Dealing with money during coronavirus

Everyday life has changed in some way for every one of us because of the Coronavirus. Regardless of what our situations were like before the pandemic, we’re all having to make adjustments here and there to our normal ways of living.

Whether we’re feeling the health effects or not, many of us are definitely feeling the financial impact. It all gets even more complicated when we’re not just having to think of our own wallets, but others’ too, especially people we care for.

Having to think and plan around all of this might feel overwhelming. We’re here to help.

Our friends at Toucan work with banks and national money charities, building an app to help carers and families support loved ones around money management.

They’ve pulled together answers to some of your key questions about managing money while caring for someone else during the pandemic.

Is there any financial support available for me?

New benefits claims will continue to be assessed during this time. You may qualify for the Carer’s Allowance if the person you care for (for at least 35 hours a week, including emotional support) already receives one of the following benefits:

  • Personal Independence Payment - daily living component

  • Disability Living Allowance - the middle or highest care rate

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

  • Constant Attendance Allowance at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

If you care for someone for at least 20 hours a week, you may qualify for Carer’s Credit instead. Depending on your situation, you may also be able to claim other benefits to help you get by during this time. If you’re unwell and unable to work, you may be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP). If you have a disability or limiting health condition, you may be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you’re out of work or on low income, you can also claim Universal Credit. Read more about the support available for carers here, and check what you may be entitled to using a benefits calculator here.

All applications must be made online, as well as bookings for new claim interviews and any assessments. Find out more about these changes and how to apply here.

I already claim benefits, what’s going to happen to them?

If you are already claiming benefits, you will continue to receive them as normal. Some benefits, such as Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, and Local Housing Allowance, will increase for both new and existing claimants.

As of March 19, 2020 all in-person jobcentre appointments and face-to-face assessments are suspended. So, even if you have already arranged an appointment, you don’t need to attend. Assessment providers will be in contact to explain what happens next.

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus, and are receiving Universal Credit, you are advised to contact your work coach via your online journal as soon as possible. Find out more about these changes and other updates here.

How can I make payments on my credit card during the lockdown? Or how can I pay back a neighbour or helper who has shopped for groceries on my behalf?

If you normally make payments by going into a bank branch, you may have to change your habits over this period.

Some bank branches are closed, while others are open only for essential visits. If you normally make payments on your credit card at your bank branch, you should consider alternative banking methods at this time. Your options include online banking through your web browser or via a smartphone app, as well as telephone banking. If you haven’t already got these set up, visit your bank’s website for more information on how to get started.

Telephone banking is a good option if you’re not comfortable using the internet, however bear in mind that there are longer waiting times than normal to speak to an operator, with some banks warning that you should expect to be on hold for at least an hour.

One thing that’s good to know is that some banks are launching special phone lines for the over 70s. Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland have already done so and others will probably follow. If you are a customer in this category, expect to hear about this dedicated phone line through a letter or email from your bank.

How can I collect someone else’s pension from the Post Office?

To collect a pension on someone’s behalf, you must be nominated as a trusted Permanent Agent on their Post Office Card Account. To set this up, the person you’re collecting the pension for must complete and sign a ‘Permanent Agent access form’ (P6163). These forms are available in most Post Office branches - check for the nearest open branch, pick up a form and have the person you’re caring for complete it, then take it back to the Post Office. Once you’ve been successfully nominated, you will be given your own card and PIN to use to collect the money on their behalf.

How can I make sure the person I’m caring for stays on top of bills?

Most essential services companies (banking, water, broadband, gas and electricity) offer lots of different ways to pay bills, including by telephone or Direct Debit, online, or at the Post Office. So, it’s worth making a list in advance of all the providers that your loved one pays bills to, checking their websites for different payment options, and finding a method suitable and safe for you both.

Some banks, like Lloyds Bank, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, are now allowing a trusted person to be nominated to manage someone else’s bank account. So, if you want to sort things out directly with someone’s bank on their behalf, you’ll have to go into the branch with a valid ID (passport or photo driving license), and they will phone up the customer to confirm that they know and trust you. So, make sure your loved one’s phone number is up-to-date on their bank personal records. If you’re not a Lloyds Banking Group customer, check your bank’s website to see what support they’re offering during Coronavirus.

If you have a Power of Attorney to manage your loved one’s finances, you can show the bank the original document or a copy of every page signed by your loved one, a solicitor or other authorised person.

Is it still possible to get a Power of Attorney in place right now?

The person you wish to provide care for can still apply to make and register a Power of Attorney during the pandemic. This involves filling in all the relevant forms (which you can do online) and registering the Lasting Power of Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian (which can also be done online).

How can I protect the person I’m caring for against scams and being taken advantage of at the moment?

Be aware that scammers are targeting vulnerable people at the moment, particularly with scams that mention Coronavirus or related government measures. Watch out for text messages, emails and letters that might ask you or the person you’re caring for to send money or give out personal or financial information. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For more, Charity Think Jessica offers great advice about scams in general, and the financial regulator the FCA has recently published guidance about what to look out for with COVID-19 scams.

It’s also worth remembering that many people who are self-isolating at the moment will be relying on neighbours or volunteers to help them buy groceries and run errands. It might be a time when the person you’re caring for is asked by strangers to hand over cash to pay for such help. Make sure they’re safe by understanding who they might be paying for what, and potentially limiting their access to cash to make sure they’re not at risk. Most importantly, don’t let the person you’re caring for hand over their debit or credit card and PIN to people they can’t trust.

Keep calm and carry on caring

We know you probably have lots more questions, but we’ve started you off with these so you can be reassured that there are solutions to whatever problems you may be facing. Try to take things one at a time and a day at a time.

In the meantime, here are some useful websites to check out for more information on all things money and coronavirus: