Information and advice

Please note that the information and guidance is changing rapidly, but we are 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 please keep an eye on our social media pages for the most up to date information:
Facebook
Twitter

**Would you like to join our network of Community Champions in Mid Sussex, to help share and get feedback from your community on local Covid resources?**
Click here to find out more.

How do I reach Citizens Advice services in West Sussex?

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

You can get information and advice from us without leaving your home; please click here for our phone, web chat and email services.

You can connect to a BSL Interpreter by clicking on the SignVideo link on our Contact Us page.
For all the latest Coronavirus information and guidance in British Sign Language, please visit the Signhealth website.

All of our face-to-face drop-in services closed due to the pandemic. However we can offer very limited appointments to people who are in an emergency situation, at our Horsham, Crawley, Worthing and Haywards Heath centres.
Please click here to find out about measures we have put in place to keep everyone safe.

Commonly asked questions:

Please note: information and guidance on Coronavirus is changing rapidly. We are working hard to keep you up to date with the latest guidance.

Please click on the sections below to access the information. 

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

I need support – what local help is available for me?

**If your request is urgent – for example, you are going to run out of food or medicine within the next three days, please phone the West Sussex County Community Support Helpline:
033 022 27980
Lines are open 8 am to 8 pm 7 days per week.**

Local Community Hubs are available to support people who need help. Please click here for further information, and to request support from your local hub.

If you have been identified as extremely clinically vulnerable, you should follow the new government guidance during the new lockdown which began on Thursday 5th November 2020.

Don’t forget you can also get in touch with our advice team if you need support – we can give you advice and information if you’re worried about work, refer you to your local food bank and help with information on benefits, employment, debt, housing and more. Please click here for our contact details.

 
 
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 and community groups. Please click here for our contact details.
 

 

How do I apply for or renew my Blue Badge?

In normal circumstances, you can apply or renew your Blue Badge by post or online. However, due to the current Coronavirus crisis, wherever possible, West Sussex County Council is asking to apply online: “Due to the current situation with COVID-19, wherever possible, apply for your Blue Badge online and not by paper/post. It will be extremely difficult for our staff to process paper applications or information sent by post”.

Please click here to read more information on the West Sussex County Council website.

Please click here to apply for or renew your Blue Badge. 

 

I want to use the internet/my smartphone more to stay in touch with people, but I’m not confident. How do I learn?
West Sussex Libraries have great online resources for learning how to use technology (smartphones, laptops, etc.) from home. It is a way of getting digital support remotely from the library!

Click here to access more information on the West Sussex Libraries website. 

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. It can be paid alongside Universal Credit, and to those 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, such as the one on our website.

You may have heard about long wait times for phoning to claim Universal Credit. Now you only need to phone if:
  • you can’t use digital services at all
  • you have a question about your claim and cannot access your online claim
The UC team will phone you if you can’t verify your ID or they need more info: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-to-claim
If you need help, call Citizens Advice’s Help to Claim team: 0800 144 8 444
 
 
 
 

 

How will my Claimant Commitment work for Universal Credit?
Universal Credit claimants are in the process of having their claimant commitments reinstated and sanctions have been reintroduced. Claimant commitments must be reasonable for the ‘new normal’, acknowledging the reality of a person’s local jobs market and personal circumstances to prepare them for getting back into work.

Claimants who are shielding, have childcare responsibilities because of COVID restrictions, etc. will have their Claimant Commitment tailored to reflect their circumstances and will not be asked to do anything unreasonable.

