus. What are my rights?
As a European National, you have the same protection in your job as any other employee or worker. If you are laid off, the same employment practice should be followed as for other workers.

If you have a right to reside and have been in the UK for more than 3 months, you should be entitled to claim benefits and get help with housing if necessary. https://www.gov.uk/right-to-reside

If you have been in the UK for 5 years you should consider applying for Settled Status. This will reinforce your rights in the UK. https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status

Consumer

I have a holiday booked, will I get my money back if I don’t go?
This will depend. Talk to your travel company or travel insurance company. They should advise you on your rights and what to do next. Be mindful that they are likely to be very busy at present and be unable to respond to phone calls quickly. Do read any terms and conditions that came with your booking and do check the company’s website, as they should provide information there. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/health/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you/#h-if-you-re-planning-on-travelling-abroad

Debt and money

I’m worried I’ll struggle to pay my bills. What can I do?
There are things you can do if you’re struggling to pay things like your rent, mortgage or energy bills because of Coronavirus. It’s important you don’t ignore your bills. Speak to the organisation you owe money to – they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break. It’s also worth checking with your bank or building society – they might be able to help you with your debts or let you delay loan or credit card repayments. Don’t forget you may be eligible to claim for benefits.

If you already receive benefits, you might be able to get more money if your income is reduced – click here for more information.

Be careful to avoid scams. Don’t give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust – for example, if someone knocks on your door and offers to help.

Various measures have been put in place to help you – for information on the different sorts of bills you may be asked to pay, please click below for more information:
Paying your mortgage
Paying your rent
Paying your energy bills – including prepayment meters
Paying your water bill

 

I’m struggling to pay my TV Licence, is there anything I can do?
The TV Licence call centre is currently closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. If during this time you are struggling to pay for your TV Licence, you can stop your direct debits or payments. You will have to pay missed payments once the centre is re-open.

You can read more information on how to manage your payment here.

 

What things can I do right now to manage my money better?
There are a number of ways that you can plan ahead to save money during this time. Have a look at the Money Advice Service website to see what you can do right now.

You can read the guidance here.

 

Can bailiffs still enforce the debt collection?
The Civil Enforcement Association has suspended all enforcement activity. This means that bailiffs cannot enforce debt collection during the coronavirus crisis. You may still receive letters relating to your debt.

You can read advice on how to deal with bailiffs on the Citizens Advice website.

You can read the announcement here.

 

I have a personal loan, credit card, store card or catalogue credit and I am struggling to make the monthly payments.
If you have longer-term financial problems lenders are required by the FCA rules to help you if you’re having financial difficulties. For example, if you’re having difficulties making your loan payments, firms should consider suspending, reducing, waiving or cancelling any further interest or charges, deferring payment of arrears or accepting token payments for a reasonable period of time. Contact your lender and ask for the option that is most appropriate for your circumstances.

Click here to read more information on the Financial Conduct Authority website.

 

I’m finding it difficult to pay my tax bill, is there any help for me?
You may be able to delay some of your payment without paying a penalty. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) coronavirus helpline as soon as possible.

HMRC coronavirus helpline
Telephone: 0800 0159 559
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
Calls to this number are free.
You can find more information here.

Employment

My boss says they cannot pay me because of Coronavirus, is that allowed?
It will depend on your circumstances but if your employer cannot give you pay, you may be able to get help from benefits. If you are unable to work because you are ill you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
Click here for more information.

 

Can my employer ask me to take unpaid leave or a sabbatical?
The first advice is that you should check your contract to see if these or layoffs are included. If not they should enquire in writing if the alternative would be redundancy. It is unlikely any employer could insist on unpaid leave or a sabbatical without a fundamental (repudiatory) breach of the employment contract. If this is imposed on a client without their agreement, the case should be referred to a specialist.

 

I have been advised by the NHS and government to shield for 12 weeks as I am in the high risk category but my employer has advised me this will be unpaid. I have enquired about being furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme but the company aren’t being supportive with this request. What can I do?
First check the NHS classification of extremely vulnerable in the guidance on gov.uk here.

Also look at the information on the Citizens Advice website.  “Your employer can furlough you and pay you through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. They can do this even if the business isn’t shutting down. You need to first check you were on your employer’s payroll on 28 February 2020. “

ACAS has a good section on isolation and sick pay. This has helpful information on how to prove that you are vulnerable to your employer. Please click here to access the information.

Govuk has helpful information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: “Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this. Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough”.

If you need additional money whilst you are waiting for payment you may want to use our benefits calculator to check entitlement: www.entitled2.co.uk

 

I’ve been asked to go on Furlough leave – what are my rights?
If your employer wishes you to go on Furlough leave under the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, they must first write and  get your permission. This could also be applicable if you are employed by an agency, or on flexible working or a zero hours contract. The furlough should not begin while you are sick or self-isolating. It only commences when you are returning to work. You can refuse. But they could decide instead to dismiss you with notice pay if under 2 years’ service or make you redundant. They must also state the period for which you are expected to be furloughed.
You should not be instructed to do any work for the employer whilst on this leave except for training. The employer might also  state they will change your contract on your return to work from say contractual hours to zero hours. If you are not happy to accept this change, we would advise you immediately write back to the employer. You should state  you have not accepted this proposed change to your contract of employment.

 

I’m on a Zero Hours Contract – am I entitled to sick pay?
If you have a Zero Hours employment contract, you are entitled to sick pay if you earn above £118 per week, averaged over the last 8 weeks. To receive this you will normally need to have a regular pattern of work. e.g. from a rota or sign in sheets. Other Statutory Sick Pay requirements are similar to those for contracted hours employees.

Family

My child’s school has closed, does my employer have to give me time off?
In most cases, you will be entitled to take time off to look after your children. This may be unpaid unless your employer makes a separate arrangement. https://www.gov.uk/parental-leave/entitlement  

 

Do I need to pay nursery fees if the nursery is closed?
To know whether you still have to pay the nursery even if is closed, check the T&Cs in your contract; you may find variations between nurseries’ policies.

Housing

I rent my home but my wages have stopped, is there help for me? 
It will depend upon your circumstances but if there is not enough money coming into the household to pay the rent, you may be able to claim Universal Credit and get help with your housing costs. https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-to-claim
You may also be able to get help with your Council Tax bills. Contact your local council to get details of the support they offer.  

 

I don’t know how I will pay my Council Tax now that my income has dropped. What can I do?
If you are on a low income and you have limited savings, you can apply for Council Tax Support at your local Council. You may also  qualify for a discount, for example:

  • if you are the only adult
  • if there is an adult who is severely disabled living with you
  • if you are a carer

Remember that each area may have different rules so please check with your local Council benefits office or local Citizens Advice.

Self help information from Citizens Advice

You can also visit Citizens Advice’s Coronavirus page for all the latest information, including:

  • What to do if you’re claiming benefits or asked to go to a medical assessment
  • If you’re off sick from work or told to stay home due to Coronavirus
  • Your rights to sick pay, including statutory sick pay
  • If you are self-employed
  • Taking time off work to look after a dependant
  • Travel: claiming compensation for a cancelled holiday or flight, claiming travel insurance
  • Coronavirus scams: what to look out for
  • And more.

You can also find vital information on consumer and employee rights here.
For information on support for employers, employees and businesses, visit the gov.uk website.

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