Coronavirus: council service information and advice

Information about changes to council services as a result of coronavirus

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This page provides advice on work and money in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Work and pay advice

If you have to self-isolate, you may have concerns about whether you will get paid while you are away from work, and financial support if your work ends.

Ask your employer about their policies on pay and holiday pay if your workplace closes or if you are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities when schools close. There is no legal right to pay in these circumstances, but ACAS have provided guidance.

If you are a member of a trade union, they can advise you on your rights at work. If not, visit Citizens Advice online or contact Advice Portsmouth by ringing or texting 07789 550593.

Get up to £150 extra council tax support

If you claim council tax support, you could get a further discount on this year's council tax, of up to £150. The is because of the hardship many people are suffering during the coronavirus crisis.

How does it work?

  • You don't need to do anything to get it, and it's paid whether or not you have suffered personal difficulties because of the coronavirus.
  • It's being paid by the council as part of a national scheme announced on 24 March.
  • It applies to people of working age (not old-age pensioners) who receive council tax support.
  • If your current council tax bill for 2020-21 is less than £150, then the new scheme means you won't have to pay anything. Any payment you have made already will be refunded (as long you have no arrears).
  • If your bill is more than £150, then your monthly payments will reduce to reflect the new discount.


Updated council tax bills are being sent out soon, which will include the discount.

New claimants of council tax support can also receive the discount by applying online.

If you need to contact us then you can call us on 023 9268 8588 or email localtaxation@portsmouthcc.gov.uk. We are currently dealing with a high number of requests and may not be able to deal with phone or email queries quickly. 

Scam advice

There have sadly been reports in the UK of people using coronavirus to carry out scams. Scammers are using the following methods to access personal information such as passwords or bank details:

  • Doorstep scams - scammers may claim that they will help with shopping, collecting medication or cleaning drives to kill bacteria. They will then take people's money or credit card and leave without providing the service.
  • Online scams - some emails or text messages pretend to link to important information about coronavirus or useful online resources. When clicking on these links, a virus is downloaded and installed, and gives scammers full access to your data. There have been reports of messages going round that claim to be from the government or the NHS; if the links in the message don't end in ' gov.uk' or ' nhs.net', don't click on the links. Online scams can also take place on social media or messaging apps, such as Whatsapp.
  • HMRC scams - now that financial support schemes are available from the government, people may start to receive scam emails, calls and text messages claiming to be from HMRC. Messages may offer financial help in exchange for personal information such as your bank details. These messages will be scams. Don't respond, and delete the message immediately. HMRC does not ask for personal information in this way.
  • Refund scams - scammers are targeting people who have had to cancel their holidays, and offer them fake holiday refunds.
  • Counterfeit scams - some online companies are selling fake and possibly unsafe sanitizers, face masks and swab kits.
  • Telephone scams - you may receive phone calls from scammers who claim to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
  • Donation scams - there have been reports of scammers claiming to be collecting donations for a coronavirus vaccine

Be aware of people offering or selling

  • Virus testing kits - these should only be offered by the NHS
  • Vaccines or miracle cures - there is currently no vaccine or cure for coronavirus
  • Overpriced items to protect yourself from coronavirus, such as anti-bacterial products
  • Shopping
  • Medication collection services
  • Home cleaning services

Protect yourself and others

  • Don't be rushed into making a decision. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take a moment to think before giving away personal information or money.
  • Don't click on a link or file unless you're 100% sure of what it is and where it came from. If it doesn't end in ' gov.uk' or ' nhs.net', it's not from the government or the NHS.
  • Don't assume that everyone is genuine. It's okay to say no or ignore requests if you're not sure. Only criminals will try to rush or scare you.
  • If someone claims to be from a charity, ask them for ID.
  • Be suspicious if people ask you to give them money before they deliver the service they're offering. If you're not sure, check with family or friends.

 

How can you avoid being scammed?

  • If you can't get out, ask family, friends or neighbours to collect any things that you need.
  • If this isn't possible, HIVE Portsmouth is working with organisations across Portsmouth to provide a coordinated community response to protect people as much as possible. If you want to know more about this support or think you may be able to help, visit  the HIVE Portsmouth website.
  • If there are people you know who can’t get online, they can call our helpline on 023 9268 8004 (staff answering this line only have the information that is available on the  HIVE Portsmouth website).

    For more advice on avoiding scams, take a look at the  Hampshire Constabulary and  Action Fraud website.

NHS self-isolation note

The NHS has created an  online isolation note service if you need to provide evidence to your employer that you need to be off work due to coronavirus.

This service is for people who:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus and have used the  111 online coronavirus service
  • have been told by a healthcare professional they have symptoms of coronavirus
  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus

If you are not sure if you need to stay at home,  get the latest NHS advice on coronavirus.

If you have to stay at home but feel well enough to work, ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note.

You can also use this service for someone else.

Visit the  NHS isolation note online service

Financial support

If you are receiving:

If you are claiming Universal Credit, changes to your earned income will automatically update your monthly assessment, but if you are self-employed  you must continue to provide details of your income each month.

If your employment or self-employment ends, but you have paid national insurance contributions, you may be entitled to claim contribution-based benefits:

  • 'new style'  Jobseekers Allowance (if you are looking for work) or 
  • Employment and Support Allowance (if you are unable to work due to your health or disability).

    If you don't qualify for contribution-based benefits, you may be eligible for  Universal Credit. If you need help to pay your rent and you are not already claiming housing benefit, or if you own your own home and need help with mortgage interest costs, you may also be eligible to claim Universal Credit.

If you claim Universal Credit, other benefits you are receiving may be cancelled, so for independent advice on whether to make a claim, contact the  Citizens Advice Help To Claim service, online or by phone

Jobcentres (including Portsmouth and Cosham) currently remain open, for anyone who is not able to use the phone or online channels. No one receiving benefits will be asked to attend any jobcentre appointments for at least 3 months, starting from Thursday 19 March. 

Housing

If you think you will have difficulty paying your rent or mortgage, contact your landlord or mortgage company to explain your situation and find out how they can help. The government has announced some  additional measures to prevent homelessness during this time, but it is important to get advice early to resolve any problems meeting your housing costs.

If you are worried about losing your home, contact the council's Housing Needs, Advice and Support team by ringing 023 9283 4989 or emailing  Housing.Options@portsmouthcc.gov.uk.

Money advice

For free and impartial advice on money, debt and benefits, and for advice on help from foodbanks, contact:

  • Advice Portsmouth - the drop-in centre is closed, so for advice ring or text 07789 550593, email  advice.portsmouth@theyoutrust.org.uk or contact via  Facebook
  • Citizens Advice Help To Claim (for advice on new Universal Credit claims) - there is currently no face to face advice, so for advice ring 0800 144 8 444 or use the  online webchat
  • City council tenants -  ring your housing office for money advice
  • Housing association tenants - contact your customer service team for money advice