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Frequently asked questions - COVID-19


As COVID-19 continues you may worry about what may happen if you have to take time off work, have less money coming in or can’t do things in your usual way.

Below are some frequently asked questions which you may find useful and grouped together by subject.

For government information on Coronavirus visit the gov.uk website.

The Department for Work and Pensions has a YouTube channel with British Sign Langauge (BSL) videos.

For money and benefits advice contact our Money Matters team on 01952 217234 or email money.matters@wrekin.com

You can also contact our debt advice service, Wrekin Debt Advice for free, impartial, regulated debt advice on 01952 217251 or email debtadvice@wrekin.com


If you are unable to leave home

I have had a call to go for a vaccine but can't get there, what shall I do?

We aren’t able to provide transport but there are some solutions available if you cannot get help from family, access public transport or book transport yourself in the usual way. Your GP may be able to make a referral to the NHS Responders to arrange transport. If you live in the Telford area and your GP is part of Teldoc they are able to arrange transport through an independent taxi company. An alternative is to call Longmynd Travel (Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin based) on 01743 861999.

Shropshire Council residents who are without access to transport are now able to get free transport to their COVID-19 vaccination appointments. You must have a letter inviting you for vaccination in Shropshire and be unable to get there any other way. They will be able to provide travel there and back. All vehicles will be Covid-secure to keep you safe. Transport can be booked by calling the Covid Helpline on 0345 678 9028 or via your GP practice.

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Changes to/reduced income

Is a change in income affecting you?

Speak to your bank, lender or credit provider. Most creditors are willing to be flexible and supportive to anyone who is affected by coronavirus, to try and prevent them falling into further debt. It's important that you don't leave it too late to contact your creditors.

Prioritise your payments. Think carefully about which debts you should pay first. A number of banks deferred repayments for a few months for anyone impacted by the virus. However, it may be that your creditor hasnt been able to help you enough to prevent you from experiencing debt problems.

Ask for help as soon as possible. Using a budget sheet will put you in control of your household spending. We recommend using the below tool as you can create an account with The Money & Pensions Service and refer back to it should there be any changes to your finances. Budget planner. There is also a new Money Navigator Tool if you need some money guidance.

I am not getting my usual wages because I am off sick or self-isolating. Can I get any help?

We understand that many people will be unfamiliar with the benefit system, and appreciate that everyone’s circumstances are different. We urge you to make contact with our friendly Money Matters team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com who can offer expert advice and guidance.

Information on Test & Trace Support payments is available here.

Further online guidance from the DWP is also available.

What can I do if I can’t afford food or basic needs?

Your local food bank can help. To find your nearest, contact your local authority.

  • Telford & Wrekin call 01952 380 400 or 01952 459 258
  • Shropshire call 0345 678 9078
  • Staffordshire call 07599 124886
  • Stafford Council

Or ask Citizen’s Advice

My income has reduced, can I get free school meals for my children?

Families on a low income are entitled to help with school meals.

Contact your child’s school or your Local Authority for details of the scheme in your area.

I have an arrangement in place that is subject to a court order, what can I do if I’m unable to pay?

If you have some money and can afford to pay the debt off in instalments, you need to fill in court form N245 to apply. This is called an application for an Instalment Order. If you can’t afford to pay anything at all, you should apply to get the order changed using court form N244. These forms can be obtained from the gov.uk website.

Please note: We recommend that you seek debt advice to help complete these forms. You can contact Wrekin Debt Advice for free regulated expert advice on 01952 217251 or email debtadvice@wrekin.com or ask Citizen’s Advice.

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Changes to rent/mortgage

How can I pay my rent if I can’t get out?

Direct Debit – You can set up a weekly or monthly Direct Debit so that payments will go out from your bank account. You can choose which day the money comes out. Please telephone your local office to arrange this.

Customer Portal - You can pay via the customer portal. Call 01952 217000 to register to use this. Once set up visit www.wrekin.com and click the ‘make a payment button’. Log in using the long number on your Easy Pay rent card. You can also use the allpay app on a smartphone. The portal gives you access to your rent account / statement 24 hours a day via your computer, tablet or smartphone.

By phone - Call 01952 217111. If you have an allpay Easy Pay rent card you can also use our automated service. Lines are open seven days a week, 8am to 8pm.

By standing order or via online banking - You can set up a standing order or pay via your online banking. Use sort code 20-86-86 and account number 10748366 for tenants or 60708062 for leaseholders. Please make sure you provide your account name and tenancy reference number.

I am unable to meet my rent payment. What can I do?

If you are a Wrekin Housing Group tenant - We realise that the issues around coronavirus may cause some people difficulties in paying the rent. Speak to your Housing Executive or phone 01952 217100 to let us know. You then need to get advice to see if you are entitled to any benefits and this should be done promptly. Our Money Matters Team can help with this.

We are sympathetic to your situation and understand the impact of coronavirus. We also recognise the financial pressures that this can place on people and their ability to pay rent. We will listen to your situation and talk through your options. We have a Money Matters Team and a debt advisor that can assist you with any immediate pressures that you may be receiving. Your rent will continue to be charged and we will expect this to be paid, however we will be flexible and discuss with you how any missed payments can be spread over future payments.

If you are not a Wrekin Housing Group tenant - You need to speak with your landlord and let them know. You then need to get advice to see if you are entitled to any benefits and this should be done promptly.

I am worried about my mortgage. What can I do?

If you're struggling to pay your mortgage, or you're coming off a payment holiday and you're still in financial difficulty, then your lender has to offer you 'tailored support'.

Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert has lots of further information about the help available.

Please note: You will still be charged interest however this will be added to the total cost of the mortgage and you won’t have to pay it back immediately.

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Credit cards, loans and finance

What will happen about my credit cards and loans?

If you took out a credit card or loan payment holiday because of the coronavirus outbreak and its now come to an end, it’s a good idea to understand what happens next, and what option are available to you if you’re still going to struggle to make repayments.

The Money Advice Service has lots of useful information on your options.

Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert has lots of valuable information on help the help available if you are struggling to pay credit cards and loans.

You can also contact our debt advice service, Wrekin Debt Advice, for free, impartial, regulated debt advice on 01952 217251 or email debtadvice@wrekin.com.

I’m struggling to pay my Car Finance

Nine out of ten people now pay for vehicles on Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) agreements. If you’re struggling to meet your repayments because of coronavirus, talk to the car finance company as soon as you can. They may offer to extend the contract which would lower your monthly payments or come to another arrangement to help you out.

The temporary payment freeze introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), does not cover car finance specific loan arrangements like PCP or hire purchase. However, if you bought a car using a personal loan, then you may be able to arrange a three month payment freeze.

For more information, visit the Money Advice Service.

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Utility Bills and Council tax

What can I do if I have no money for my utility bills?

If you are struggling to afford gas or electric, there is lots of help and advice available.

Marches Energy Agency can be contacted for free on 0800 677 1307 if you are worried about your utility bills, or contact our friendly Money Matters Team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com.

Gas and electricity Call your utility provider to see what they can do to help or call your local authority to see if they can help with crisis assistance.

If you have no credit left on your meters – You should be able to arrange a top up over the phone with your utility provider or make a payment online via an app or online.

Alternatively you could ask someone you trust to make the payment for you.

If you have no credit left on your meters and don’t have any money to top up – If it is a short term issue and you are waiting to get paid speak with your utility provider as they may be able to make an emergency payment that you will pay back. If you think that your situation will last longer contact your local authority and ask to speak with the local support and prevention fund team. They may be able to help with a top up.

If you pay by Direct Debit – You may be able to reduce or pause your energy bills or reassess you energy arrears. This will depend on your situation and you will need to contact your provider to discuss your options. Most energy companies are supporting people due to the COVID-19 outbreak and allowing customers to reduce their Direct Debits more than normal.

Please note: If you have an online account you may be able to reduce your payments online. If you reduce your payments they will be reassessed at a later date and your payments will then increase.

My income has reduced - can I still get affordable home contents insurance?

We recommend that you get your personal belongings insured against events such as theft, fire and flooding/escape of water. We work with a major insurer to offer home contents insurance at very competitive rates, and for all new customers taking out the cover the first month's premium is free.

Unlike some insurances, on this scheme exclusively for The Wrekin Housing Group customers, there are no excesses - so nothing to pay in the event of a claim. Visit our home contents insurance page for full details.

Can I get help with my water bills?

All water providers will offer a scheme called WaterSure. To apply for the scheme, you must be on benefits and need to use a lot of water either for medical reasons or because your household has a number of school-age children. You also need to be on a water meter or be waiting to have one installed. For more information please see this flowchart. If you are accepted onto the scheme your bills will be capped at around £360.00 per year.

Alternatively, if you are really struggling they will also have a Social Tariff. For example Severn Trent Water’s scheme is called The Big Difference Scheme, you can apply online or call them on 0800 917 6901. You could be eligible for a discount of between 10% - 90% off the average household bill.

Worried about paying your Council Tax?

If your household is on a low income, you may be eligible for Council Tax Support. You can contact your local authority directly to find out about schemes local to you, or contact our friendly Money Matters Team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com.

Are you currently paying Council Tax back via a Bailiff Agency?

It is important that you don’t break this arrangement. If your circumstances have changed since your agreement was put in place and your payments are no longer affordable, you need to contact the bailiff agency. You can then come to a new arrangement that is affordable. If you are struggling with debts, you can also contact our debt advice service, Wrekin Debt Advice, for free, impartial, regulated debt advice on 01952 217251 or email debtadvice@wrekin.com.

I have an arrangement in place that is subject to a court order, what can I do if I’m unable to pay?

If you have some money and can afford to pay the debt off in instalments, you need to fill in court form N245 to apply. This is called an application for an Instalment Order. If you can’t afford to pay anything at all, you should apply to get the order changed using court form N244. These forms can be obtained from the gov.uk website.

Please note: We recommend that you seek debt advice to help complete these forms. You can contact Wrekin Debt Advice for free regulated expert advice on 01952 217251 or email debtadvice@wrekin.com or ask Citizen’s Advice.

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Furloughing

Can I claim any help from benefits if I am furloughed?

Yes! However this does depend on your personal and household circumstances (all of the income coming into your home and who lives with you). You may be entitled to help from Universal Credit, which could also include help towards your rent. Your local authority can advise if you are entitled to help towards your Council Tax.

For up to date information on the furlough process, visit Gov.uk or Acas.

If you have a workplace problem and need advice you can contact the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100 you don’t need to give any personal details.

I am still furloughed but might be starting back to work on reduced hours – what do I do?

Further extensions to the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, means that you may be able to return to work, and this may be on a different working pattern. Your employers must agree any new flexible furloughing arrangement with you and confirm it in writing. The furlough scheme has now been extended to 30 September 2021. The current extension to the furlough scheme will support employees with up to 60% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum £1,875.

If this means your income changes, please get in touch with our Money Matters Team for expert welfare benefit and Universal Credit advice. You can contact the team on money.matters@wrekin.com or call 01952 217234.

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Employment and those seeking work

Do I need to attend appointments at the Job Centre now?

Don’t worry. People receiving benefits have not been required to attend job centre appointments (since March 2020). You will continue to receive your benefits as normal.

From April 2021, the DWP have been resuming face to face appointments. You will be notified if you need to attend an appointment. You can also make an appointment to see your Work Coach if you can’t get the help you need online or over the phone.

If you are already claiming Universal Credit and need advice you can contact your work coach using the online journal, or contact our Money Matters team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com

People applying for Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance or other benefits should not go to a job centre but apply for them online.

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Self-Employed

I am self-employed and my income has reduced, can I still get any help?

The government have announced an extension to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to support those who are self-employed or a member of a partnership who's business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

You can go online and check your eligibility for SEISS. More information can be found on the gov.uk website.

A fifth grant under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will run from May 2021 until September 2021. The fifth grant is different from previous grants. In most cases, when making your claim you’ll need to tell HMRC about your business turnover so we can work out your grant amount.

You will be able to claim from late July if you are eligible for the fifth grant. The amount of the fifth grant will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.

Can I claim Universal Credit if I am self-employed?

Yes - You can find more information on this at Turn2us.

You will need to remember to report your monthly profits, losses, expenses etc. for up to six months via your online UC Journal– even if you are not entitled to UC. This is because your claim will be kept open, and if your income drops, you may be entitled to help again without having to make a brand new claim.

For expert advice on Universal Credit, contact our friendly Money Matters Team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com.

Do I need up to date self-employed accounts to claim Universal Credit?

You will need to keep records of all money, and when it actually comes into and goes out of your business, but this helps you keep the records you’ll need tax self-assessment purposes.
You’ll need to remember to report all income and payments made by your business in your Universal Credit ‘Monthly Assessment Period,’ and this is done via your online Universal Credit Journal. These include things like:

  • Permitted expenses (such as regular costs for rent, stock or equipment)
  • Flat Rate deductions (e.g. for the use of a car for business)
  • Income Tax or National Insurance Contributions.

If you have paid nothing out you must report nil deductions.

How is my self employed income assessed for Universal Credit?

Self-employed earnings are reported on a ‘cash in, cash out’ basis, closely aligned with HMRC’s basis accounting system, used for income tax. This means you will be asked to report all receipts into the business and all payments out of the business.

If your records any accounting are up-to-date for your HMRC returns, you should have all the information you need for Universal Credit.

We have had contact from lots of our customers who are self-employed and have been unable to work due to Covid-19.

We really understand that many of our customers are not familiar with the benefits system, so if you’d like some expert advice on the help you or your family might be entitled to, please contact our friendly team on money.matters@wrekin.com, or call us on 01952 217234.

I’m self-employed - do I need to include my Covid-19 grants in my next tax returns?

If you received a Covid-19 grant or support payment and are self-employed, in a partnership or run a business, HMRC have issued new guidance on what you need to report, and how to do it.

Visit the HMRC website for more information.

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Universal Credit and benefits

For more information on the Universal Credit changes in Sep/Oct please visit our recent news item which includes support advice options..

What happens once I have completed my online Universal Credit claim?

People making new claims for Universal Credit will no longer need to call the DWP as part of the process. Instead, the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) team will call you if they need to check any of the information provided as part of your claim.

I claim Tax Credits and am worried these will stop if I claim Universal Credit, what should I do?

Tax Credits do not offer you any help with your rent, so if your wages have dropped you may be able to get extra help through Universal Credit. Our Money Matters team can help and guide you through claiming the financial support you are entitled to. Contact the team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com if you need expert advice and guidance.

How do the Test and Trace Support Payments work for those told to self-isolate?

If you are told by the NHS Test and Trace Scheme that you need to self-isolate, are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result you may be eligible for financial help from your local authority. Visit the gov.uk website for more information.

How can I claim?

  • The grants will be administered by your local authority
  • As soon as you get the notification to self-isolate, you'll need to contact your local authority, either online or by phone.
  • Not sure how to contact your local authority? Here's the local council website checker.

Good to know…

  • Even if you make a joint claim for universal credit, you claim the support payment as an individual, so if you and your partner BOTH need to self-isolate, you can each make separate claims for financial help.
  • If you need to self-isolate again, you can claim a subsequent payment, as long as you meet the criteria.
  • The payment won't affect your benefits. The DWP has confirmed that the payment will be "disregarded" for benefits purposes, but you will still need to log it as a payment in your online UC journal.
  • Anyone who qualifies for this payment will get it on top of any statutory sick pay they are entitled to.

I need to claim Universal Credit but only have a Post Office Card Account - what can I do?

You now need to have a bank account to make a claim to Universal Credit (since 11 May 2020).

Most high street banks offer basic accounts, which are simple to open, mostly with no overdraft facilities or charges and would also give a debit card to make payments straight from your account. Having a bank account also makes it easier to set up direct debits for your regular bill payments, such as rent and council tax.

If you’re not able to open a bank, building society or credit union account, call the Universal Credit helpline to arrange a different way of getting paid.

I have lost my job, been laid off, or have no income, but will have to wait for my Universal Credit payment. How can I cope?

Universal Credit has a system in place to give first time claimants an advance to help while waiting for a first official payment. This advance is a loan from the government and you will need to pay it back a bit at a time from your future Universal Credit payments, or by other means if you no longer get Universal Credit (for example, from your wages or other benefit you may be getting).

Do I need up to date self-employed accounts to claim Universal Credit?

You will need to keep records of all money, and when it actually comes into and goes out of your business, but this helps you keep the records you’ll need tax self-assessment purposes.
You’ll need to remember to report all income and payments made by your business in your Universal Credit ‘Monthly Assessment Period,’ and this is done via your online Universal Credit Journal. These include things like:

  • Permitted expenses (such as regular costs for rent, stock or equipment)
  • Flat Rate deductions (e.g. for the use of a car for business)
  • Income Tax or National Insurance Contributions.

If you have paid nothing out you must report nil deductions.

Has the extra £20pw been extended for people claiming Universal Credit?

The additional £20 per week (introduced in March 2020) is to be phased out from October 2021.

How is my self-employed income assessed for Universal Credit?

Self-employed earnings are reported on a ‘cash in, cash out’ basis, closely aligned with HMRC’s basis accounting system, used for income tax. This means you will be asked to report all receipts into the business and all payments out of the business.

If your records any accounting are up-to-date for your HMRC returns, you should have all the information you need for Universal Credit.

