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Benefits, money and council tax

Last reviewed on 23 September

Support for people on low incomes who are self-isolating

People in St Helens who are working or self-employed and on a low income, who must self-isolate due to Covid-19 and cannot work from home, will be able to claim a £500 lump-sum payment from the government.

From Monday 28 September, people with Covid-19 symptoms will be required to self-isolate by law.

To help those on low incomes who are unable to work from home and must self-isolate, the government has announced it will provide the £500 ‘Test and Trace Support’ payment.

The payment scheme will be co-ordinated locally by St Helens Borough Council.

The scheme will be expected to be up and running by Monday 12 October. Anyone self-isolating from Monday 28 September onwards will receive a back-dated payment.

To be eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment, an individual must:

  • have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because they’ve tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive;
  • be employed or self-employed;
  • be unable to work from home and will lose income as a result; and
  • be currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.

Council tax

You could be eligible for help towards the cost of your council tax if you’re on a low income or claim certain benefits, including Universal Credit. Find out more and apply for council tax reduction.

If you are having problems paying your council tax instalment in May and pay by Direct Debit, please contact us on 01744 675255 and we will look to adjust your instalments.

Government hardship fund

In addition to the above, the government is providing a hardship fund to support residents with their council tax. The funding is primarily intended to provide additional council tax support to existing working-age claimants in receipt of council tax reduction.

If you are in receipt of council tax reduction, an award will be automatically applied to your council tax account.

Help with rent

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates that are used to decide Universal Credit and housing benefit for private renters increased from 1 April 2020.

The LHA rate is set according to the number of bedrooms your household needs.

This increase is in addition to any support provided by us through Discretionary Housing Payments.

If you wish to claim assistance with your rent or general living expenses, please contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

If you are of working age, help with rent is part of Universal Credit. You claim Universal Credit from the DWP rather than from the council.

Rules have been temporarily relaxed for anyone making a new claim and advance payments are available while a claim is being decided. Read more information on Universal Credit

If you are in supported accommodation, temporary accommodation or are a pensioner and you need help with rent via housing benefit (general living expenses are still dealt with by the DWP), please visit our benefits pages.

Supporting documents

Supporting documents for benefits, council tax reduction, Discretionary Housing Payments and free school meals can now be sent to us online.

Please visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/benefits, select 'Apply Online' and use the 'Upload your evidence form' option.

You may have received a letter from us asking you to bring your documents to our Wesley House reception - if this is the case, please use the online service if you are able to, or call us on 01744 676666.

Mortgages, loans and credit cards

If you are experiencing financial difficulties meeting your mortgage repayments because of COVID-19, you may be entitled to a mortgage or rental holiday for three months. This includes if you are a landlord whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.

If you are a tenant experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19, the government will ensure you do not face the threat of eviction for at least three months.

If you are concerned about your current financial situation, you should contact your lender to discuss if this is a suitable option for them.

If your landlord is not abiding by the new rules, please contact our housing team via our Contact Centre on 01744 676789.

If you are experiencing difficulties paying back personal loans or credit card bills as a result of COVID-19, you should read the following information:

  • The Financial Conduct Authority called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers’ individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect.
  • If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score.

If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender.