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 23rd November 2020)

Accommodation and bills

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 will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.

Landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants (initially it was set to be until 25th June; then got extended to 23rd August) it has recently been extended by another 4 weeks until 20th September - most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants three-months’ notice.

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

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 is not an automatic process, you will need to apply for this via your mortgage provider and be accepted. Most of the major providers have supplied online applications. 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 haven't had a payment holiday yet, you can request a pause in payments from the lender, which could last up to 6 months (last date to apply has been extended to 31st March) these will come to an end on 31st July 2021.
  • If you have already had payments deferred, you can extend it until you reach the 6-month limit (last date to apply has been extended to 31st March) these will come to an end on 31st July 2021.
  • If you have already reached 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.

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

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

New emergency measures with the energy industry have been agreed by the government to protect the domestic energy supply of those most in need during the disruption caused by COVID-19.

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.

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 providing help. Here are a few that are:

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 (which has just increased for the new tax year) 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, 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.

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

From 18th May new legislation was introduced to allow you to apply for a 3-month payment holiday 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.

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

If you decide to cancel a policy, the insurance company will have to waive the cancellation fees.

Can I get a refund on my TV sports package?

Due to major sporting events and set fixtures being cancelled, Sky Sports let customers pause and restart the sports part of their package until the sporting calendar resumed. If you have the full subscription, it restarted on 19th June, as some sporting fixtures resumed. If you only subscribed to a single sport channel and that hasn't resumed yet, then the pause will continue.

BT Sport previously offered customers a refund of one month's subscription. They then only offered 50% bill credit in June.

What changes have been made to Stamp Duty?

If you are buying a house, you would normally pay Stamp Duty over £125,000. But this has temporarily been cut until 31st March 2021. Now you would pay 5% Stamp Duty over £500,000 (e.g. if the house is £600,000, you pay 5% of the amount above £500,000 = £5,000).

However, if you are buying a second home, you would pay 3% Stamp Duty on any value.

If you have already completed on your house purchase, you are not eligible for the new rates. If you have exchanged but not completed, you are eligible for the new rates.

Employment

What was Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) that ran from March - end of Oct?

Job Retention Scheme (furlough): all UK employers were able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. 

  • For the first few months HMRC were reimbursing 80% of ‘furloughed’ workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
  • July: the flexible furlough adjustment started from 1st July, where employees could return to work part time. The employer decided what worked best for their business. An example: if a full-time employee was allowed to return to work 2 days a week, the employer paid 100% of the wages for those 2 days, and the furlough scheme covered the remaining 3 days at 80% rate (cap £2,500)
  • August: the employer was expected to cover National Insurance and Pension Contributions (average claim is the equivalent to 5%), the government paid the remainder to make up to the 80%
  • September: the employer was expected to pay 10%, the government paid 70% (up to £2,190)
  • October: the employer was expected to pay 20%, the government paid 60% (up to £1,875)
  • This scheme was due to close at the end of October, but it has been extended (with updated criteria) until December - see other question on the amended system.
  • The cut-off date for being on the pay roll was originally 28th Feb and got extended to 19th March. However, if you were paid monthly and your new job started on 1st March 2020, the employer may not have sent the ‘Real Time Information’ to HMRC, which can sometimes be done a week before pay day. This could mean you might not have been registered with HMRC by the 19th March cut-off date.
  • the first version of the furlough scheme closed to new applications on 30th June - employers wanting to place new employees on the scheme need to have done so by 10th June
  • If you were on maternity pay and got furloughed, they would have used the salary you were on prior to going onto maternity leave. If you were on maternity/paternity leave prior to the outbreak and were due to return to work, it was possible to still be put on furlough, as the deadline date wouldn't have applied.

What is the extended Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) in November 2020?

The Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) was due to finish on 31st October, but the government announced on 5th November that it has been extended (with updated criteria) until the end of March due to the national lockdown in England, commencing on 5th November. Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will have to close for a month.

Businesses have flexibility to either bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis or furlough them full-time. The employer will need to cover National Insurance and Pension contributions (on average it's approx 5%) and the government will cover 80% of the wages of employees' hours not worked (up to £2,500 max). The government will review the policy in January to decide on whether the employer will be expected to contribute more.

Eligibility:

  • it is ultimately the employer's decision whether to furlough a member of staff
  • they must declare that they intend to continue to trade and either that Covid has reduced demand, or it means that they can't trade temporarily
  • employees need to be on the payroll by 30th October
  • you don't need to have been furloughed before to qualify
  • if you have recently been made redundant, since 23rd September, you could ask to be rehired and be re-furloughed, as long as you were on the payroll between 20th March - 23rd September.

What is the new Job Support Scheme?

The Furlough (Job Retention Scheme) was due to finish at the end of October, but it has been extended (with updated criteria) until March 2021 due to the national lockdown in England starting on 5th November. The Job Support Scheme was meant to commence on 1st November and run for 6 months, but it has since been superseded by the extension of the existing Job Retention Scheme (furlough).

I am self-employed. What is Self-Employed Income Support (Grant 1 & Grant 2)?

Self-employed Income Support Scheme: 

Grant 1
  • a non-repayable grant (which is taxable) 80% of profits, up to £2,500 a month (£7,500 in total)
  • the profits will be averaged over 3 years up to April 2019, it won’t take savings into account
  • you will be contacted the second week in May by letter/email/text (check it's not a scam)
  • applications opened 13th May but closed on 13th July, so you can no longer apply for Grant 1
  • you should get paid 6 working days after the appointment slot
  • it covers March, April, May and will be backdated
  • you were allowed to keep working as long as you conformed to social distancing
  • if you work for an employer and are also self-employed, if over 50% of your earnings is from self-employment, you would apply to this scheme. You might also be able to apply for the Furlough scheme, as they are not linked
  • if you are on PAYE, apply for the Furlough scheme via your employer.
Grant 2
  • the scheme has been extended to cover June, July, August
  • but this time it only covers 70% of average monthly profits for 3 months (cap £6,570)
  • applications will open from 17th August to make a claim - HMRC will contact you
  • they estimate the payments would be made by the end of August
  • you will need to confirm that your business was adversely affected on/after 14th July. This may be a reflection of the easing of lockdown measures. If your business is back up and running on 14th July, you might only be covered for June and part of July.

Any late tax returns for 2018/19 were extended to 23rd April – this needed to have been done in order to qualify for the scheme listed above. Your July self-assessment tax payment can be delayed by 6 months.

If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit and you have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change took effect on 13 March 2020, and will last for the duration of the outbreak, to ensure that self-employed UC claimants will receive support. Savings are counted when calculating eligibility, but if you can prove that you have set aside money for paying your tax (do this via your Universal Credit log book), it won’t count towards your benefit calculation.

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments: the government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months (applies from 20th March 2020 until 30th June 2020). This is an automatic offer with no applications required.
If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

I am self-employed. What is Self-Employed Income Support (Grant 3 & Grant 4)?

The Self-employed Income Support (SESI) grant has been extended.

Grant 3:

  • For self-employed who have been affected by Covid between 1st November 2020 - 31st January 2021
  • One-off full payment of 80% of average profits for 3 months, capped at £7,500 (the government updated the amounts on 5th November)
  • Applications open on 30th November, the grant will cover 3 months, it usually gets paid within a few days
  • Mostly it's the same eligibility criteria as the previous grants, except for this time, you need to prove there is a demand decrease due to Covid
  • Unfortunately if you weren't eligible before (business not running long enough) you're still not eligible

If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit, the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This has been extended until April 2021, to ensure that self-employed UC claimants will receive support. Savings are counted when calculating eligibility, but if you can prove that you have set aside money for paying your tax (do this via your Universal Credit log book), it won’t count towards your benefit calculation.

Self-assessment tax due in January 2021 can be spread over the tax year. It includes the tax payment that was deferred until July 2020. It can now be done via 'Time to Pay' across 2021 with no interest added.

Grant 4:

  • For self-employed who have been affected by Covid between 1st February - 30th April 2021
  • No details as yet...

What income is the government using for zero hour contracts?

It would be taken from the pay roll you were on, as of 28th February. For those with an irregular income working on PAYE, they would use the higher amount of either:

  • what you earned in the same month last year (e.g. March 2019) if with the same employer; or
  • take the average monthly income made over the last 12 months (April 2019 – April 2020). If you haven’t worked there for 12 months, they would average the monthly income over less time.

If the monthly comparison figure is higher, they would use that. If the average figure calculation is higher, they would use that.

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 (111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/) or from the NHS website (www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/).

How can I continue to work to supplement my income?

Non-essentail shops were allowed to open, if they were Covid-safe, from 15th June. The hospitality industry re-opened in July. If you are fit and well and want to work, it may be beneficial to think about how employment is changing in the short term for the foreseeable future. There are some companies that have remained open throughout and are being stretched to capacity. Even if they are fully staffed, they may need to take on additional temporary staff to cover sickness or their current staff who are self-isolating, for example:

  • supermarkets
  • pharmacies that may need to organise deliveries of medication
  • online delivery services
  • postal services
  • any shops/ services that are open
  • food production companies
  • fruit and veg picking scheme 'Pick for Britain', click here for more information
  • outlets that are still allowed to provide a takeaway option

However, please ensure that you are not putting your own health, or others at risk. If you can find any employment that can be done by working from home, that would be ideal.

You could also try searching on the following sites:

What is the new business grant for those affected by the higher alert levels?

On 22nd October the Chancellor announced a new business grant, mainly for hospitality/ leisure/ accommodation sectors in high-alert level areas, to help them stay afloat and protect jobs if they are adversely affected by the latest government restrictions, even if they can remain open. The grant is up to £2,100 per month and the company would apply via their local authority, and if eligible, it would be backdated to August.

Tuition fees 

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

If you are currently financially impacted by Covid-19, you may be able to start looking for jobs, depending on the latest local council/ government's national restrictions. Also 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 

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

If you are currently financially impacted by Covid-19, you may be able to start looking for jobs, depending on the latest local council/ government's national restrictions. Also 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.

Cypriot students required to remain away from their study location at Easter may be able to secure up to 750 euros from the Cypriot government to help with their costs. Use the following web link: https://eservices.moec.gov.cy/foititiki-merimna/epidoma-foititon-exoterikou/login

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

If you are currently financially impacted by Covid-19, you may be able to start looking for jobs, depending on the latest local council/ government's national restrictions. Also 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.

Is the DMU Support Fund still open, as the University is closed?

DMU Support Fund 2019/20 did remain open for electronic applications during lockdown throughout term time.

DMU Support Fund 2020/21 is due to open on 19th October 2020. Information will be updated on the website on 19th October to outline changes to the Fund for the new academic year.

Student funding

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

Students who have already applied for spring 2019/20 course starts, and have provided evidence that was accepted at that time, will not have any further requests for evidence or checks carried out.

Students who are due to start courses in the spring of 2020, and have not yet applied for 2019/20 funding, may have to apply as EU students for a Tuition Fee loan only, if they are not able to show they meet the worker status. If they can show they are working in the future, they can apply for a review. This is the current usual process.

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

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 2019/20 the maximum amounts are £7,529 for students living at home with parents while studying (prior to the lockdown), or £8,944 for living away from home while studying (prior to the lockdown). 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.

The applications for 2020/21 will be based on your parent(s) or partner’s income for the previous tax year of 2018/19. SFE would need the evidence for the 2018/19 tax year first, then a CYI form can be completed.

Overdrafts and credit cards

Will banks still increase interest on my overdraft to 40% from 6 April?

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

All banks offered the first £500 of approved overdrafts interest free. However, it wasn't automatic, and you needed to apply online. They proposed there shouldn't be financial penalties or charges for doing so and it won’t affect your credit score.

Check your bank's policy as the initial offers are now coming to an end This is to give you an example of what some of the banks have stated:

  • Halifax and Lloyds: between 9th April – 9th July, the first £500 of an arranged overdraft was interest free. From 10th July, you will start to pay interest whenever you use your arranged overdraft. You can apply online for a further 3-month period of up to £500 interest-free on your arranged overdraft.
  • Santander: existing support will continue until 23rd July to allow you time to make your request. You can now ask for a further 3 months of overdraft support if you still find yourself financially impacted by coronavirus, you can request this help until 31 October.
  • TSB: you can request an extra three months interest free overdraft allowance of up to £500.

The FCA has proposed that there should be tailored help, but recognise that any new 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.

