Commonly asked questions and answers about Benefits and the Coronavirus

Test and Trace Support Payment

From Monday 28 September, in some circumstances, if you are required by law to self-isolate, you may be supported by a payment of £500, payable from North Norfolk District Council.

What is the Council Tax Hardship Fund?

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the government announced a hardship fund for working age Council Tax Support customers to help with your Council Tax bill. If you are receiving Council Tax Support on or after the 1 April 2020, and are of working age, you are entitled to a payment from the fund of up to £150.

We will calculate the payment you are entitled to and add this directly onto your Council Tax account. There is no need to apply for this. The payment will show on your Council Tax bill as Council Tax Discretionary Relief as shown below, and your instalments will be recalculated to reflect the reduction in your Council Tax balance.

council tax discretionary fund

What if my Council Tax account is in credit after the Council Tax Hardship Payment has been added?

If your Council Tax account goes into credit after the payment has been added, and you do not have any outstanding Council Tax balances on another account, we will refund the payment to you within 14 days.  We will action this for you, there is no need to contact us.  The refund will be paid to the originating bank account if you paid your Council Tax by Direct Debit, or if you paid your Council Tax by a cash method, we will contact you to find out how you would like the payment sent back.

What if my circumstances change, will I still be entiled to keep the Council Tax Hardship Payment?

If you have a change in your circumstances during the year, for example, you move out of the property, or your income increases or decreases, we will review how much Council Tax Hardship Payment you are entitled to.  This may be more or less than the original payment you were given.

What if I share my house with someone else and I am the only person claiming Council Tax Support?

If there is more than one person living in the property, and only one of you is claiming Council Tax Support, you will still be entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment of up to £150.

What if I share my house with someone else and both of us claim Council Tax Support?

If there is more than one person living in the property, and both of you are claiming Council Tax Support, you will only get one Council Tax Hardship Payment of up to £150.

Why is my Council Tax Hardship payment less than £150?

If you are in receipt of Council Tax Support from 1 April 2020, and have a balance of more than £150 left on your Council Tax account, after any discounts and Council Tax Support have been deducted, you will be entitled to a payment of £150.  If the balance on your Council Tax account is less than £150, we will reduce your balance to nil.

If your claim for Council Tax Support started after 1 April 2020, your payment will be calculated against the remainder of your liability for the financial year.  If your remaining liability for Council Tax is more than £150, you will be entitled to a payment of £150.  If your remaining liability is less than £150, we will reduce your balance to nil.  We have shown some examples below.

Example 1

You are in receipt of Council Tax Support from 1 April

Council Tax liability for the year (365 days) £1243.87
Council Tax Support award from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 £137.51
Leaving balance to pay for the year of £1106.36

As your balance is over £150, you are entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment of £150.

Example 2

You are in receipt of Council Tax Support from 1 April

Council Tax liability for the year (365 days) £1108.88
Council Tax Support award from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 £1014.63
Leaving balance to pay for the year of £94.25

As your balance is under £150, you are entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment of £94.25 bringing your balance to nil.

Example 3

Your Council Tax liability starts from 1 May.  You are entitled to Council Tax Support from 11 May.

a) Council Tax liability from 1 May 2020 to 31 March 2021 (335 days) £2091.68
b) Council Tax liability apportioned from 11 May 2020 to 31 March 2021 (325 days) £2029.24
c) Council Tax Support award from 11 May 2020 to 31 March 2021 (325 days) £1856.76
d) Amount of Council Tax left to pay from 11 May 2020 to 31 March 2020 = (b) less (c) £172.48

As the amount of Council Tax left to pay is over £150, you are entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment of £150. 

Example 4

Your Council Tax liability starts from 30 April.  You are entitled to Council Tax Support from 4 May.

a) Council Tax liability from 30 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (336 days) £1183.35
b) Council Tax liability apportioned from 4 May 2020 to 31 March 2021 (332 days) £1169.26
c) Council Tax Support award from 4 May 2020 to 31 March 2021 (332 days) £1069.88
d) Amount of Council Tax left to pay from 4 May 2020 to 31 March 2021 = (b) less (c) £99.38

As the amount of Council Tax left to pay is under £150, you are entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment of £99.38, bringing your balance to nil.

 

Housing Benefit changes in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The government has announced a number of measures to support those who have been financially affected by Covid-19. If you have been affected by these changes you will have been issued with a Housing Benefit notification on 15 April 2020. These changes are explained in more detail below.

Local Housing Allowance rates increase

Local Housing Allowance Rates for Housing Benefit Claimants have been increased so that they are set at the 30th percentile of market rents. The new rates will be effective from:

  • 1 April 2020 if your rent is charged monthly or,
  • 6 April 2020  if your rent is charged weekly

If you rent the property you live in from a private landlord (other than a Housing Association) your Housing Benefit will be recalculated. Details of your new weekly entitlement are detailed in the letter of 16 April.  This section of the letter will show you the Local Housing Allowance rate from April 2020 as shown below.

Local housing allowance

Increases in allowances

From 6 April 2020, the government has increased the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year only by £20 per week. To ensure the increase to Working Tax Credit does not have a negative effect on Housing Benefit awards, the Additional Earnings Disregard used in the assessment of Housing Benefit has also been increased by £20 per week to £37.10 per week for one year only.

If you are receiving Working Tax Credit, HMRC will let us know when your Working Tax Credit has been increased. You do not need to contact us about this. HMRC will be updating all affected Working Tax Credit claims over the next 4 to 6 weeks.

Details of your Housing Benefit entitlement are detailed in the letter of 16 April.  If we have not yet received your new Working Tax Credit award details from HMRC, we will send you another letter to let you know of any further changes to your Housing Benefit.

 

I am repaying an overpayment of Housing Benefit but I cannot afford the repayments?

Have your finances been affected by Covid-19 and struggling to meet your monthly bills? By completing our online form, you can ask us to lower the weekly amount you pay or request a payment holiday. Please get in touch. We are here to help and will work with you to find a solution that works for you. 

 

What is housing benefit?

Housing Benefit is a regular payment administered by the Local Authority to help those on low incomes pay for rented accommodation.

I have a mortgage, can I apply for Housing Benefit?

If you’re a homeowner, you might be able to get help towards interest payments on:

  • your mortgage
  • loans you’ve taken out for certain repairs and improvements to your home

This help is called Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI).

It’s paid as a loan, which you’ll need to repay with interest when you sell or transfer ownership of your home.

You usually need to be getting, or treated as getting, a qualifying benefit to get SMI.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll get SMI for a mortgage or loan you take out.

What you cannot use SMI for

SMI cannot help you pay:

  • the amount you borrowed - only the interest on your mortgage
  • anything towards insurance policies you have
  • missed mortgage payments (arrears)

How do you pay me?

We will pay your housing benefit straight into your bank account.  If you don’t have a bank account, find out more about opening one from the Money Advice Service.

How often will I receive payments?

Your housing benefit can be paid every 4 weeks. It's paid in arrears, which may be after the date your rent is due. You'll have to budget for this as most landlords expect rent to be paid in advance.

Who cannot claim Housing Benefit?

Usually you will not get Housing Benefit if:

  • your savings are over £16,000 - unless you get Guarantee Credit of Pension Credit
  • you're paying a mortgage on your own home - you may be able to get Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)
  • you live in the home of a close relative
  • you’re already claiming Universal Credit (unless you’re in temporary or supported housing)
  • you live with your partner and they are already claiming Housing Benefit
  • you’re a full-time student - unless you’re disabled
  • you’re residing in the UK as a European Economic Area jobseeker
  • you’re an asylum seeker or sponsored to be in the UK
  • you’re subject to immigration control and your granted leave states that you cannot claim public funds
  • you’re a Crown Tenant

You may be able to get other help with housing costs.

I have lost my job or my hours have reduced and I need to claim unemployment benefits, where do I start?

You could qualify for benefits or Statutory Sick Pay if you lose you job or can't work because you are sick or self-isolating. You could also claim benefits if your pay goes down because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Find out what financial support you are entitled to.

I am already claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, how do I report a change to my income?

If you are already receiving Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support, and you have lost your job or can't work because you're sick or self-isolating. You should report the change to us. Don't worry if you can't provide everything we need straight away, we will do what we can to make sure your benefit is updated as quickly as possible.

I am already claiming Housing Benefit or Housing Costs through Universal Credit but I am having financial difficulty in paying my rent. What can I do?

If you are already claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Housing Costs, and you are experiencing financial difficulty. You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.  This is a short term top up to your Housing Benefit award.  

Can I get help paying my rent?

If you are not currently claiming Housing Benefit and need help with your rent payments, you may need to claim housing costs by applying for Universal Credit.  Please use our Benefits Calculator to check what you can claim before you apply. Don't worry if you cannot provide all the evidence we need straight away, we will do what we can to get a payment to you as quickly as possible.  You can easily send your evidence to us at a later date using our online form

Can I get help paying my Council Tax?

If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax you may be entitled to Council Tax support. Please use our Benefits Calculator to check what you can claim before you apply. Don't worry if you cannot provide all the evidence we need straight away, we will do what we can to get a payment to you as quickly as possible.  You can easily send your evidence to us at a later date using our online form

 

What is the Covid-19 Council Tax Hardship Fund?

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Government has announced details of a hardship fund for people who receive Council Tax Support. The Government recognises that COVID-19 is likely to cause fluctuations in household incomes and that, as a result, some people may struggle to meet their council tax payments.

If you are currently receiving Council Tax Support and of working age you will receive up to £150 as a one-off reduction on your Council Tax Bill. If you are not required to pay any Council Tax in 2020/21 then the reduction does not apply.

You do not need to apply for this funding.

The guidance was issued to us on 24 March 2020 and we are currently looking at how the scheme will work and will be in contact with those people affected by the scheme as soon as possible.

There’s no need to contact us about this, please visit Council tax: COVID-19 hardship fund 2020 to 2021 for further information.

 

I cannot afford my Council Tax payments but I do not qualify for Council Tax Support. What do I do?

If you pay by Direct Debit, please cancel this with your bank or building society, this won’t be reinstated unless you ask us to do so.  We have advice and information on what options are available if you can't pay your council tax. You may be allowed to apply for a Council Tax discount or exemption.  

I am currently self-isolating and cannot get out to make a claim for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support. What do I do?

If you are not currently claiming Housing Benefit and need help with your rent payments, you may need to claim housing costs by applying for Universal Credit.  Please use our Benefits Calculator to check what you can claim before you apply. Don't worry if you cannot provide all the evidence we need straight away, we will do what we can to get a payment to you as quickly as possible.  You can easily send your evidence to us at a later date using our online form

 

I need urgent assistance and support during the pandemic

The following information is about financial support available to vulnerable residents and those facing financial hardship.

Norfolk Assistance Scheme

The Norfolk Assistance Scheme can help by providing emergency cash or food due to the coronavirus situation. The scheme can also help provide essential household items such as white goods and beds.

British Red Cross

The hardship fund gives cash grants to the poorest people facing financial hardship because of the pandemic.