We have had contact from lots of our customers who are self-employed and have been unable to work due to COVID-19.

We really understand that many of our customers are not familiar with the benefits system, so if you’d like some expert advice on the help you or your family might be entitled to, please contact our friendly team on money.matters@wrekin.com, or call us on 01952 217234

My Personal Independence Payment or Employment Support Allowance claim still hasn't been assessed - what can I do?

We appreciate that there may have been delays in the assessment of certain benefits, but please be reassured that any entitlement you may get will be paid from the date claimed, not the date of your assessment. If you are struggling to pay your rent, pay bills or buy food, please get in touch with us and see how we can help.

The DWP are still dealing with a huge volume of phone calls at the moment, and are asking customers not to call, and they will call you if they need to. This will help them process all outstanding assessments and benefit claims.

I have a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment to attend but have COVID-19 symptoms what should I do?

The government have issued updated guidance about face to face assessments during the Covid-19 period.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you should arrange a test as soon as possible, visit the gov.uk website for more information.

Do I need to attend appointments at the Job Centre now?

Don’t worry. People receiving benefits have not been required to attend jobcentre appointments (since March 2020). You will continue to receive your benefits as normal.

From April 2021, the DWP have been resuming face to face appointments. You will be notified if you need to attend an appointment. You can also make an appointment to see your Work Coach if you can’t get the help you need online or over the phone.

If you are already claiming Universal Credit and need advice you can contact your work coach using the online journal, or contact our Money Matters team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com

People applying for Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance or other benefits should not go to a jobcentre but apply for them online.

I can’t register the birth of my new baby, can I still claim Child Benefit?

If you’re not able to register the birth of your child because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can still make a claim to receive Child Benefit. It can take up to 12 weeks to process a new Child Benefit claim (or longer if you’re new to the UK). Child Benefit can be backdated for up to 3 months. If you need advice about claiming benefits, you can contact our Money Matters team on 01952 217234 or money.matters@wrekin.com.

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Home visits safety

What will happen if you need to visit my home for repairs or maintenance?

So that we keep you and our staff safe, we will:

  • Ask you if you are isolating, or have COVID-19 symptoms
  • Ask you to leave the room when carrying out the job
  • Ask you to stay 2m apart from us at all times.

If someone in your household does have symptoms and you need us to visit you, we have PPE, like masks and gloves, to keep everyone safe.

What happens if it’s time for my annual gas service?

If the annual gas service on your boiler is due then you will receive a letter from us. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, or would rather we carry out the service at a later date then please let us know so we can provide you will a carbon monoxide (CO) detector. This will keep you safe in your home until we can carry out a gas service.

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Other queries and what to do if your question is not listed?

How do I get a sick note if I am self-isolating?

If you need to provide evidence that you need to stay at home due to Coronavirus an Isolation note can be obtained from NHS online.

I provide unpaid care to a friend or family member, what happens if I fall ill?

It’s a good idea to put a plan in place in case you have to self-isolate or are ill. You may be able to make cover arrangements with trusted neighbours, friends or family members. Carers UK have some useful information on their website.

Can my local council offer Community Support?

If you are over 70, or under 70 with underlying health conditions and have no friends or family nearby your Local Authority may be able to offer local community support.

Contact Telford & Wrekin Council.

You can also call 01952 382030 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Shropshire Council - Visit their website or call their dedicated coronavirus helpline on 0345 678 9028 between 8am to 6pm weekdays, and 9am to 1pm on Saturday.

Other - Visit the gov.uk website.

If your question is not listed please contact us on 01952 217000 or email enquiries@wrekin.com.

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Useful links and contacts

For money and benefits advice contact our Money Matters team on 01952 217234 or email money.matters@wrekin.com.

For free, impartial debt advice contact Wrekin Debt Advice on 01952 217251 or email debtadvice@wrekin.com.

Other free debt advice services are available - StepChange, National Debt Line or Citizens Advice. You can contact them online or by phone if you are unable to get out.

For more information about paying rent.

Government information around Coronavirus – COVID-19

Information on Universal Credit

If you struggle to make the claim online, call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644

NGT text relay – if you cannot hear or speak on the phone: 18001 then 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

For information on benefits visit Citizens Advice

If you are a carer visit Carers UK

Department for work and pensions

Information on grants for self-employed people

If your question is not listed please contact us on 01952 217000 or email enquiries@wrekin.com.

Page updated 31/08/21

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