Support and Advice relating to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Our freephone helpline is operating as usual. If you need support during these incredibly difficult times, please call us on 0800 093 8543 or complete the contact form here and we will contact you as soon as possible.
During the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic it’s wise to follow all government advice and it’s also natural to be concerned about your own health, your ability to continue working and supporting family members. This is a time when we need to work together.
Last updated 13th October 2020. Please check for updates.
You will find information here to support you through these uncertain times:
- Where to check for the latest advice on Coronavirus (Covid-19)
- How Perennial can support you
- Worried about your finances?
- Looking after yourself
- Other organisations who may be able to offer additional support
Where to check for the latest advice on Coronavirus (Covid-19)
NHS advice and steps to keep healthy is available here.
The government advice for each part of the United Kingdom is different:
- Please click here to see the Government ‘Staying alert and safe’ guidance.
- Further information can also be found on the government coronavirus website: gov.uk/coronavirus
- The government website for citizens of Northern Ireland contains information and advice: nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19
- Here is the latest information on the coronavirus for those living and working in Scotland: gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
- The guidance and advice from the Welsh Government can be found here: gov.wales/coronavirus
How Perennial can support you
We can give you advice on accessing government support, help you to understand your financial situation and work with you to manage your finances. We can also provide financial assistance to cover essential items, particularly food and heating.
Perennial’s help and support is free and confidential and during this difficult period we are here to help you access the statutory services and assistance you need. We will all need different types of advice and help so please call us in confidence on 0800 093 8543 or complete the contact form and we will get back to you. Our office hours are Monday and Wednesday 10am – 5pm and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 5pm.
Worried about your finances?
Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your finances? If so, please visit our Benefits Advice and Money Advice pages for information and advice. We appreciate it’s not always easy to navigate through these difficult times so please give our team a call on 0800 093 8543. We will review your situation, advise on all the options available and then work to put your chosen option into place.
Looking after yourself
Looking after your mental wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical and financial health, especially during uncertain times. In times of increased stress, seeking help and support from others can be a real help. Click here to find out more about our online mental health community, as well as other organisations offering information and support on mental health.
Other organisations who may be able to offer support
Looking after your emotional and mental wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical and financial health, especially during uncertain times. If you’re finding things hard emotionally right now, you are not alone. In times of increased stress, seeking help and support from others can be a real help.
Online mental health and wellbeing community
If you are stressed, anxious or need a place to talk – join our online mental health and wellbeing community provided through our partnership with Togetherall. It is accessible anytime, anywhere. It’s important to stay connected even when we have to distance ourselves socially. Stay part of a community and access our support network – click here to complete our short questionnaire to access the Togetherall support service
Other organisations who can help you
Here are some great charities and organisations offering information and support on mental health:
- Mind, the mental health charity has information and tips to help you cope during this difficult time.
- If you are staying at home, the Mental Health Foundation provide some great advice for looking after your mental health and wellbeing.
- For older people, Age UK have advice about staying safe and well at home during the coronavirus.
- You can find simple steps to help look after your wellbeing in this blog from Rethink Mental Illness
- The NHS website offers practical advice for looking after your physical and emotional wellbeing.
If you need urgent help for your mental wellbeing please find the latest information from the NHS.
Frequently Asked Questions
My financial circumstances have changed due to the Coronavirus. Is my child now eligible for free school meals?
We understand that times have been challenging for many families. Due to COVID-19 your family’s financial circumstances may have changed since the last school year and your children could now be entitled to free school meals.
With the new school year approaching we have put together information on free school meals and how to apply. You can also talk to your child’s school to find out what support is available directly from them.
The government advice for each part of the United Kingdom is different. For more information about the support available and how to apply please click below:
What is the Government advice on whether I should continue working?
At this current time, it is important to follow the current government guidelines for your own circumstances and location. Each country of the United Kingdom has issued guidance on whether it is safe to work. Please visit the relevant page for information and advice. Remember that this guidance might change, so please check back regularly:
If you currently work in horticulture and do need to stop working, Perennial can give information and help you access the Government support which is being put in place, help you make arrangements to reduce or delay bill payments including credit debts where necessary and provide financial assistance to cover essential items, particularly food and heating.
What advice can you provide for carers during COVID-19?
Carers play a vital role in looking after those who are most vulnerable in our communities and COVID-19 has increased the challenges faced by many. The Social Care Institute for Excellence provides great advice for carers through an expert panel.
Helen Whately MP, Minister of State for Social Care has this advice:
“If urgent care needs cannot be met, for example family carers become unwell and need to isolate, please contact your Local Authority for help.
Both Carers UK and the Carers Trust have good advice on their websites. I love the idea of a Virtual Cuppa, where people can talk about the challenges of COVID-19 as well as suggesting practical steps for how to get through it. There’s excellent advice on creating a contingency or emergency plan. Even though we are in an emergency right now, it’s not too late to start a plan. For example, you can ensure that key information is made readily available for professionals.”
How can I carry on supporting someone with dementia during COVID-19?
Paul Burstow, Chair, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) writes:
“If you are supporting someone with dementia, the usual arrangements should still apply but it’s important to continue planning during this period of uncertainty; both with medicine – and food shopping and cooking; but also, over what activities people can take in. It’s really important that people stay active and connected with things like gentle exercises and by phone, post, email and skype. But of course, it’s vital to know what to do immediately if they do get ill, or you as a carer get ill. It’s best to leave the person the right contact numbers to call, prominently displayed, such as NHS 111 or their local GP. The Alzheimer’s Society has some excellent, detailed advice on coping with the COVID-19 outbreak.”
While the primary concern is health, your financial wellbeing is also important during these uncertain times. Perennial can help you explore all the options that are available so that you can find the financial support that best suits your situation. Our freephone helpline is operating as usual.
If you need support during these incredibly difficult times, please call us on 0800 093 8543, Monday and Wednesday 10am – 5pm and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 5pm. Alternatively please complete the contact form here and we will contact you as soon as possible.
Here’s our short guide to how you can gain help from benefits during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Employment and Benefits Support
If you are affected by the coronavirus or its effect on the economy, the government is offering a wide range of financial support.
You can find out what support is available to you by visiting the government Employment and Benefits Support website. It includes information for people who are already claiming benefits, if you need to claim or are at risk of losing your job as a result of coronavirus. This is a fast-changing situation so please check regularly for updates.
Benefits Advice if you are experiencing financial difficulties due to Covid-19
Universal credit is a benefit available to many who are employed, self-employed, unemployed and on low incomes (but usually not pensioners), provided you’ve less than £16,000 savings in your household.
Universal Credit can include help in paying your rent. Some people in receipt of tax credits or housing benefit maybe worse off by claiming Universal Credit. Seek our advice to make sure you are receiving the correct support.
Universal Credit is claimed online. Click here to find out more information.
Benefits Advice if you cannot work because of coronavirus
You may be entitled to benefits if you cannot work due to coronavirus.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
You may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay if you’re self-isolating for one or more of the following reasons, and you are unable to work as a result:
- You are displaying symptoms of coronavirus
- Someone in your household (including an extended or linked household, or support bubble) is displaying symptoms of coronavirus
- You’ve been notified that you have come into contact with someone who has coronavirus
- You’ve been sent a letter telling you to stay at home because you’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (this is known as ‘shielding’) and you live or work in an area where local restrictions are in place, or shielding guidance has been reintroduced nationally
You cannot get SSP if you’re self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason.
Click on this link to find out more information Statutory Sick Pay.
Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme
If you’re asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and you’re on a low income, unable to work from home and will lose income as a result, you may be entitled to a payment of £500 from your local authority under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.
To find out if you are eligible and how to apply please click here.
Employment and Support Allowance
You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA if you’re unable to claim Statutory Sick Pay and one of the following applies:
- you or your child might have coronavirus or you’re recovering from it
- you or your child are self-isolating because you came into contact with someone who might have coronavirus
- you have been told to stay at home for at least 12 weeks by the NHS because you’re at high risk of severe illness
Click on this link to find out more information NSESA.
