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Frequently asked questions: Covid-19

We have put together some of the questions you may have in connection with how the Coronavirus/ Covid-19 might be affecting your finances. Please be aware that advice from the government is changing on a daily basis. We will do our best to keep this information up-to-date, but please check the government’s designated Covid-19 (www.gov.uk/coronavirus) web page for the latest information.

(Information updated on 20th December 2021)

Accommodation and bills

  1. I can't afford to pay my rent, what help can I get?

    The government introduced legislation to protect renters and landlords affected by Coronavirus. As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation should have been forced out of their home during previous lockdowns.

    Landlords were not able to evict tenants until at least 31st May 2021. More information is available from Shelter.

    At the end of this period, landlords and tenants were expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, reviewing tenants’ individual circumstances.

  2. I can't afford to pay my mortgage, what help can I get?

    Payment holidays are when you agree with your lender that you will not have to make mortgage payments for a set amount of time. Payment holidays are designed to help you when you may experience payment difficulties – in this case because of the Coronavirus situation.

    This was not an automatic process, you needed to have applied for this via your mortgage provider and be accepted. Please don't cancel your direct debit without consulting your mortgage provider, as this will damage your credit score. If you were approved, it wasn't meant to affect your credit score but there have been reports of lenders finding other ways to identify this and some people being refused credit with other lenders.

    It is important to remember that you still owe the amounts that you don't pay as a result of the payment holiday. Interest will continue to be charged on the amount you owe. Some have reported their mortgage repayments doubling after applying - if this happens to you, contact the provider, as it is likely to be a calculation error.

    • If you have already been given the maximum 6-month limit and you are still facing financial difficulty, you should speak to your lender about a tailored support plan, but this new arrangement will go on your credit report.
    • No evictions by bailiffs were allowed to take place until after 31st May 2021.

    For more information, please visit the Financial Conduct Authority website.

  3. I can't afford to pay my utility bills, what should I do?

    Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied.

    Any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier, which could include re-assessing/ reducing/ pausing debt repayments and bill payments, where necessary. Disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.

  4. Can I get any help towards my Council Tax?

    Most students are exempt from Council Tax but for those that aren’t, check with the Council to see if they are still providing help. Here are a few that were previously:
  5. I’m working from home, can I get money towards utility bills?

    If you are required to work from home by your employer, they can pay a flat rate of £6 a week tax free towards heating/ energy expenses. However, your employer might already be experiencing extreme financial difficulty and may struggle to do this. Instead you can claim an allowance from HMRC (if you are a basic rate tax payer it’s £1.20 a week/ higher rate tax payer it's £2.40 a week) and you don’t need to provide receipts. If you wanted to claim a higher amount, you’d have to supply evidence. You would need to complete a ‘P87’ form only AFTER you have returned back to work.

    In October 2020, the government launched a new website Claim tax relief for your job expenses, where you can check eligibility and apply for a tax code. You need to be REQUIRED to work from home, not choose to. You wouldn't get money paid to you, you would just pay less tax if eligible.

  6. What can I do if I can't afford to pay for my insurance policies?

    From 18th May 2020, legislation was introduced to allow you to apply for up to a 6-month payment holiday (in 3-month blocks) on the following:

    • Home insurance
    • Life insurance
    • Travel insurance
    • Boiler insurance
    • Private medical insurance
    • Car insurance: the provider will see if a reduction is possible first e.g. by reducing the mileage if you are travelling a lot less now. If that doesn't work, they will look at a payment holiday.

    These only lasted until 31st March 2021. If you have already had the maximum 6-month holiday, ask your lender for tailored support, but any new 'tailored' agreement will go on your credit report.

    Only opt for a payment holiday as a last resort as interest charges can soon add up.

  7. What changes have been made to Stamp Duty?

    From 1st October 2021, Stamp Duty reverted back to the original rates:

    • £0 - £125,000 = 0%
    • £125,001 - £250,000 = 2%
    • £250,001 - £925,000 = 5%

    An example of what you would pay in Stamp Duty if the house purchase price is £300,000, you pay 5% of the amount above £250,000 (5% of £50,000) = £2,500.

Employment

  1. How do I get evidence for my employer that I can't go into work?

    By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.

    The government has strongly suggested that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.

    If evidence is required to cover self-isolation or household isolation beyond the first 7 days of absence then employees can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online, or from the NHS website.

  2. How can I continue to work to supplement my income?

    If you are fit and well and want to work, it may be beneficial to think about how employment has changed in the current climate for the foreseeable future. When restrictions were lifted in July 2021, the hospitality and leisure industries struggled to recruit, so don't automatically assume there are no jobs out there. Even if companies are fully staffed, they may need to take on additional temporary staff to cover sickness or their current staff who are self-isolating.

    You could also try searching on the following sites:

Tuition fees 

  1. I can't afford to pay my tuition fees, what do I do?

    Please contact the Income Team in the Finance Department income@dmu.ac.uk to discuss your circumstances.

Benefits

  1. What is Statutory Sick Pay and am I eligible?

    Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is paid to employees who are too unwell and unable to work for a period of four days or more. Currently, the SSP rate for employees who are eligible is £95.85 per week, for up to 28 weeks.

    If you’re on a zero hours contract, you can still get sick pay – you should ask your employer for it. If they say no, ask them to explain why. You can contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you’re not happy with their explanation.

    Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result, will be eligible for SSP, even if they are not themselves sick. Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.

    You won’t qualify for SSP if:

    • you are self-employed
    • have already received the 28 weeks SSP
    • earn less than £118 a week
    • you are in receipt of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.

    Statutory Sick Pay relief package: small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) may be able to claim a refund, which will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee, who are either ill or been told to self- isolate because of COVID-19. The eligible period for the scheme began on 13th March 2020.

  2. What do I do if I am not eligible for statutory sick pay?

    Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, is able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

    For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit, it is designed to automatically adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income. However, if someone needs money urgently they can apply for an advance through the journal.

    For more information, please visit www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay.

  3. The Jobcentre Plus is closed, what do I do about claiming Universal Credit?

    If you need to claim Universal Credit but have COVID-19 or are self-isolating, you will now be able to claim and to access advance payments upfront without needing to attend a Jobcentre Plus. Please visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit for more information.

  4. How soon can I claim Employment Support Allowance?

    If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate.
  5. What is the NHS death in service scheme?

    The families of health and care workers on the frontline in England will benefit from a new life assurance scheme during the coronavirus pandemic. The scheme is aimed at those who die from coronavirus during the course of their essential and lifesaving work. This includes those providing direct care as well as cleaners and porters who continue to carry out vital duties in these care environments.

    • Bereaved family members will receive a £60,000 lump sum, worth roughly twice the average pensionable pay for NHS staff, with the cost met by the government.
    • This will cover full, part-time or locum NHS and public health workers, including GPs, dentists, retired staff and Second Year and Final Year students taking up paid frontline roles.
    • Within social care, the scheme will cover employees of publicly funded care homes, home care, directly employed carers including personal assistants and frontline child and family social workers.
  6. What happens to the Tax Free Childcare/ Free Nursery hours?

    Some of the criteria has been relaxed a bit due to Covid-19. There is a minimum of £140 per week earnings but if your income has dropped temporarily you can still claim for the moment. If you had this before and were earning £100,000, if you are a critical worker (e.g. a doctor) doing lots of Covid-19 overtime that's pushed you over the £100,000, you will still be able to claim this temporarily.
  7. I’ve had a baby, how can I claim Child Benefit if I can’t register the birth in person?

    You can still make a claim to receive Child Benefit without the certificate. Claims can be backdated by up to 3 months.

    • If you are a first-time parent, complete a ‘CH2’ claim form and add a note to say why you haven’t been able to register the birth, send it to the Child Benefit Office (address on form). 
    • If you already claim Child Benefit, you can complete the form, or add your new-born’s details over the phone on 0300 200 3100. You will need your National Insurance number or Child Benefit number.

    You can send the certificate at a later date. Information you need when registering a birth:

    • place and date of the birth
    • name, surname and sex of the baby
    • parents’ names, surnames and address
    • places and dates of parents’ birth
    • date of parents’ marriage or civil partnership
    • parents’ jobs
    • mother’s maiden surname

University funds

  1. I’m an International Student, struggling financially, what help is available from DMU?

    Please refer to the other information in this Frequently Asked Questions page for helpful advice.

    If you still feel that you need to speak to someone about your financial concerns, please book a ¼ hour ‘Quick Query’ telephone appointment with Student Finance and Welfare – you can book this via MyGateway 

  2. I’m an EU Student, struggling financially, what help is available from DMU?

    Please refer to the other information in this Frequently Asked Questions page for helpful advice.

    If you still feel that you need to speak to someone about your financial concerns, please book a ¼ hour ‘Quick Query’ telephone appointment with Student Finance and Welfare – you can book this via MyGateway 

    If you are struggling right now, visit the Step Change website.

  3. I’m a Home Student, struggling financially, what help is available from DMU?

    Please refer to the other information in this Frequently Asked Questions page for helpful advice.

    If you still feel that you need to speak to someone about your financial concerns, please book a ¼ hour ‘Quick Query’ telephone appointment with Student Finance and Welfare – you can book this via MyGateway 

    If you are struggling right now, visit the Step Change website.

