Coronavirus: Support for individuals and public services

LAST UPDATED: 19TH MARCH 2020, 14:35PM

In the Budget and on 17th March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a number of new measures to make sure the country is able to face this threat and support those affected by it.

I will try and detail them: he has made clear that our NHS will have the resources it needs, and that we will, do what we can to support people and our public services. 

To support public services: 

  • A £5 billion Coronavirus Response fund for
    • The NHS to treat Coronavirus patients, including maintaining staffing levels.
    • Local Authority actions to support social care services and vulnerable people. 
    • Ensuring funding is available to other public services so that they are prepared and protected.
  • We are bolstering NHS 111 to provide advice to people who need it. While people with mild symptoms should not call NHS 111, we need to make sure the service is available for those who need it, with severe symptoms or if they are not getting better after 7 days. Around 500 additional call handlers have already been trained to staff the NHS 111 service, representing an increase of 20 per cent.

  • In addition, the new NHS 111 online service is also available to provide advice and will free up call handlers’ time, so they are able to prioritise those experiencing symptoms.

  • £40 million of new funding for the National Institute for Health Research and the Department for Health to enable further rapid research into Coronavirus - this follows the £91 million that the government has already pledged to the international response.
  • We are working with international partners to tackle the virus by providing a contribution of up to £150 million to the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, to help the effort to stop further transmission, including into the UK.

  • We are helping local authorities support more vulnerable people by providing £500 million more funding so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households. It is expected that most of this funding will be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through complementary reliefs.

To support people affected by Coronavirus:

  • For those in difficulty due to coronavirus, mortgage lenders will offer at least a three month mortgage holiday. These people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage whilst they get back on their feet. 
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be available for anyone diagnosed with Coronavirus, or who is unable to work because they are self-isolating from day 1, instead of day 4 for affected individuals.
  • Those not eligible for SSP, or those earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance more easily, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8.
  • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a Job Centre if they are advised to self-isolate. 

  • For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for those with Coronavirus, or those self-isolating, ensuring self-employed claimants will receive support. 
  • People who are advised to self-isolate will soon be able to a sick note by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor when employers require evidence. 

If you think you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), please read the following information:

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 are self-isolating because of COVID-19: From 13 March, you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people self-isolating in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine. To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay for more information.

  • When does SSP apply? The government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from workif you are absent from work due to sickness or need to self-isolate caused by COVID-19. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March. You should talk to your employer if you are eligible for SSP and need to claim.
  • Do I need a sick note? From Friday 20 March onwards, those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate will be able to obtain an “isolation note” by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a “fit note” after seven days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will also be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.
  • What if I am self-employed or not eligible for SSP? If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit (UC) or new style Employment and Support Allowance. For more information on how to claim, please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance.
  • What if I am self-employed and receiving Universal Credit? If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change took effect on 13 March and will last for the duration of the outbreak, to ensure that self-employed UC claimants will receive support.
  • If you need to claim Universal Credit but have COVID-19 or are self-isolating, you will now be able to claim and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit for more information.
  • If you need to claim Universal Credit but have COVID-19 or are self-isolating, you will now be able to claim and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit for more information.
  • If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.

If you think you may need financial support from your Local Authority in England, you may be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund:

  • Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.
  • The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will set out more detail on this funding, including allocations, shortly.
  • If you have any questions, please contact your Local Authority.