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. This has been extended for a further 3 months, until 31st October. You can either request an extension, or if you haven't yet used this as an option, you can apply for a 3-month payment holiday:

  • Credit cards
  • Store cards
  • Personal loans
  • Catalogue debts
Please note that the following haven't yet been confirmed for the additional 3-month extension:
  • Car finance (PCP, lease, HP deals)
  • Buy-now-pay-later/ rent-to-own schemes

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 are offering a 1-month payment freeze, which includes a freeze on the interest charged.

Do not cancel your payments without contacting the lender. This won’t affect your credit file but can have an impact on your credit worthiness.

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

Travel

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 is still running and you need to cancel your flight, if you cancel it before 31st July, BA will give you a voucher. However, if you opt for this, then BA cancels the flight, you are not entitled to a refund. It would be better to wait until nearer the time, see if they cancel it and then claim a refund.

  • Ryanair claimed it would clear 90% of their refunds backlog by 31st July
  • TUI promised to pay any outstanding refunds by end of September
  • Virgin promised to pay any outstanding refunds by end of October

Can I get a refund on my annual travel insurance?

Some companies, including AXA, Churchill, Direct Line, are offering a refund (calculated pro rata) on what is left on the policy, as long as you haven't claimed on the policy and you are not going to use it for the rest of the year.

From 18th May new 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.

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 and the refunds due to Coronavirus started from 17th March, the 8 weeks from that date ends on 12th May, so do it quickly if you are backdating your claim from that date. Contact the travel company to find out how to claim it back.

My car’s MOT is due soon, how am I meant to sort that out?

If your MOT was due between 30th March - 31st July, you will automatically be given a 6-month extension to get it done. You will still be able to drive the car, as long as it is road-worthy. But remember, you should only be using your car for essential travel, as per the government’s guidelines. From 1st August onwards, MOTs are compulsory.

Garages and MOT test centres will remain open during the second lockdown (Nov-Dec 2020) so you must get your MOT done as no extensions will be granted.

Can I get my motor insurance/ road tax refunded?

Admiral Insurance (which includes Bell, Diamond and Elephant) has announced it will provide 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. You won’t need to do anything, it will automatically be credited to your account by the end of May.

From 18th May new 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.

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.

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 is looking at introducing a 'Fix Your Bike' scheme later in June, a £50 voucher for bike repairs/maintenance to get an existing bike roadworthy and there are plans being developed on providing bike fixing facilities across the country.

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

The photo part of my driving licence is due to expire soon. What should I do?

For those that haven't yet done so, you need to check the expiry date on the photo part of your driving licence - this is listed under '4b'. If it has already lapsed, or due to lapse between 1st Feb - 31st Aug, 7 months will automatically be added to get it renewed. If your licence expired before 1st Feb, you will need to get this renewed urgently - if you get stopped by the police while driving with an expired licence, they could impose a hefty fine at some point.

Consumer rights and contactless payments

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 (by £15) to a £45 limit.

How can I return an item purchased in store during lockdown?

During the first lockdown in March, a lot of retail extended the dates in their returns policy to allow for this. Please check the company's website to find out what they are currently stating, during this second lockdown.

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.

Which shops and services are open/closed during the current lockdown (Nov-Dec)?

From 5th November the following shops/ services can remain open:

  • food shops, supermarkets, garden centres, hardware stores, building merchants and off-licences
  • cafés, restaurants, pubs, BUT only if they are providing food for takeaway before 10pm/ click-and-collect/ drive-through/ delivery
  • petrol stations, car repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, taxi and vehicle hire
  • banks, building societies, post offices, money transfer/ loan providers
  • medical services: dentists, opticians and pharmacies
  • vets and pet shops
  • storage facilities, funeral directors, launderettes, dry cleaners
  • car parks, public toilets, motorway service stations.

All non-essential retail must close but can still offer off premises click-and-collect services/ online delivery:

  • clothing shops
  • hair, beauty, tanning, nail salons, tattoo parlours, spa/ massage, body piercing services, all of which includes not being conducted in people's homes
  • hotels, hostels, guest houses, gyms, swimming pools, theatres, cinemas, museums
  • homeware and furniture stores
  • electronic goods and mobile phone shops
  • vehicle showrooms (other than for rental)
  • betting shops
  • tailors
  • tobacco and vape shops.

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

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 website. We are continuing to provide telephone appointments to abide by the government's guidelines. You can also follow us on social media:

 
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