You may be eligible for Universal Credit if:
- you don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance, or
- you need additional help on top of Statutory Sick Pay or New-style ESA.
Click on this link to find out more information Universal Credit.
The following are reputable websites that will help you find information on various aspects of benefits:
- If you would like to see what help you can get, please click here to access the gov.uk benefit calculators Benefit calculators. Alternatively find more information at Turn2us
- If you’re already claiming Universal Credit visit moneyadviceservice.org.uk or understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk
- For more information about disability benefits visit moneyadviceservice.org.uk
Our freephone helpline is operating as usual. If you need support during these incredibly difficult times, please call us on 0800 093 8543 or complete our contact form here.
Here is our short guide to money matters during the Coronavirus pandemic. We appreciate it’s not always easy to navigate through the financial support available so Perennial can help you understand your financial situation and take control of your finances.
Our team is available on 0800 093 8543, Monday and Wednesday 10am – 5pm and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 5pm. Alternatively, please complete the contact form here and we will contact you as soon as possible.
The government has introduced a three-month ’payment deferral’ (also known as payment holiday), with the possibility of an extension for households experiencing financial difficulty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
No fees can be charged in connection with deferrals but interest will continue to build (unless your lender has told you otherwise) and your repayments may be higher after the deferral. You are likely to end up paying more in the long term. At the end of the deferral your lender should work with you to agree the best way of catching up the missed payments. This may include setting up a longer term agreement, changing the terms of your mortgage or switching to an interest-only mortgage.
Mortgage lenders should ensure that payment deferrals won’t have a negative impact on your credit file, but there are other ways lenders can tell whether you’ve taken a payment holiday, and this may have an impact on any future applications you make for credit.
If you’ve not had a deferral already under the coronavirus measures:
- You can request a deferral of up to 3 months until 31st October 2020. When you talk to your lender, explain your circumstances and ask that they allow you a three-month payment deferral (they are used to this now so you should find them helpful and understanding).
If you’ve had a deferral already under the coronavirus measures:
- If you can pay, your lender should look at all options to help you, including accepting a lump sum, extending your mortgage term or capitalising the missed payments
- If you can’t pay, you can request another full deferral of up to three months, or a partial deferral of up to three months until 31st October 2020.
Here are our top tips:
- Your mortgage is one of your most important bills
- If you can afford to pay your mortgage it’s in your best interests to do so because interest will continue to build
- The help is not automatic so please don’t just stop paying your mortgage
- If your income has dropped due to the impact of the Coronavirus, contact your mortgage lender. Many lenders have dedicated phone numbers or email addresses for you to do this – visit your lender’s website to find the details.
- There are some circumstances when a lender may refuse to agree to a payment deferral. If this happens, or you need any help or advice on this or other bills, please get in touch with us and one of our team of qualified debt advisers will be there to help you.
Paying your Rent
Where tenants are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, the government is clear that landlords and tenants should work together and exhaust all possible options – such as flexible payment plans which take into account a tenant’s individual circumstances – to ensure cases only end up in court as an absolute last resort.
Here are our top tips:
- Your rent is one of your most important bills.
- This is not a ‘payment holiday’, your rent is still due and you will have arrears at the end of the current crisis if you do not pay your rent. You will then have to make arrangements to pay back the arrears.
- Claiming benefits you are entitled to may get you some help with the cost. Our team can help you check and claim your benefit entitlement or you can visit gov.uk for more information about the wide range of benefits support available to you.
- If you were getting deductions from your benefit for rent arrears, these may have stopped over the last few months. You should check whether this has happened in your case – if it has, you will need to make your own arrangements to pay. This is especially important if the arrears are subject to a court order (Suspended Possession Order / Time to Pay agreement).
- Your landlord has to follow certain procedures and notice periods before they will be able to evict.
- You may be able to access further help for your rent through local authority Discretionary Housing Payments.
