COVID-19 Update – Part III – Endgame!

By the time you read this, either lockdown will have started to be a memory or we will be subject to a ‘second wave’ and local or national restrictions. In either circumstance, the way ahead will be uncertain and complex as the post-Covid ‘new normal’ collides with the final lap of Brexit negotiations. Here, for the final time, are a few issues to look out for.

Employment

The Job Retention scheme is being phased out and will end on 31st October – unless there is a last minute extension. Applications for the second and final payment under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme are open now but must be made on or before 19th October. Most workers should be back at work now. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to be aware of your employment rights under Covid; especially around health and safety. Know your rights. Go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/.

Welfare Benefits

For those who have lost their jobs, and have a right to reside in this country, there is a system of ‘social security’, however imperfect. Benefit application processes have changed under Covid. You may not be eligible for Universal Credit. You could be entitled to other forms of income support. Check your eligibility. Go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/.

Debts and Money Management

Deductions from benefits have resumed. Rent and other liabilities can be collected. Face-to-face Council Tax arrears recovery, as well as court recoveries, will resume soon if they haven’t already in your area. No-one’s finances have been unaffected during Covid. Be proactive and ask for help on managing debts before they get out of control. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/ and plan ahead.

Housing and Homelessness

A comprehensive eviction ban was extended on 23rd August to 20th September. The courts are not prepared for the backlog of eviction activity. If you are in rent or mortgage difficulties, you still have time to avoid homelessness. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/ and check your options.

Brexit – EU Withdrawal

While most people have, understandably, been pre-occupied with Covid 19 and the effects of ‘lockdown’, the UK has also been working its way through the transition year between officially leaving the European Union and finally leaving the Single Market. The Government has been in negotiations with the EU about, among other things, on what terms the UK will trade with the EU.

What has got less attention but could affect you more quickly (and separate to any rise in the cost of living expected with any ‘no deal Brexit’), are the issues of consumer rights and immigration rights. Assuming there is a ‘no deal Brexit’, your rights as a consumer will change from 1st January for any purchases involving goods or services from the EU. It is impossible to tell yet how, but you must be aware of changes to come. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/brexit-what-it-means-for-you/ for more information.

Finally, in parallel to Brexit negotiations the UK government has set in train changes to our immigration laws; particularly around the right to reside in the UK and entitlement to public services such as healthcare and benefits. Any EEA national not aware of the need to apply for ‘Settled’ or ‘Pre-settled’ status must take note that time is running out to apply. Please visit www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families and consider your options.

More Information

For more information on local council service delivery changes visit your local council’s website.

For more information on national changes to rules and regulations related to COVID-19 go to www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

For more information on your rights, responsibilities and entitlements in relation to COVID-19 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.