Financial support during the coronavirus outbreak
We know the coronavirus will have a significant impact on individuals and families across the county and it is a fast evolving situation. While we are working to implement measures where possible to support our residents, we have put together a list of support currently available.
If you are struggling financially, you can contact County Durham Together and we can signpost you to the right service based on your needs. You can contact us by ringing 03000 260 260 between 9.00am until 5.00pm Monday to Friday or emailing us at email@example.com.
There are a range of options available to you including, deferring payment until September 2020, or setting up a mutually acceptable repayment plan. To apply see Covid-19: postpone your council tax payments if you have been impacted by coronavirus.
We have postponed debt recovery across several areas, including council tax and business rates. If you are struggling to pay your council tax because you are affected by the Coronavirus, please contact us on 03000 26 4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council Tax Reduction
If you're on a low income, whether in work, unemployed or retired, and have less than £16,000 savings, you may be able to claim this discount - see our Council Tax Reduction Scheme information.
Support if you already receive Council Tax Reduction
If you already receive Council Tax Reduction, in the next 7 to 10 days we are applying extended support to your account, to help cover the cost of your council tax bill during the coronavirus pandemic (see More than 7,000 households to benefit from extended council tax support scheme for more information).
We will be contacting you to advise you of any additional reduction in the coming weeks. You do not need to reapply. These payments will be automatically made to your council tax account.
If you are already in receipt of Council Tax Reduction and you have had a change in your circumstances (for example you're receiving less income), tell us straight away as you may be entitled to more reduction.
You can contact us to report changes in your circumstances on 03000 262 000 or email email@example.com.
Council Tax Hardship Reduction
If you do not qualify for Council Tax Reduction, we can award a £300 reduction on your 2020/21 council tax. This amount will depend on your balance owing. It is Discretionary Council Tax 13A Hardship Reduction (Covid-19).
To qualify you must:
- be significantly financially impacted by Covid-19
- not qualify for our local Council Tax Reduction Scheme
- have explored all other avenues of assistance - if you can resolve your problem through deferring payments or flexible payment arrangements, you must do this rather than apply
You will need to upload photographs/scans or your financial documents (which can be photographed or scanned) to support your application.
If you need help filling in the form, or want a paper copy of the form, contact us on 03000 265 000.
This reduction will not be applied to empty properties. If you need help with an empty property, please contact us on 03000 264 000.
For most people of working age, Universal Credit has replaced housing benefit (which is support to pay your rent if you're on a low income). See Universal Credit for more information about making a new claim, or see our Housing Benefit information.
Please note that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for Universal Credit - see DWP: coronavirus and claiming benefits for up to date information on how the DWP can help you if you are affected by the coronavirus.
Help to pay your rent
If you're a tenant and need extra help to meet your rent, you may be able to claim Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This is not a benefit payment but is a stand-alone, short term payment that can help you pay your rent.
If you need help to apply for DHP, contact Housing Solutions on 03000 268 000 - we will help you complete your application form. Alternatively visit Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to download the form. When you've completed it, please return it to the address included on the form.
Help with living expenses
Our Welfare Assistance scheme can help those affected by coronavirus by providing short term help with living expenses for up to seven days. This includes:
- baby milk and nappies
- hygiene products
See Welfare Assistance scheme to apply.
Free school meals
Schools continue to provide free school meals support to eligible pupils, whether they are in school or at home - see our Free school meals page for more information.
Prepaid gas and electricity meters
Tell your supplier if you can't afford to top up because you're ill with coronavirus or following guidance to 'self-isolate'. You'll find their contact details on their website or on your bill.
They'll try to help you find other ways to keep your energy supply connected. For example:
- let someone else top up for you
- add funds to your account
- send you a pre-loaded top-up card
You'll need to pay back any credit your supplier gives you - ask them when and how you'll need to do this.
If your meter is outside and it's safe to get to it, it's a good idea to leave it unlocked. This means someone else could top it up for you.
For more information see: Citizen's Advice: you can't afford to top up your prepayment meter.
Save money on your energy bills
Free and impartial advice to help you save money on your energy bills and keep your home warm is available from our Managing Money Better Service. See Save money on your energy bills for further information.
Our Welfare Rights advice line remains open for existing and new benefits enquiries - call 03000 268 968. Visit Welfare Rights for more information.
Until further notice, Welfare Rights have suspended home visits and other face to face appointments but are continuing to offer telephone advice and to work on individual cases. Wherever possible Welfare Rights will try to assist with digital claims.
Social security appeal tribunals
At present social security appeal tribunals are still going ahead and Welfare Rights are still providing representation. Senior President of Tribunals is preparing Practice Directions to permit the use of paper determinations and remote hearings where appropriate.
Citizens Advice and other voluntary sector advice agencies have also suspended face-to-face appointments but will continue to offer telephone advice.
Useful contact numbers for benefits and debt advice are as follows:
- General Citizens Advice line - 0300 330 9027
- Citizens Advice debt advice line - 0300 323 2000
- Community Money Advice Durham - 0191 303 7514.
At present foodbanks remain open but this may change as the situation develops and is dependent upon having sufficient volunteer numbers. The foodbank is currently looking at alternative delivery of support should the situation change, and we are working with the foodbanks to support them.
The Money and Pension service is offering money advice to those affected by the virus, and will be updated regularly. This can be found on the Money Advice Service website. Alternatively see our Debt advice and financial help information.
Pensioners are now able to apply for Pension Credit online to help those who are self-isolating or shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.
This means that you can claim without having to leave your home and at a time which suits you. It also avoids the wait to get through on the phone, at a time when phone lines may be particularly busy.
Pension Credit can still be claimed by phone or post, the online claim is an additional option.
Make an online application: Pension Credit how to claim.
Claiming benefits through Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Up to date information from the DWP on how it can help those affected by coronavirus to claim benefits can be found at DWP: coronavirus and claiming benefits. This includes information about Universal Credit, Statutory Sick Pay, Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance.
The DWP have made several changes to the claims process, and claiming commitment (for example you do not have to attend job centre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020). Visit DWP: coronavirus and claiming benefits to see what alternative arrangements are in place.