  4. Is the DMU Support Fund still open?

    The 'DMU Support Fund 2021/22' opened on 25th October 2021 - there are significant changes to the Fund, so please don't expect the same level of support as in previous years. Please refer to the Support Fund web page.

Student funding

  1. The EU Migrant Worker Maintenance Loan relies on me working, will I still be eligible?

    Students who started in 2020/21 may have needed to apply as EU students for a Tuition Fee loan only, if they were not able to show they met the migrant worker status. If they can show they are working in the future, they can apply for a review.

  2. What happens to my Maintenance Loan if my parents’ income has dropped?

    If you already qualify for the maximum Maintenance Loan you don’t need to do anything. For 2021/22 the maximum amounts are £7,987 for students living at home with parents while studying, or £9,488 for living away from home while studying. These figures would be higher for students with a higher number of weeks in their academic year, e.g. Nursing.

    If you don’t get the full amount and either your parent(s) or partner’s income has dropped by 15% or more, they can fill in a ‘Current Year Income’ (CYI) assessment form.

    Applications for 2021/22 are based on your parent(s)' or partner’s income for the previous tax year of 2019/20. SFE would need the evidence for the 2019/20 tax year first, then a CYI form can be completed.

Overdrafts and credit cards

  1. Will banks still increase the interest on my current account overdraft to 40%?

    Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, banks were changing their policy on overdrafts to increase interest charges to 40% from 6th April 2020 (student accounts with agreed overdraft limits would continue to be 0%).

    All banks offered the first £500 of approved overdrafts interest free in the first lockdown. It wasn't automatic and you had to apply online. They proposed there shouldn't be financial penalties or charges for doing so and it wouldn't affect your credit score. Please check your bank's current policy - in January 2021, some banks (Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Santander) have re-introduced the £500 overdraft facility for 3 months, but you had to apply for this by 31st January 2021, as it wasn't automatic.

    The FCA proposed that after the previous agreements came to an end, there should be tailored help, but new 'tailored' agreements made with the lender would go on the customer's credit file.

    You could look at other ways of lessening the impact, e.g:

    • if you get paid monthly, move any direct debits to the end of the month after you get paid so you're not overdrawn for so long
    • try to pay a bit of the overdraft amount off each month
    • research zero per cent money transfer credit card, BUT, be careful, if you have a poor credit score it is not advisable to do this, and there would most likely be a transfer fee.

  2. I can’t afford to pay my credit cards/ loans, what should I do?

    The following forms of credit offered a 3-month payment holiday on request, which was later extended for a further 3 months. Do not cancel your payments without contacting the lender. This won’t affect your credit file but it can have an impact on your credit worthiness:

    • Credit cards
    • Store cards
    • Personal loans
    • Catalogue debts
    • Car finance (PCP, lease, HP deals)

    Applying for payment holidays ended on 31st March 2021. If you have already been allocated the maximum 6 months, you can ask the lender for tailored support, but be aware that this new 'tailored' agreement would go on your credit report.

    Please note: interest would still be charged and if you are likely to accrue large amounts of interest, it would be much better to keep making monthly payments if you can afford it. Only consider this option as a last resort.

    Payday Loans offered a 1-month payment freeze, which included a freeze on the interest charged.

    The Insolvency Service regulator said that if you have an IVA, you could either apply for a 3-month payment holiday, or apply for 25% reduced payments.

Travel

  1. Can changes to my flight mean I can get a refund?

    With EU-regulated flights (any flight leaving a UK airport) if the flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a full refund by law, not vouchers. Lots of airlines are only currently offering vouchers, if you can use the vouchers, it will help the airline industry, which is under threat at the moment. If you need the money, call them, you may be on hold for some time but persevere. If that doesn’t work, contact your credit/debit card provider and say that you paid for a service you didn’t receive and ask them to do a ‘charge back’.

    British Airways (BA) announced that if your flight was still running and you needed to cancel your flight, if you cancelled it before 31st July 2020, BA would give you a voucher. However, if you opted for this, then BA cancelled the flight, you were not entitled to a refund. It is better to wait until nearer the time, to see if they cancel it and then claim a refund.

  2. Can I get a refund on my annual travel insurance?

    Some companies, including AXA, Churchill, Direct Line, offered a refund (calculated pro rata) for the first lockdown, on what was left on the policy, as long as you didn't claimed on the policy and you were not going to use it for the rest of the year in 2020.

    From 18th May 2020, legislation was introduced to allow you to apply for a 3-month payment holiday. Only opt for this as a last resort as interest charges can soon add up. The company will have to waive any cancellation fees. Applying for payment holidays ended on 31st March 2021.

  3. Can I get a refund on my train tickets?

    You can get a refund for almost all rail tickets, including the unused part of a season ticket. However, you are only allowed to backdate your claim for 8 weeks. Contact the travel company to find out how to claim it back.
  4. Can I get my motor insurance/ road tax refunded?

    Admiral Insurance (which includes Bell, Diamond and Elephant) provided customers with automatic refunds of £25 for each car/van that was covered with an active policy on 20th April 2020. This is to reflect reduced driving and a reduction in the number of claims during the lockdown. It should have been automatically credited to your account by the end of May 2020.

    From 18th May 2020, legislation was introduced to allow you to apply for a 3-month payment holiday. The provider will see if a reduction is possible first e.g. by reducing the mileage if you are travelling a lot less now. If that doesn't work, they will look at a payment holiday. Only opt for this as a last resort as interest charges can soon add up. The company will have to waive cancellation fees and can't charge you for making changes to the policy, for example, to request a reduction now that your mileage is a lot less. Applying for payment holidays ended on 31st March 2021.

    If you are using your car for essential travel e.g. to a supermarket, or if it is parked on the street, you will still need to have valid road tax and car insurance. If you are no longer using your vehicle at all and can keep it in a garage, you can declare your vehicle as ‘SORN’ (Statutory Off-Road Notification) with the DVLA. You would get any full months remaining on your road tax refunded.

  5. Can I get any help towards cycling costs?

    The government is working with employers to increase uptake on the 'Cycle to Work Scheme', ask if your employer is part of the scheme, as you might be able to buy a new bike or electric bike tax free (25% - 39% off) through your employer.

    The government launched a 'Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme' in the summer of 2020 but all vouchers in the first and second releases have been allocated.

    New temporary cycle lanes are being set up to encourage us to cycle and to ideally avoid public transport.

Consumer rights and contactless payments

  1. Shops are encouraging using contactless, can I exceed the limit?

    Contactless card transactions used to be set at a £30 limit per transaction, but from 1st April 2020, it was increased to a £45 limit. In October 2021, the limit on a single payment using contactless card technology is now £100. Most of the major banks like Lloyds, NatWest, Santander, Halifax, Nationwide, Starling, Bank of Scotland will allow customers to opt out of the £100 limit, to reduce it to a more manageable, lower amount. Contact your bank to find out how to do this.

  2. What are my rights to claim a refund for goods/services I haven't received?

    The Competition & Markets Authority regulator has provided new guidance saying that you have a legal right to a refund if no goods or service has been provided. This includes if a business can't provide a service or the customer can't access the service due to the lockdown. The sectors they are currently focusing on are weddings and events, travel accommodation, and nurseries. They are looking at enforcing this by taking businesses to court, but they hope that companies will do the right thing by the customer. See www.gov.uk/cma for more information. If you paid by card, you could contact your credit/debit card provider and say that you paid for a service you didn’t receive and ask them to do a ‘charge back’. But let the business know what you intend to do before you do this, as they could incur costs, so it may be more beneficial to them to provide a refund.
  3. Is it cheaper to buy a re-usable or a single-use face masks?

    There are good and bad points for both options.

    Re-usable fabric face masks:

    • it should be machine-washed daily at 60 degrees/ or by hand in the hottest water you can stand with detergent
    • fabric masks still have a shelf life and won't last forever
    • a purchased one might say on the label how many washes it will take before it becomes less effective
    • don't microwave it; don't just wipe it with hand sanitiser; don't soak it with disinfectant as inhaling this could make you ill
    • using a steam iron is uneven and doesn't lift the contaminants away from the fabric
    • be wary of buying fake designer masks as they may have used cheap ineffective fabric with dyes that shouldn't be inhaled.

    Single-use masks:

    • these are intended to only be used once, then ensure you dispose of them responsibly
    • these aren't considered to be good for the environment, but you do need to factor in the green impact of the correct cleaning method of re-usable fabric masks (listed above)
    • the cost per item is much lower than a re-usable fabric mask, but you need to purchase enough for daily use, which can mount up.

    Ultimately, whichever option you chose, you need to make sure that the mask needs to be effective either by the cleaning methods mentioned or by purchasing reputable single-use masks.

Contacting Student Finance and Welfare

  1. Who am I meant to speak to about my financial concerns if the University is closed?

    We hope that these Frequently Asked Questions may help with some of your queries. There is also a lot of useful information on our Student Finance and Welfare website. We are continuing to provide telephone appointments whent he University is open. For emergencies on campus, DMU Security can be reached on (0116) 257 7642 and are available 24 hours a day 365 days of the year.

    You can also follow us on social media: