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Advice and support during COVID-19

16 April 2020
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There is a lot of advice and support available to you that you can access during COVID-19. It is important to make sure you are not accessing fraudulent or inaccurate information during this time, so we have collated the following list of trusted information and resources for you.

About COVID-19

There are things you can do to help you avoid getting coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. There are also things you can do to stop the virus spreading if you think you have it.

You can read more about the symptoms of coronavirus and how to avoid it on the NHS website. If you need help now, but it is not an emergency, contact the NHS on:

You can also read guidance on how the UK is affected by coronavirus on GOV.UK. This guidance from the government is updated every day.

You can also watch British Sign Language versions of government advice on the SignHealth website.

Money and work

Need help paying your bills

There are things you can do if you’re struggling to pay things like your rent, mortgage or energy bills because of coronavirus.

It’s important you don’t ignore your bills. Speak to the organisation you owe money to. They might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.

It’s also worth checking with your bank or building society. They might be able to help you with your debts or let you delay loan or credit card repayments.

If you can’t pay your rent

The government has announced a ban on evictions. Your landlord can’t start court action for at least 3 months.

You should explain the situation to your landlord straight away, they might give you more time to pay.

You still need to pay your rent. If you’ve fallen behind with your rent you should start dealing with rent arrears. You can also check if you can get extra financial help.

If your landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with your rent payments, it’s a good idea to pay as much as you can afford and keep a record of what you discussed.

You should also contact your nearest Citizens Advice, an adviser can help you explain things to your landlord.

If you’re not working because of coronavirus

You might be able to claim benefits if you’ve lost your job or you’re self-employed and can’t get work. What you can claim will depend on your situation. You can check if you can claim from the following:

If you already get benefits

If you’re already claiming benefits like housing benefit or tax credits, you might get more money if your income is reduced.

You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund. Find out who your local council is on GOV.UK

The government has postponed all face-to-face benefits assessments or appointments at the Jobcentre Plus until at least 19 June 2020. This means you don’t have to go to:

  • interviews if you’re starting a claim for JSA, ESA or Universal Credit
  • medical assessments for ESA, Universal Credit or PIP
  • appointments with your work coach

The Jobcentre Plus might still ask to talk to you by phone.

If you’re ill or you’re following guidance to self-isolate

Don’t go to the Jobcentre Plus. Tell the Jobcentre Plus you’re ill or self-isolating by:

  • calling the office paying your benefit
  • updating your online journal if you get Universal Credit

You won’t have to search for work or do work-related activity.

If you can’t afford to top up

Tell your supplier if you can’t afford to top up because you’re ill with coronavirus or following guidance to ‘self-isolate’. You’ll find their contact details on their website or on your bill.

They’ll try to help you find other ways to keep your energy supply connected, for example:

  • let someone else top up for you
  • add funds to your account
  • send you a pre-loaded top-up card

You’ll need to pay back any credit your supplier gives you. Ask them when and how you’ll need to do this.

If you can't afford food

The Trussell Trust can help you find a food bank near to you.

Mental health

Looking after your mental health while self-isolating

MIND advise that if you are self-isolating or social distancing because of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important to look after your mental health. Social distancing and self-isolation can be really hard to deal with. It’s normal to feel anxious, frustrated or bored, and if you’re worried about the effect it will have on your mental health, you are not alone. Here are their tips for looking after your wellbeing during quarantine:

  • Staying connected: Phone calls are amazing, and are a great way to stay connected. But seeing someone’s face really can make a huge difference on a phone call. It can lift your mood and make you feel less lonely. There are lots of free video calling services you can use, and if you can connect to wifi this will help if you’re worried about your data allowance.
  • Find a positive online community: There are lots of positive online communities, where you can make new friends, get inspired and chat about things you care about. You could try searching for groups involved in causes, music or TV shows you are passionate about. But remember to avoid anything that encourages you to do things which are harmful for your physical or mental health. If you're worried by things you're experiencing online, talk to someone you trust.
  • Reach out: You’re probably not the only person feeling worried, bored or frustrated. It's a good time for a catch up, so don’t be afraid to make the first move and reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while. They’ll probably be very grateful to hear from you. Send them a message and let them know you care.
  • Staying calm, try mindfulness: There are lots of great free apps you can use to guide you through breathing techniques and meditation that can help ease your anxiety and clear your mind of anxious thoughts. We like to use Headspace. Why not also try some yoga as a way to relax and also get some gentle exercise which can boost your mood? There are lots of YouTube videos you can use to suit your ability and level of mobility.
  • Clean up your social media: You might be spending more time than usual scrolling on social media. But have you ever thought about how this could be affecting your mental health? Try unfollowing or muting accounts that make you feel anxious, upset or angry.
  • Take a break from the news: It can be tempting to constantly check the news during times like this, but if you notice this is having a negative impact on your mental health. Try limiting how often you check the news.
  • Read a book: Getting away from screens and reading a book can help you escape for a bit. Why not re-read one of your favourites, or get your friend to recommend one? It might be difficult to get a new book, but you can access lots of books online.
  • Plan your days: Your normal routine might be disrupted and that can be stressful. Take some time to write down how you want to spend your day. Creating and sticking to a new routine will give you a sense of order and normality. Decide on your new routine and make sure you build in time to do things you enjoy. If you live with other people, you could ask them to help you.
  • Feel productive: Make a list of all those things you said you would do but never get round to. It could be sorting out your wardrobe, doing some gardening, fixing things around your living space etc. These tasks can make you feel productive and give you a sense of accomplishment. Tidying your living space can also make you feel calmer and more positive. If you want to take the time off to rest and not be productive, that's also fine too. Listen to your body.
  • Online games you can play with friends: Board games can be a great way to spend time with friends or family while giving you something to focus on. You can play a lot of these games online, like Monopoly or Chess, or via apps like Words With Friends 2.
  • Walk away from tense situations if you can: Being cooped up with other people will naturally be frustrating and might create tension between you and those you live with. You can defuse difficult situations by walking away from arguments until everyone starts to feel calmer. If you and those you live with do not have any coronavirus symptoms, you could go outside for a walk.
  • Create a rota: If you’re in a situation where lots of people are fighting over who gets to decide what you watch on TV, who cooks and cleans, or anything else, you might find it helpful to create a rota. This can help you agree a fair system and help avoid arguments.

Other trusted sources to support you with your mental health

  • The Mental Health Foundation help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health, and is available to anyone. They offer tips and advice on how to look after your mental health during coronavirus and who to speak to if you need help.
  • Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service (EWMHS) provides advice and support to children, young people and families who are in need of support with their emotional wellbeing or mental health difficulties. The service covers Southend, Essex and Thurrock and is open to young people between the ages of 0-18, or up to 25 for those with special educational needs. You can contact them on:
    • Telephone Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0300 300 1600
    • Telephone outside of office hours for immediate short-term support: 0300 555 1201
    • Email: to make a self-referral
  • Samaritans, day or night, offer listening and support to anyone who’s struggling to cope or who needs someone to listen to them without judgement or pressure. You can contact them anytime on:
  • Big White Wall is an anonymous online community where members can support each others mental health, with the guidance of professionals, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Register online to join.
  • The Mix is the UK’s leading support service for young people under the age of 25. They help you with any challenge you may be facing, from mental health to money, from homelessness to finding a job, from break-ups to drugs. You can contact them on:
  • Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. Text SHOUT to 85258 if you’re experiencing a personal crisis and are unable to cope and need support with urgent issues such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying or relationship challenges.

General advice and support