Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

Financial help

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Advice services

Many local advice services are no longer doing face-to-face appointments or home visits until further notice. Advice and assistance will still be offered via telephone. Visit our financial advice page within the wellbeing section for a list of organisations that can help.

Free impartial advice and support for people experiencing issues with benefits and money can also be found on the EA Money website.

Local authority benefits

Family pandemic payment

Family pandemic support payments of £100 will be paid to all eligible school aged children and young people (P1-S6) in receipt of free school meals this summer and winter.

Find out more and how to apply on our  family pandemic payment page.

Self-isolation grant payments

This £500 grant is now available to everyone on a low income required to self isolate as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out more and how to apply on the self-isolation support grant page.

Council tax

We know that there will be individuals and families who have been impacted by the COVID-19 emergency and who now see a reduction in their income.

If you are in this position, you may qualify for a Council Tax Reduction which can reduce the amount of Council Tax you need to pay.

Apply for Council Tax Reduction 

Please complete the online application form and provide evidence of your current household income and we can also backdate Council Tax Reduction for a period of time.

We will be sympathetic to individual circumstances and we can arrange to defer or reduce payments for a while if this would be helpful. In addition, we will not be pursuing legal action against people who cannot pay as a result of this emergency.

As you will appreciate, our phone lines are very busy with people who need immediate help with food, medicines and care at home among many other emergencies, so please email us at Council.Tax@east-ayrshire.gov.uk giving details of what your issue is and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Scottish Welfare Fund

We have changed the way we process Scottish Welfare Fund applications and strongly advise those customers applying for a Scottish Welfare Fund grant to use the online application form rather than making a telephone application. Completing the form online will mean that we can process your application faster.

Given the pressure on the service we ask that you do not phone the Scottish Welfare Fund telephone number. 

The Scottish Government have meantime relaxed the three applications in a year rule for the Scottish Welfare Fund during the coronavirus outbreak as this period is considered to be exceptional circumstances in which additional applications can be considered.

Tenants hardship loan fund

The Scottish Government, has launched a new Tenant Hardship Loan scheme for tenants who are experiencing difficulties paying their rent because of the impacts of COVID-19.

Although you will still need to pay your rent, there is help and support available from a variety of sources. You can find general guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Scottish Government's website:

The loan is interest free and offers short-term support for tenants who:

  • have the right to reside within in the UK
  • were not in rent arrears before 1 January 2020

You can use the loan scheme funding to:

  • clear rent arrears that have arisen since 1 January 2020 and/or
  • pay a maximum of three months future rent payments.

You can apply for a loan to cover rent payments as per your tenancy agreement for up to nine months in total.

However, you cannot apply for more than three months of future rent payments. Loan repayments will be deferred for six months following payment of the loan, with the loan being repaid in 60 monthly instalments. The loan can be fully repaid at any point.

Latest news on benefits

Scottish child payment

The Scottish Government opened for advance applications for a new benefit, Scottish Child Payment. This has now come into force from 15 February 2021 with the first payment due at the end of February.

The payment of £10 per week for every eligible child under the age of six will be paid four weekly and will not be treated as an income for any other income related benefit. The age range will be increased in stages to children aged under 16 by December 2022.

To qualify, parents or guardians will need to be in receipt of the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

To make an application call the freephone helpline on 0800 182 2222, by post or apply online for Scottish Child Payment on the Scottish Government's website.

Social security timescales in Scotland have been extended where a delay is as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result any:

  • late applications for assistance through any of the devolved benefits will be accepted where the lateness is due to coronavirus. In addition, the amendments allow for a late application to be accepted and considered where a person has passed the age limit for assistance, and would otherwise lose their entitlement to assistance, where the application could not be made earlier due to coronavirus.
  • reasons relating to coronavirus will be accepted as 'good reasons' for extending the time limit for redeterminations and appeals by one year.
  • the timescale for Social Security Scotland to complete redeterminations is extended by nine weeks on top of the current 16 working days.

These changes will be in force at least until 30 September 2020.

In addition the Scottish Government has temporarily changed eligibility for a number of social security benefits if a claim could not be made due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus.

  • Best Start Grant: If someone does not get any other benefits, they normally need to be under 18 to be eligible for Best Start Grant but they can now apply after they turned 18.
  • Pregnancy and baby payment: A baby normally needs to be under six months old for a parent to be eligible for Pregnancy and Baby Payment but applications may be considered after this age.
  • Early Learning Payment: A child normally needs to be between two and three years six months for a parent or carer to be eligible for Early Learning Payment. If they could not apply before then an application will still be considered.
  • School Age Payment: Applications for families that have a child that was born between 1 March 2016 and 28 February 2017. Families/carers who have deferred their child’s entry should still apply. Claim at any time from 1 June 2021 up to 28 February 2022.
  • Funeral Support Payment: If a person could not apply for Funeral Support Payment within six months of the funeral taking place an application will still be considered.
  • Young Carer Grant: A young carer normally needs to be under 19 years old but an application after their 19th birthday will still be considered.
  • Job Start Payment: For young people age 16-24 (age 16-25 for care leavers) on qualifying benefits who have been offered paid employment with minimum set hours after being out of paid employment for a qualifying period. A one-off payment to assist with costs of restarting work.

For more information visit Social Security Scotland: Benefits.

People presently in receipt of benefits

Special arrangements will be in place for people in receipt of benefits who cannot attend reassessments or jobcentre appointments because they are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus:

  • Claimants who cannot attend a reassessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit will continue to receive their payments while their assessment is rearranged
  • People who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a Fit Note
  • When claimants advise Jobcentres in good time that they are staying at home or that they have been diagnosed with coronavirus, they will not be sanctioned. The Jobcentre will review their conditionality requirements in their claimant commitment, to ensure they are reasonable.
  • Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness
  • Provisions that enable certain persons affected by COVID-19 to continue in receipt of JSA without any period of sickness/isolation counting as a short or an extended period of sickness will remain in place until 31 August 2021.

People who require to make a new claim for benefits

People who are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus may need financial support, and quickly:

  • Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a Jobcentre.
  • There has been an extension until 12 November 2021 to disapply the seven waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance for new claimants suffering from coronavirus or required to stay at home, so it will be payable from day one.
  • As a result of further provisions from 12 May 2021, ESA claimants affected by COVID-19 treated as having limited capability for work without being required to provide medical evidence or undergo a work capability assessment, and removing the need for waiting days, are extended by six months to 12 November 2021.
  • Anyone required to make a claim for Universal Credit will still have to serve a five week waiting period before they receive their first payment.

Prisoners on temporary release

Individuals on temporary release from prison can access means-tested benefits, including Housing Benefit, during the period of that release if their release is due to the coronavirus outbreak. This was due to expire on 12 May 2021 but has now been extended to 31 August 2021.

Individuals on temporary release from prison can access means-tested benefits during the period of release, however, the easement is also narrowed to ensure that prisoners on temporary release do not establish entitlement if released for non-COVID-19 reasons.

Universal credit

From 6 April 2020 the government increased the standard allowance of Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credits for one year. Both increased by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. 

In April 2021 this was extended for a further six months for Universal Credit. For Working Tax Credit the government advise a one off payment of £500 will be made to eligible claimants. This means that for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will be £411.51 per month from April 2021 until the end of September 2021 when it will change to £324.84.

If you are in work and already claiming Universal Credit, and are staying at home on government advice, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal. If this means you are working fewer hours, the amount of Universal Credit you receive will adjust as your earnings change.

The universal credit surplus earnings threshold £2,500 will be maintained for a further year until April 2022, when it will revert to £300.

The Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit (UC) claimants was suspended until the end of April 2021, this suspension will now continue until the end of July 2021. This means that self-employed people will continue to receive financial support from UC based on their current actual earnings.

From April 2021, the recovery period for advances in payment will increase to 24 months, the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from a universal credit award will also reduce from 30 per cent to 25 per cent of the standard allowance.

Visit the UK Government's website if you need to  make a claim for Universal Credit.

People who are deaf can access help with their Universal Credit claim via an online video relay service on the UK Government's website.

If you are unsure whether you will qualify for Universal Credit, please contact our Universal Credit Support Team:

They can offer one to one telephone support in making a claim and can assist with debt advice or any aspect of Universal Credit.

Please be aware that if you are currently in receipt of tax credits, a claim for universal credit will automatically end your entitlement to tax credits even if you are not entitled to universal credit. The UK Government are currently looking to see what they can do to help claimants who have lost their entitlement to Tax Credits as a result of claiming Universal Credit and are now worse off as a result.

New style employment and support allowance

People should apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) where they are not already claiming Universal Credit. For full guidance and to apply online please visit the UK Government's website.

When a New Style Employment and Support Allowance claim is taken over the phone the DWP will verify a person’s identity at the same time. Claimants do not need to complete a form. 

Carer's allowance

From 3 April 2020, the Scottish Government have changed regulations that now allow a temporary adjustment to entitlement rules to Carer’s Allowance. This change allows carers to retain their entitlement if they have a temporary break in caring as a result of isolation due to, or infection or contamination with, coronavirus of either the carer or the person cared for.

From 12 May 2021, Carer’s Allowance extend the period for changes to carer’s allowance rules on breaks in care in light of coronavirus remain in place. Breaks in care taken as a result of a carer's or cared-for person’s infection with, or self-isolation due to, coronavirus do not count towards the carer’s total permitted breaks - from 12 May 2021 to 31 August 2021.

The regulations also disapply the normal requirement to have provided care over a certain number of weeks in order to continue to qualify for carer’s allowance during a break in care. The regulations from 12 May 2021 extend further the period from 13 May 2021 to 1 September 2021 during which the normal requirement to have provided care over a certain number of weeks in order to continue to qualify for carer’s allowance during a break in care disapply.

Meanwhile the DWP have confirmed that providing emotional support rather than just more traditional forms of care to a disabled person will also now count towards the Carer’s Allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week.

Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS)

The Scottish Government introduced the CAS as an additional financial support for Carers last year.

It is given twice a year to those in receipt of Carer's Allowance as a temporary top-up until full delivery of the benefit is taken over from the Department for Work and Pensions.

An additional payment was made in summer 2020 in recognition of the issues and additional caring responsibilities involved surrounding COVID-19. It has now been announced that a further additional payment will be made in December 2021.

The payment rate for 2021/22 rate is £231.40 with the first payment made at that amount on 16 June 2021, if you were getting Carer's Allowance on 12 April 2021.

The qualifying date for the December 2021 payment is 11 October 2021; £462.80 will then be paid in December 2021. 

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) face to face interviews 

Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits are temporarily suspended and assessments will now be undertaken over the phone. Clients must attend these telephone appointments otherwise your benefits may be stopped unless you can provide a good cause for not attending the appointment.

This affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Meanwhile some people currently in receipt of disability benefits such as PIP may have the period of their entitlement extended under an easement process from the DWP as a result of COVID-19. Anyone to whom this applies will receive their notice of the extension by early 2021.

Registering a birth/child benefit

HMRC has announced that parents of newborns can claim child benefit without registering the child's birth while General Register Offices are closed as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Setting out the new measure today, HMRC says that, while first time parents will need to fill in  Child Benefit Claim form CH2 and send it to the Child Benefit Office, they should add a note to the claim if they have been unable to register the birth because of COVID-19.

HMRC also advises that, if people are already in receipt of child benefit, they can complete the form or add their new-born’s details over the phone on 0300 200 3100.

In the final year of payment of child benefit, provided the young person you claim for is in education after 31 May, terminal dates rules enable child benefit entitlement to continue after the young person has left education, until 31 August. This applies for the period 1 June 2021 to 31 August 2021, ensuring that entitlement to child benefit is protected where a young person finishes education earlier than usual due to the national cancellation of examinations because of COVID-19.

Business support

Visit our Business Support page to find out about any funding support which may be available.

Fuel and energy costs

Help from energy companies

The government agreed new emergency measures with energy companies to ensure the domestic supply of those most in need during the current coronavirus pandemic.

Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit to their meter can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied. This will benefit over four million customers.

This could include:

  • nominating a third party for credit top ups
  • having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or
  • being sent a pre-loaded top up card so that their supply is not interrupted

Any customer in financial difficulties will also be supported by their supplier, which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.

Read more about government measures with energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19 on the UK Government's website.

Warm home discount

The Warm Home Discount provides a £140 rebate on electricity bills to customers who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit and are a named account holder with a participating energy supplier.

Most eligible customers will receive the Warm Home Discount automatically from their energy supplier, but those who have received a letter advising them to contact the Helpline to claim the rebate, must call by 26 February 2021 (telephone 0800 917 1003).

The scheme opens on 18 October 2021 for winter 2021 to 2022.

Rebates may also be available for recipients of certain other benefits, direct from energy suppliers.

For full details of eligibility and how to claim visit the UK Government's website.

Housing services

Visit our Housing Services page for help and advice on rent arrears and benefits.

Student hardship funds

The Scottish Government have a further package of financial support, £20 million, to help students facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. A further £10 million allocated to universities/colleges for lost income relating to rent rebates.

Extra cash will be available to any university and college students now struggling as a result of COVID-19, including those attending private institutions.

The package includes an additional £5 million for Scotland’s Higher Education (HE) Discretionary Fund which university and college students will be able to apply for directly to their own institutions. 

Find out more about extra hardship payments for students on the Student Information Scotland website.

Banking and finance

Banking

Most banks are offering support to people worried and affected by the coronavirus. They are highlighting the support they may be able to give due to financial impact may be caused by:

  • delay in income
  • reduction in income/increase expenditure
  • unexpected loss of income
  • serious change in circumstance

The Financial Conduct Authority have also introduced temporary measures for banks to assist customers who are finding it difficult to manage their finances. These measures include:

  • A temporary payment freeze on loans and credit cards where consumers face difficulties with their finances as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), for up to three months
  • Ensure that for customers who have been hit financially by coronavirus (COVID-19) and already have an arranged overdraft on their main personal current account, up to £500 will be charged at zero interest for up to three months
  • Require banks and other financial companies to make sure that all overdraft customers are no worse off on price when compared to the prices they were charged before the recent overdraft changes came into force
  • Ensure consumers using any of these temporary measures should not have their credit rating affected because of this

These measures cover all regulated assistance including guarantor loans, logbook loans, home collected credit, a loan issued by Community Development Finance Institution and some loans issued by credit unions, but only where these are regulated.

If you are experiencing financial problems as a result of the impact of coronavirus, please contact your bank directly.

Post office card account

For information on your Post Office Card Account please visit the Post Office website.

Access to your cash instead of card or online banking

Those who are shielding or vulnerable citizens who need access to their cash can take advantage of the Post Office extending two schemes they administer, Payout Now and Fast PACE.

Anyone requiring this service should contact their bank, building society or credit union to see if they are participating in this service to allow them to access their account through their local Post Office with assistance from a friend, family member, carer or support worker.

Payout now

Payout Now is a voucher based product sent by SMS text, email or post to self-isolating customer who can share it with a trusted individual to withdraw cash on their behalf.

In order to take advantage of this service offered by Post Office, a customer needs to:

  • Contact their bank, building society or credit union who will be able to issue a barcode voucher to their customer
  • The one time use barcode voucher will be issued for a nominated amount and will be sent to the customer via SMS text, email or post
  • The barcode voucher can be exchanged in a Post Office branch on their behalf by a family member, friend, carer or volunteer for cash

Fast PACE

Fast PACE is a service that allows a customer to arrange for a trusted individual to collect the cheque from them, cash it at Post Office, and return with the cash.

In order to take advantage of this service offered by Post Office, a customer needs to:

  • Contact their bank and inform them that they want to withdraw cash using the Fast Track Cheque Encashment service.
  • The bank will then inform the Post Office of the maximum cheque amount they are allowed to cash.
  • The customer can arrange for any family member, friend, carer or volunteer to collect the cheque from them. They complete the cheque as normal, payable to ‘The Post Office’, print the name on the back of the cheque of the third party collecting it for them and sign that side too.
  • That person then presents the cheque with their own ID such as bank card or driving license. They can do this at the Post Office or any other Post Office that is open. They then take the cash back to the individual who is self-isolating whilst following safe social distancing guidelines.
  • The Fast PACE service also means that if a helper has bought supplies for someone self-isolating, they can be reimbursed immediately by simply presenting the customer’s cheque at any Post Office.

Funding alerts

View our latest funding alerts where funds are being made available to charities and communities groups affected by or working to deal with coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Food provision

Visit the food in our communities page for help and advice.

Contact Information

Council Headquarters
London Road
Kilmarnock
East Ayrshire
KA3 7BU
Contact us online: www.eastayrshi.re/contactus
Save time, do it online: www.our.east-ayrshire.gov.uk
Telephone: 01563 554400
Textphone: 01563 576167
24 Hour Emergency Helpline: 0345 724 0000 (local rate)

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