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.
We can give advice 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.
Last updated 4th June 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
- Links to 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:
- The government announced new guidance on ‘Staying Alert and Safe’ on Monday 11th May. Please click here to see the latest information for individuals and businesses.
- Further information can also be found on the government coronavirus website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
- The government website for citizens of Northern Ireland contains information and advice: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19
- Here is the latest information on the coronavirus for those living and working in Scotland: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
- The guidance and advice from the Welsh Government can be found here: https://gov.wales/coronavirus
How Perennial can support you
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 9.30am – 5pm and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 5pm.
Worried about your finances?
When work suddenly stops the impact on income can be a challenge. The government appreciates this and has put some measures in place to help get us through this difficult period. Please visit our Benefits Advice and Money Advice pages for information and advice. We appreciate it’s not always easy to navigate through the support available so please give our team a call on 0800 093 8543 and lets us help you understand it and how it affects you personally.
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 Big White Wall. 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 Big White Wall 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.
The Perennial Helpline can help with a range of practical advice and financial information. If you would like to contact us you can complete the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
We often find that we can help people more by speaking to them on the phone. If you would like to speak to a member of the team, call us free on 0800 093 8543, Monday and Wednesday 9.30am – 5pm and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 5pm.
Perennial will only share your information with third parties if it is needed to progress your application, if it is in your best interests and when we have explicit consent from you to do so.
We use data processors who are third parties who provide services for us, with whom we have contracts in place. This means that they cannot do anything with your personal information unless we have instructed them to do it. They will not share your personal information with any organisation apart from us. They will hold it securely and retain it for the period we instruct.
Your personal information will never be sold or passed to any third party for any other purpose.
Frequently Asked Questions
My financial circumstances have changed due to the Coronavirus. Is my child now eligible for free school meals?
The government have extended free school meals for families during Covid-19 to ensure that eligible children continue to be supported whilst they are at home and over the Easter holidays. If you did not previously qualify for free school meals but your income has reduced or stopped due to the coronavirus crisis, your child may now qualify for free school meals based upon your new financial circumstances.
If you are struggling to provide food for your family, please contact your local authority or your child’s school and they will confirm whether you are eligible and award free school meals. For more information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/apply-free-school-meals.
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.
I am self-employed, what support will I get from the Government?
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 which the Government updated on the 4th May. 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.
If you currently work in horticulture and are self employed, 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.”
Help for sole traders and businesses
The government have launched a new Coronavirus Support Finder Tool which helps employers and the self-employed see 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.
If you are a sole trader or business owners and you are worried about your finances, Business Debtline offer support and advice.
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 9.30am – 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 are self-isolating for health reasons
You may be entitled to benefits if you need to stay at home and self-isolate because:
- You have coronavirus
- You have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
- Someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms
- You’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
If you are an employee who needs to self-isolate, and you are not working, you should get statutory sick pay from your employer. You can only get this if you usually earn more than £118 per week.
You will get this from day-one of your self-isolation. People on zero hours contract can still get Statutory Sick pay if they meet the conditions. You claim Statutory Sick Pay from your employer.
It is possible your employer may also pay you contractual sick pay, but you will need to check the terms of your employment contract.
Click on this link to find out more information Statutory Sick Pay (https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay)
Employment and Support Allowance
You may be able to get New-style Employment and Support Allowance:
- If you are a self-employed person self-isolating on government advice and not working, or
- If you are an employee self-isolating on government advice and not working and you usually earn less than £118 per week
You will get this from day-one of your self-isolation. New-style Employment and Support Allowance is based on your national insurance contribution record. This means you will need to have been working for most of the period between April 2017 and April 2019.
People who need to claim New-style Employment and Support Allowance because of coronavirus will not have to produce a fit note.
Click on this link to find out more information NSESA.
You could get Universal Credit if you are self-isolating on government advice
- 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.
There is a five-week wait before you get your first payment of Universal Credit. However, you can get help from day one through a Universal Credit Advance Payment. Advance payments have to be paid back, either out of your Universal Credit payments or, if you stop claiming Universal Credit, from your earnings.
People who need to claim Universal Credit because of Coronavirus will not have to produce a fit note. Universal Credit is claimed online. 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 – 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 9.30am – 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.
Interest is still likely to accrue on the mortgage, but banks have been asked to ensure that taking a break won’t affect your credit rating. No fees can be charged in connection with deferrals but interest will be charged on payments not made. Payment deferral offered under this scheme will not have a negative impact on credit files. At the end of the deferral your lender should offer you help so you can make up the missed payments like refinance options, extending your mortgage term, capitalising etc.
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.
Here are our top tips:
- Your mortgage is one of your most important bills
- 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.
- Please call our freephone helpline number 0800 093 8543 or complete the contact form here and our team will be in touch as soon as possible.
Paying your Rent
The government has brought in emergency legislation banning evictions of private rented or social tenants during the coronavirus outbreak. The announcement says that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period and so no renters in private or social accommodation should be concerned about the threat of eviction.
Here are our top tips:
- Rent is still due and you will have arrears at the end of the current crisis if you do not pay your rent and you will have to make arrangements to pay back the arrears.
- Treat your rent as a high priority bill to pay.
- Claiming Universal Credit may get you some help with the cost. Visit the government Employment and Benefits Support Website 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 will likely stop, so you should make your own arrangements to pay. This is especially important if the arrears are subject to a court order (Suspended Possession Order)
If you need help with budgeting to pay your rent or advice on claiming Universal Credit, please get in touch with us and one of our team of qualified debt advisers will be there to help you. Call our freephone helpline number 0800 093 8543 or complete the contact from here and our team will be in touch as soon as possible.
Gas and Electric bills
Energy companies have announced a number of measures to help vulnerable customers during the coronavirus outbreak.
If you are on a prepayment meter you will receive help if you cannot get out to top up, which may include credit being sent in the post or funds being automatically added to your meter. Firms could also send somebody out to top up a prepayment meter.
Did you know?
- Those struggling to pay bills will receive support and no credit meter disconnections will take place.
- Debt repayments and bill payments could be reassessed, paused or reduced where needed.
Our advice is to talk to your supplier, explain that your income has dropped and ask them 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. Please call 0800 093 8543, alternatively, complete the contact form here and we will contact you as soon as possible.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – the firm that regulates financial services firms, has told firms to provide a 3 month payment freeze to anyone having temporary difficulties meeting finance or lease payments due to coronavirus.
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.
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
The measures vary depending on the type of agreement – for more details visit the FCA website.
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.
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. 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 (www.budget.perennial.org.uk) 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 and council tax. 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. Please call our freephone helpline number 0800 093 8543 or complete the contact form here and our team will be in touch as soon as possible.
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.
The guidance says if you have either a reduction in income or an increase in expenses – you can 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)
There should be a complete suspension of enforcement visits, whether to recover unpaid court fines, penalty charge notices, council tax or non-domestic business rates.
New rules also came into force on 25th April to prevent bailiffs from taking control of goods during the coronavirus restriction period.
However, if you have any debts already with enforcement agents or you have any concerns, we would urge you to contact us as soon as possible.
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.