Information for Platform Home Ownership customers impacted by COVID-19

02 April 2020

Information for Platform Home Ownership Shared Owners/Leaseholders/Freeholders/Market Rent Tenants impacted by COVID-19

We at Platform understand that this is a particularly worrying time for people. The changes, and the speed of change, can be very unsettling. We want to let you know that we are here to help you at this time. There is a lot of information out there, some complicated, so we’re trying to keep things simple for you.

If you are still able to pay your rent or service charge, we encourage you to continue making these payments. Paying by Direct Debit is still the easiest and most convenient method of payment. If you haven’t already and would like to set this method of payment up on your rent account, please contact your Home Ownership Officer (if you’re not sure of their contact details please call our admin team on 0300 123 0898 and they will inform you).

Benefits Advice

  • People who are/were working:

If you’ve found yourself with a reduced income, or even no income at all, you may be wondering where to start. If you have never claimed a benefit, or if it’s been a while and you’re not sure about how to, please watch this short video explaining how the claiming process works: Universal Credit Overview

There are several different routes you could take:

  • Off sick?

If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This includes people who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.

The Government has said that SSP is to be paid from day 1 of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to stay at home due to COVID-19.

To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer.  You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) after 7 days of sickness absence.

For further information visit the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) page on gov.uk

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you earn below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can make a claim for Universal Credit and/or new style Employment and Support Allowance.

  • Laid off?

If your employer has terminated your employment you can claim ‘New Style Jobseekers’ Allowance’ and/or Universal Credit to help with living and housing costs.

  • ‘Furloughed’?

If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access Government support to continue paying 80% of your wages and avoid redundancies.

If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss this with you and you will be classified as a “furloughed worker”. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.

To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary but does not have to.

If your salary is reduced as a result of being furloughed, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit which could include help with your housing costs.

The Government intends the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least 3 months from 1 March 2020, but this may be extended if necessary.

  • Zero Hours Workers

Those who are not eligible for SSP or those who lose their jobs will be able to claim either ‘New Style Jobseekers’ Allowance’ or Universal Credit from the first day they are out of work.

You may able to apply for Universal Credit if on reduced hours.

  • Self-Employed Workers

If you are self-employed you can now claim a grant through the coronavirus (Covid 19) Self Employment Income Support Scheme.

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.

For further details please refer to the Gov.Uk website – link below

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

  • Caring Responsibilities?

If you are employed, have caring responsibilities and have been advised to 'self-isolate' by NHS 111 or a medical professional, you must tell your employer as soon as possible. This does not need to be in writing. Your workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements will apply. The government has promised that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be given from day one of self-isolation. You should check your contract of employment to see if your employer offers contractual sick pay on top. You may also be asked to certify your absence.

By law, for the first seven days of sickness, you are not required to provide medical evidence to your employer. However, after seven days, it is at the discretion of your employer to decide what evidence, if any, they need from you. If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor.

For workers that are ineligible for SSP, support will be available through Universal Credit and contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

If you need to take time off to help someone else, as an employee you also have a statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off from work to see to an emergency or unforeseen matter involving your partner, child, parent, grandchild, or someone who relies on you for care. There is no fixed amount of time you can take off. The time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right, check your work policy on care leave.

Already Receiving a Benefit?

  • People receiving benefits do not have to attend Jobcentre appointments for three months.
  • People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the Jobcentre in person are suspended.
  • People can still make applications for benefits online if they are eligible.
  • Face-to-face health assessments for benefits have been suspended.
  • Jobcentres remain open and will continue to support people who are not able to use phones and online, including homeless people.

If you’re already claiming Universal Credit and think you may have been affected by coronavirus, please contact your work coach as soon as possible. You can do this by:

  • using your online journal
  • calling the Universal Credit helpline

From 6th April the Standard Allowance of Universal Credit, and the basic element of Working Tax credit will both increase by £20 a week.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE

Having to stay at home in close proximity with family can be a very testing time, even under the normal circumstances. Being confined at home with an abusive person can be devastating.

In the coming months, it is likely that the number of people self-isolating will increase significantly and this for many could make for an extremely dangerous environment.

Many abusers use isolation as a means of control. Keeping their partner or family member away from family and friends keeps the suspicion of others at bay. The current situation may also increase physical violence in the home for those in abusive relationships.

This could be because the abuser has less concern that marks resulting from physical violence will be noticed or due to rising tensions in the family home resulting from people being in closer proximity for longer periods of time.

Domestic abuse is not just physical violence. It could be sexual abuse, bullying or controlling behaviour, financial controlling etc.

Victims may find themselves being controlled by their abuser taking advantage of the worry of the virus or using money worries such as potential job losses, lack of access to help etc. as a reason to control.

An abuser may interfere with their partner’s ability to work from home by refusing to share childcare, or preventing them from accessing the equipment they need, such as a laptop or phone.

Domestic abuse or violence is a crime and should be reported to the police. If it is an emergency or you are in imminent danger then call 999. The police are there to help you.

There are LOTS of support services out there, your local council will have a specialist team, or

REFUGE-National Domestic Abuse Helpline -0808 2000 247

Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327

Childline - 0800 1111