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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.

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.

If you already receive Council Tax Reduction, and your circumstances have changed (for example you're receiving less income) - contact us and we'll re-assess your entitlement. You can either:

Council tax

We are postponing 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 counciltax@durham.gov.uk.

Housing benefit

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 addres 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:

  • food
  • baby milk and nappies
  • heating
  • travel
  • 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 Schools page for more information.

Prepaied 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.

Benefits advice

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

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.

Foodbanks

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.

Money advice

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.

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 jobcentre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020). Visit DWP: coronavirus and claiming benefits to see what alternative arrangements are in place.

Current Government guidance

We are following Government guidance and are looking at how we can support those in greatest need in our community. Further information will be available over the next few days.

The government has announced a number of additional support measures for individuals in financial hardship as a result of the virus. This includes:

  • offering a three-month mortgage holiday for those in need
  • reimbursing small and medium-sized companies for the cost of statutory sick pay
  • supplying vouchers for children who currently receive free school meals when schools close
  • continuing to fund free childcare entitlements for two, three and four-year-olds

The government also announced £1 billion to support the financial security of vulnerable people- once we have these details from the government, we will work to implement these benefits. This will include additional hardship relief for tax payers.

We are looking at what we as a council can do locally for our most vulnerable residents in what will be a very difficult period. We will do this by working with the community and voluntary sector.

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