Claimants who wish to change their Claimant Commitment should take a look at the Citizens Advice self-help website:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/what-youll-need-to-do-on-universal-credit/change-claimant-commitment/

Any claimant who believes they have been unfairly sanctioned can challenge that decision by way of mandatory reconsideration: you have one month to do this from the date of any DWP decision to sanction you.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/problems-with-your-payment/challenging-a-universal-credit-decision-mandatory-consideration/

 

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 temporarily suspended, but please do not delay making your claim. Assessments will go ahead based on the information that has been sent in, and 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-assessment-suspension-continues-for-health-and-disability-benefits

 

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 providing help and support over the phone, and this is the quickest way of contacting them. You will not need to go in to the Jobcentre unless you are directed to do so.
If you do need to attend a Jobcentre (for example if you do not have a telephone or digital access), they are open and someone will be able to help you. Please wear a face covering.
Please click here for more information: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/employment-and-benefits-support/faqs/#jobcentreappointments
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

We can help people in Mid Sussex to make their application: find out more about our EU Settlement Scheme support service here.

 

I need help with my finances, but I don’t think I qualify for benefits due to my immigration status; I have no recourse to public funds. What can I do?
The following payments are NOT deemed as public funds, and you can apply for them:

  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Educational grants
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • All contribution-based benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance

Click here for further information, and please get in touch with us so we can help you to understand what you’re eligible for.

 

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.
Take a look at our short video for information on the schemes available, and how to get in touch with us.

Consumer

We’ve added some frequently asked questions below, and you can also contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.

Citizens Advice consumer helpline0808 223 1133
Textphone
: 18001 0808 223 1133
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Lines are closed on bank holidays.
An adviser will answer your call as soon as possible, usually within a few minutes. Once you’re speaking to an adviser your call should take an average of 8 to 10 minutes.
Calls from mobiles and landlines are free.
Web chat: chat to the Consumer team online – click here.

 

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

 

I’ve seen lots of ads for Coronavirus-related products, like testing kits. How do I know if they’re for real products?
It’s important you’re aware of the many new scams around at the moment because of coronavirus. Scams to look out for include:

  • advertising face masks or medical equipment at high prices
  • emails or texts pretending to be from the government
  • emails offering life insurance against coronavirus
  • people knocking at your door and asking for money for charity.

If you see emails or texts about coronavirus from someone you don’t know, or from an unusual email address, don’t click on any links or buy anything.
Don’t give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust – for example someone who knocks on the door and offers to help.
Contact the Citizens Advice Scams Action service, or use our online checker – click here.

 

I want to get a cat or dog for my family but I’ve heard there are scammers operating – how do I check?
Trading Standards have released this article about pet scams.
The RSPCA has warned that getting an animal from an adoption centre or a reputable breeder is unlikely during lockdown, and travelling to collect an animal is not considered essential travel. Many fake ads have been circulating for buying pets, and also for getting vaccinations and other add-ons. If you’re worried, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2050 or use the online form reporting tool.

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

What about my broadband and mobile package?
The UK’s major internet service and mobile providers have agreed to remove all data allowance caps on all current fixed broadband services.

All providers have agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and supported. All providers will ensure that vulnerable customers or those self-isolating receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible, if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.

Talk to your provider to find out what is available, and for more information click here.

Can I switch to another broadband provider?
It shouldn’t be a problem; your switch can often be done remotely, and noone needs to access your home.

I’m struggling to pay my TV Licence, is there anything I can do?
If you are worried about paying your licence during this time, please visit the TV Licence Coronavirus page for FAQs and options, and information on managing your payments.

For full details on TV licences and how they work, see the Money Saving Expert TV Licence guide, including information about which over-75s will need to pay.

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.

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.
Take a look at our short video for information on the schemes available, and how to get in touch with us.

If you’re struggling with council tax you may be able to take a council tax ‘holiday’. All local authorities are putting help in place for people who are facing financial hardship as a result of Coronavirus.

Help offered could include:
Bill reductions if you’re on universal credit, other benefits or a low income
Apply for a council tax reduction at Gov.uk.

How do I check what my council is offering?
For full details of what you can get, you’ll need to contact your local authority – use the Gov.uk checker to find yours.

