Help for individuals and sole traders in Northern Ireland affected by Coronavirus

March 20, 2020

If you’ve been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and are struggling to meet your financial demands, there are various steps you can take to alleviate financial hardship caused by job loss, a cut in working hours, or the loss of your business.

But what help is available to people in Northern Ireland, and how can you access emergency finance if necessary?

Are you an employee? Claim SSP from day one of your illness

If you’re an employee earning over the Statutory Sick Pay threshold of £118 per week, you can claim SSP from day one of self-isolation/illness due to coronavirus. Previously, you could only claim from day four.

Additionally, you don’t need to provide a ‘fit note’ as is normally the case – you can obtain an ‘isolation note’ to support your claim if required by contacting the NHS’ 111 service. You may also be able to backdate a claim to 13th March if appropriate.

If you can’t claim sick pay

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Sole traders and individuals who aren’t employees can’t claim Statutory Sick Pay, and have been advised to claim contributory Employment and Support Allowance. So if you’re eligible for ESA, how much could you get?

  • £57.90 per week if you’re under 25
  • £73.10 per week if you’re 25 or over

Universal Credit and the Contingency Fund Grant

If you’re an employee but earn below the £118 per week payment threshold for SSP, you may be eligible to claim Universal Credit. This is means tested and comprises a basic benefit, plus other elements including housing payments.

The Department for Communities in Northern Ireland also runs a Finance Support Service through which you can apply for emergency financial help, including the Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant if you’ve made an application but are still waiting for your money.

Help with mortgage or rent payments

Mortgage payments

Many high street banks are offering help for borrowers, and you could be entitled to a payment holiday of three months on your mortgage repayments. This would boost the cash you have available to pay for other essentials, such as food.

The way payment holidays work means that the missed payments would be added to your loan, perhaps at the end of the term or spread out over the remaining time, and interest would still accrue.

Rent

If you can’t afford your rent payments your landlord cannot start proceedings to evict you for three months. After this time your landlord should be willing to negotiate a repayment plan for the missed payments, rather than taking eviction proceedings without making contact.

Professional support

If your financial situation is serious and you’re not sure how to proceed, professional guidance is paramount to ensure you are taking the right steps. You may be able to enter a formal debt procedure that protects you from legal action by creditors, or make an arrangement with HMRC for more time to pay your tax arrears.

Northern Ireland Debt Solutions is dedicated to helping individuals and sole traders in Northern Ireland who are affected by coronavirus. We’ll make sure you understand your options and advise on how to proceed. Please contact one of our expert team to arrange a free consultation.

Lawrence O'Hara

Insolvency Adviser

Tel: 028 2132 6269

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