If you need help with budgeting to pay your rent or advice on claiming benefit entitlements / Universal Credit, please get in touch with us and one of our team of qualified debt advisers will be there to help you.
The Local Government Association has reported that all local authorities in England and Wales are putting help in place for people who are facing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus. If you are suffering from hardship you may be able to get help from your local authority through a Section 13A application to reduce your liability, we are able to assist with this.
COSLA, the Scottish equivalent have said that councils there are standing by to help too.
Here are our top tips:
- Your council tax is one of your most important bills.
- There is no payment holiday, your council tax is still due and you will have arrears at the end of the current crisis if you do not pay your council tax. You will then have to make arrangements to pay back the arrears.
- Contact your local council to see if they can offer a payment deferral or an affordable repayment schedule.
- Claiming Council Tax Support/ Council Tax Reduction may get you some help with the cost. Visit Gov.uk for more information about the wide range of benefits support available to you.
- Although you may be entitled to full Council Tax Reduction (Scotland) you will still have water and sewerage costs to pay.
- If you were getting deductions from your benefit for council tax arrears, these may have stopped over the last few months. If this has happened in your case, you should make your own arrangements to pay.
If you need help with budgeting to pay council tax, please get in touch with us and one of our team of qualified debt advisers will be there to help you.
Gas and Electric bills
From 1st July, OFGEM have announced that energy companies can start chasing customers for unpaid fuel bills again following a freeze on disconnections and debt collection. Energy companies have been told they must provide strong support to their customers and must make sure that debt collection practices are fair and repayment plans are affordable. If you are behind with your gas or electricity bills, our advice is to talk to your supplier, explain your situation and ask them for help.
Did you know?
If you are on a prepayment meter and are shielding or self-isolating you can self-refer to the NHS volunteer teams by calling 0808 196 3646. They can arrange for someone to top up your meter for you. You can also ask your energy supplier for help.
If you need help with budgeting to pay fuel bills, please get in touch with us and one of our team of qualified debt advisers will be there to help you.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulatory body of financial services firms, has told firms that they should offer help to people struggling with car finance due to coronavirus. If you are having temporary difficulties meeting finance or leasing payments because of coronavirus, you can ask your finance company for a 3 month payment freeze any time up until 31 October 2020. If you have already had one payment freeze, and are still in temporary financial difficulty, you can ask your lender for a second 3-month payment freeze up until 31 October 2020.
If you are having difficulties and need use of the vehicle, firms should not take steps to end the agreement or repossess the vehicle. Firms should not alter Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) or Personal Contract Hire (PCH) agreements in a way that is unfair. For example, firms should not try to recalculate PCP balloon payments based on a temporary depreciation of car prices caused by the coronavirus situation.
If you wish to keep your vehicle at the end of your PCP agreement, but you don’t have the cash to cover the balloon payment due to coronavirus-related payment difficulties, firms should work with you to find an appropriate solution.
If you are struggling to afford your insurance payments because of the impact of the coronavirus, please contact your insurer to discuss your options. Insurers have been told by the Financial Conduct Authority (the organisation that regulates financial services companies) to offer payment holidays and refunds for people who are struggling to pay and to ensure they are providing value for money. It is important that you maintain essential insurance cover and don’t leave yourself uninsured. More details can be found on the FCA website pages dedicated to changes throughout the pandemic – FCA Coronavirus Support.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – the firm that regulates financial services firms, has introduced measures that will help people whose income has been affected by Coronavirus. They apply to:
- unsecured loans
- high-cost, short-term credit (including payday loans)
- guarantor loans
- credit cards
- buy now, pay later
- rent to own (including HP/ PCP agreements)
The measures vary depending on the type of agreement – for more details visit the FCA coronavirus support page.
The measures are not automatic and should be agreed with your lender first – where possible use online services to request assistance. You should not stop paying without agreeing this with your lender first as this may have a negative effect on your credit rating. If you have already agreed a payment deferral and this is coming to an end, the FCA has advised lender that they should try to contact you to prevent missed payments.
Whilst lenders should ensure that any agreed payment deferrals won’t have a negative impact on your credit file until 31st October, there are other ways lenders can tell whether you’ve taken a payment holiday, and this may have an impact on any future applications you make for credit. Following 31st October, lenders will be expected to use normal reporting processes in relation to credit files and should be clear with customers about the impact any arrangement or deferral might have on their credit file.
Interest is still likely to be applied to credit accounts during any agreed payment holidays which may lead to your payments increasing when it ends. Lenders can consider suspending, reducing, waiving, cancelling and freezing interest/charges as part of a repayment arrangement but it will be up to them to decide this. If you were already finding it difficult to manage your payments before the Coronavirus, our debt team can help you to explore your debt options.
Here are our top tips for dealing with debt:
- Always contact your lender to let them know if you are having difficulties meeting payments · Write down all of your income and expenditure or visit our budgeting tool – this will help you to see where you might be able to make some savings
- Some bills are higher priority than others – eg rent or mortgage, council tax and utilities. Citizens Advice can help you to understand why and make sure you deal with priority debts first.
If you are worried about your debts, or can’t contact your lenders yourself, contact our help line and one of our team of qualified debt advisers will be there to help you.
Individual Voluntary Arrangements
The Insolvency Service has published Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance which allows for flexibility to be applied to IVAs where the borrower has problems because of Coronavirus. This currently applies until 20th October 2020 but this date is subject to change.
The guidance says if you have either a reduction in income or an increase in expenses – you may be able to reduce payments by up to 25% and to take payment holidays for up to three months without a variation being required.
This extra payment break is in addition to the standard IVA provisions. So if you have already used up 9 months of payment breaks you can still get this extra three months.
Payment breaks are just added onto the end of your IVA, so you will be paying the same amount in the end.
Enforcement Agents (Bailiffs)
After a brief suspension of bailiffs enforcing debts during Covid-19 restrictions, the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) has announced plans for a ‘phased return of activity’. From 24th August local authorities and courts can use bailiffs to enforce overdue council tax, business rates, parking and traffic penalties and magistrates’ court fines.
Anyone who has missed a payment or been out of contact will receive a standard letter asking them how they have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Individuals will be given 30 days’ notice of a visit by an enforcement agent (unless the local authority has specific requirements). Enforcement agents have been issued guidance on social distancing and preventing transmission for when they do carry out visits.
If you have any debts which are already with bailiffs, we would urge you to contact us as soon as possible for advice on dealing with the debt.
Our freephone helpline is operating as usual. If you need support during these incredibly difficult times, please call us on 0800 093 8543 or complete our contact form here.
We provide free and confidential advice, support and financial assistance to people of all ages working in, or retired from horticulture.
Support for the Self-Employed
We understand this is a very unsettling and difficult time for self-employed people in horticulture. You can find the full guidance on the Self Employed Income Support Scheme here Gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme. Please keep checking this website for the latest information. In the meantime, check the measures already in place to see if they can help, including deferring tax payments.
We can help you access the statutory support that is already available such as New Style Employment Support Allowance if you’re sick. Don’t forget you may be able to access financial support through Universal Credit. Universal credit is a benefit available to many who are employed, self-employed, unemployed and on low incomes (but usually not pensioners), provided you’ve less than £16,000 savings in your household.
We can help you explore all the options that are available at present to find the support that best suits your situation.
Help for Sole Traders and Businesses
- The government Coronavirus Support Finder Tool helps employers and the self-employed find out what support is available for their business during the coronavirus. You can also find the full range of business support measures available on the government website, including specific advice for small and medium-sized businesses.
- The Professional and Business Services Sector and Enterprise Nation, supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, have teamed up to offer small and medium sized businesses free advice to help them recover from the impact of Coronavirus. Businesses can access advice and support from experts on topics from accounting to advertising, HR and legal affairs for free until 31st December 2020. Visit Enterprise Nation for more information and to join.
- If you are a sole trader or business owners and you are worried about your finances, Business Debtline also offer support and advice.