In addition, it’s worth checking you’re paying the right amount of council tax in the first place:
– Claim any council tax discounts you’re entitled to – for example, people living alone, students and people with ‘severe mental impairments’ (or living with someone who has) can all get discounts.
– Also check your home’s in the right council tax band.

Can bailiffs still enforce the debt collection?
From 24th August, CIVEA, the High Court Enforcement Officers Association and County Court bailiffs are able to resume residential enforcement activity. If you’re worried, please contact our advice teams.

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

I have a personal loan, credit card, store card or catalogue credit, and I’m struggling to make the monthly payments – what can I do?
Take a look at the Citizens Advice website for the latest information and advice on loans and credit cards. If you are struggling to make repayments please contact us and we can help you to work out what your options are.

If you need help writing letters to your creditors, click here to access useful letter templates on the Citizens Advice 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.

 

I’m a small business owner and a bailiff has arrived to evict me for non payment of rent. What does this mean for me?
The new lockdown rules (in November/December 2020) do not prevent a bailiff visiting your business to evict you for rent arrears. From 20th September, it is no longer possible for someone who is not a trespasser to be evicted without at least 14 days notice. If you have not been given notice, then please contact us urgently for further advice: call 0344 477 1171. 

Domestic violence and abuse

I am feeling threatened by someone I live with – what can I do?

**If you are in immediate danger you should call 999 – and press 55 on a mobile if you are unable to talk**
Click here for more information on the Silent Solution system. 

 

If you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse, there are organisations which can help you. You can find how to access some of them below.

 

WORTH Domestic Abuse Service:
They support people in West Sussex experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse.
Telephone: 0330 222 8181
(Monday to Friday, 9am- 5pm)
Telephone: 07834 968539
(weekends, including Bank Holidays, 9am – 5pm)
Email: DomesticAbuseServicesCentral@westsussex.gov.uk

 

Organisations for women

National Domestic Abuse helpline
They can advice, support women and refer them to emergency accommodation.
Telephone: 0808 200 0247
Online submission form: www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/Contact-us
Website: www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors (FLOWS)

FLOWS gives legal advice and they can help to complete non-molestation orders or occupation order.
Helpline: 0203 745 7707
Monday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm
Email: FLOWS@rcjadvice.org.uk

Please click here for more information.

 

Women’s Aid

Their website provides a wide range of resources to help women and young people victims of domestic violence.

You can access The Survivor’s Handbook here.

A partnership between train companies and Women’s Aid will offer free travel to those fleeing domestic abuse during the Coronavirus lockdown.
*The scheme is also available for men who have received a place in one of the 22 members of Women’s Aid Federation of England (WAFE) that provide refuge accommodation for men.*
Click here to read more information. 

 

Rights of Women

Rights of Women offers confidential legal advice on domestic and sexual violence. They produce free information sheets which can be downloaded from their website – www.rightsofwomen.org.uk.

 

 

Organisations for men

Respect – Men’s Advice Line

The Men’s Advice Line offer advice to all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. They provide emotional support and practical advice.

Helpline: 0808 801 0327
Monday and Wednesday, 9am to 8pm
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9am to 5pm
Email: info@mensadviceline.org.uk
Website: www.mensadviceline.org.uk

ManKind Initiative

The ManKind Initiative is a charity offering information and support to men who are victims of domestic abuse or violence. This can include information and support on reporting incidents, police procedures, housing, benefits and injunctions. They can refer you to a refuge, local authority or other another support service if you need it.

Telephone: 01823 334 244
Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm
Email: admin@mankind.org.uk
Website: new.mankind.org.uk

 

Organisations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline

Galop provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.

Helpline: 0800 999 5428
Monday to Tuesday, 10am to 5pm
Wednesday to Thursday, 10am to 8pm
Friday, 10am to 5pm
Tuesday 1pm to 5pm is a trans specific service

 

You can find more information and useful resources in the Citizens Advice website. Please click here.

Employment

We are updating this section to include the latest information on the Job Retention Scheme (furlough), and support for people who are self-employed. In the meantime please visit the Citizens Advice website for up to date information on all things work-related, including:

  • redundancy
  • the furlough (Job Retention) scheme
  • if you need to be off work to care for someone
  • if you’re worried about going to work because of Coronavirus
  • and much more.

You can also get comprehensive information on workplace rights, rules and best practice at the ACAS website.

To speak to an adviser about employment problems and your rights at work, please contact us by email, web chat or phone (0344 477 1171).

 

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. Check Citizens Advice’s guidance here.

 

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.

Could I get evicted if I can’t pay my rent?
The eviction ban has now ended, which means that evictions can take place again. *** If you are faced with eviction, please call us urgently on 0344 477 1171 *** 

Make sure you’re aware of all court paperwork that is posted or sent to you. The sort of information you’re sent may depend on the type of tenancy you have:

  • assured, assured shorthold and starter tenancies – you’re likely to have this if you rent from a private landlord or housing association
  • secure, introductory and flexible tenancies –  you’re likely to have this if you rent from the local council
  • protected tenancy – you’re likely to have this if you started renting from a private landlord before 15 January 1989
  • demoted tenancy – you may have this if you rent from your local council or from a housing association

If you’re a lodger in your landlord’s home the rules are different – click here for information.

*** If you are faced with eviction, please call us urgently on 0344 477 1171 *** 

I rent my home and I need to get some repairs done – what about social distancing?
The government has said that landlords are responsible for keeping people’s homes safe, and carry out urgent repairs. For full details please click here.

I’m worried I can’t pay my mortgage or other bills due to Coronavirus – is there any help for me?
The government announced on October 31st 2020 that mortgage ‘holidays’ can be extended for up to 6 months, for borrowers who are affected by the pandemic.

If you’ve already deferred your mortgage, you can ask for your ‘holiday’ to be extended until you reach the 6 month limit.

If you haven’t yet requested a deferment, you can ask your lender for a ‘pause’ in your payments, for up to 6 months.

Please note that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says that borrowers who can afford to do so, should continue making repayments.

If you have already reached the end of a 6 month deferment and you’re worried that you won’t be able to maintain your monthly mortgage payment, you should speak to your lender about your situation. If you require further advice, please contact us on 0344 477 1171.

Stay aware of new court paperwork that is sent to you and contact us urgently on 0344 477 1171 to help look at your options. 

There are things you can do if you’re struggling to pay your bills because of coronavirus, for example your mortgage, council tax or rent. Please visit the Citizens Advice website for the latest information.

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.
Take a look at our short video for information on the schemes available, and how to get in touch with us.

If you do not pay your council tax and get council tax arrears, Bailiffs could be sent to your home to enforce the debt.

Coronavirus – if you’re worried about bailiffs coming to your home
Bailiffs can start coming to your home again from 24 August 2020 to seize goods, but they cannot evict you. They can still phone or email you. 

You shouldn’t let a bailiff into your home – it’s always best to try to sort out your debt by keeping them outside and speaking through the door or over the phone.

Seek urgent help from us by calling us on 0344 477 1171 or reading our advice pages https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/action-your-creditor-can-take/bailiffs/stopping-bailiffs/stopping-bailiffs-at-your-door/

Information in other languages

If you need advice in another language, we can arrange a translator for you free of charge. Please contact us and let us know which language you need.

 

البقاء في المنزل  –  Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Arabic

বাসায় থাকা  – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Bengali

留在家中 – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Traditional Chinese – Cantonese

呆在家里 – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Simplified Chinese – Mandarin

Reste à le domicile – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in French

ઘરમાં રહો – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Gujarati

Pozostańcie w domu – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Polish

Ficar em casa – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Portuguese

ਘਰ ਵੱ ਚ ਰਹ – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Punjabi

گھر پر رہیے – Stay at home guidance from gov.uk in Urdu

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.

Find out more about volunteering

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19th November 2020

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