Lifting The Covid 19 ‘Lockdown’ – What To Look Out For
At the time of writing the government has announced its provisional timetable for the gradual unwinding of the Covid-19 driven ‘lockdown’.
With many having suffered a health shock, an income shock and a social shock there now seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. However, the government is finding the process of lifting the lockdown much more complicated than imposing it. In response to potential confusion and anxiety that has already started to emerge here are some brief tips on what to ‘keep your eye on’.
Very few employed persons have been unaffected by Covid-19; whether through changes to working practices, going home on furlough or through redundancy. As ‘lockdown’ lifts, experiences will change again. For example, though the Job Retention Scheme has been extended to October it could change in July to allow part-time working. Employees, particularly in low paid jobs, may feel pressured into returning to work when safety at work is not guaranteed. It is vital at this time to keep in contact with your employer (or seek independent advice) to understand your employment rights.
Over 1 million households made new claims for Universal Credit in late March. Many will not have received payments until late April; with some waiting longer. As furloughed and other workers start to return to work it is vital that claimants inform the DWP of any material changes to their circumstances. Claims can be closed and overpayments accrue if workers return to work but don’t tell the DWP. It is also vital to keep informed about changes to DWP service delivery; specifically around when Jobcentres will open again and when face-to-face medical assessments will be reintroduced.
Almost no one is better off under Covid 19 and many have been financially hit; either using dwindling savings or ‘plastic’ to ride the storm or building up debts. In response the financial sector, and other creditors, have shown flexibility over repayment holidays, temporary deferments and other measures. These flexibilities will be withdrawn though how, at the moment, nobody knows for sure. It is vital that you look at your finances now and take advice over how to budget better and manage debt.
We are all aware that eviction and repossession activity has been temporarily suspended. It is very important to prepare as much as possible for when these protections are withdrawn. If you fear eviction or repossession now is the time to talk to your landlord. You also need to be clear on your rights and responsibilities if taking on a new tenancy. If homelessness looks inevitable, contact your council’s homelessness reduction team for help.
As the ‘lockdown’ is gradually lifted the rules over social mixing will change. However, some simple messages will remain relevant:
- keep 2 metres apart when social distancing
- wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and
- apply common sense to wearing face coverings and / or gloves when in public places.
Remember, GP and A&E services are still open and should be used whenever necessary. Local dentist services may still be affected but emergency arrangements are in place. If you need medical treatment for non-Covid issues contact NHS 111 or other services as you would have done before.
Stay well and, if in doubt, seek independent advice and guidance about your rights and entitlements.
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.