Lifting The Lockdown – What’s Next?

It has been more than 4 months since the Covid-19 driven ‘lockdown’ was introduced. While the weather is heating up the lockdown is, in most places, easing off. Consequently, the experience of lockdown for ordinary people is changing. The purpose of this piece is to make you aware of what’s happened and what’s still to happen that can affect you and your family.

Employment

The Job Retention (‘furlough’) scheme changed in July to allow employers to bring furloughed employees back to work for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim payments for the hours not worked. From 1st August the level of grant will be reduced and employers will be expected to pay some ER NICs and pension contributions. Levels of support will reduce again in September, and again in October. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close on 31st October 2020.

Those who recently received their first SEISS lump sum payment (for the eligible self-employed) can start making their second (and last) claims from 17th August. Employment during Covid-19 is complex and the outlook in the short term is bleak. Make sure you get independent advice on your rights and responsibilities.

Benefits

By the time you read this, Jobcentre Plus offices will be open and some degree of face-to-face support will be available. UC ‘Claimant Commitments’ will have been readjusted to suit a ‘new normal’ and jobseekers will be expected to look for work and be subject to sanctions if not following work coach instructions. Not made yet, decisions will have been made about the re-introduction of face-to-face medical assessments. It is vital that you keep in close contact with your work coach, via your online journal, especially if you are new to Universal Credit.

Debt

On 24th August the suspension on the doorstep collection of Council Tax arrears ends. The ban on evictions will also end. What matters here, which is not known at the time of writing, is when the courts system will resume processing eviction claims. The only good news here is that FCA protections on the repayment of some consumer debts have been extended until 23rd October. With benefit overpayments already being reclaimed, it is vital that anyone with multiple debts looks for independent money and debt advice as soon as possible.

Housing

The extension of the Section 21 notice period to three months has led to landlords beginning to re-start the eviction process in many cases in anticipation of the re-opening of the courts to eviction action on 24th August. We already know that the ban did not stop evictions from those with tenancies not covered by the ban nor did it stop the emergence of a small but steady stream of new ‘street homeless’. If you are threatened with homelessness get advice now.

Health

The lockdown may feel lifted but a highly infectious and deadly virus is still at large and only a small proportion of our entire population has been infected so far. Basic health precautions, such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, remain vital to preventing virus spread. In other areas primary, acute and other medical care has resumed but backlogs are taking time to clear. There is no other option, at the moment, other than to be persistent but patient.

Stay well but beware, local outbreaks will generate local lockdowns. Be careful out there.

Further Information

Be sure to check your local council’s website regularly for local changes to service delivery.

For official coronavirus updates visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

For independent information, advice and guidance visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/.

Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk