(Last updated 8.45am, Wednesday 25 March 2020)

We appreciate that this is a difficult time for many of our residents and that the COVID-19 virus is having a significant impact on the economy.

Your Council Tax pays for our essential services that are delivered to all residents in the city, so it is really important that if your circumstances have not changed that you continue to pay what you should, maintain your direct debit payments, or payment plan, as detailed on your bill.

If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax, there is support available and the Council can help you if you have been affected.

You should:

  1. We have cancelled the Magistrate Courts that were to be held on 26 March 2020 and 2 April 2020. Those who were due to appear will have the summons cancelled and costs removed from their account.
  2. Make sure that you have claimed all of the benefits that you are entitled to. For working age families this is Universal Credit from the DWP and Council Tax Support from the Council
  3. Get in touch with us. We would encourage anyone who is struggling, to contact us at ctax.enquiries@manchester.gov.uk so that we can ensure that you are getting all of the support that you are entitled to.
  4. We may be able to agree to a special payment plan so that the Council Tax due for 2020/21 is split over 9 months, from July 2020 to March 2021, meaning that in some cases you will not have to pay anything until July. 
  5. We can also look at your arrears so that we consider everything you owe to us and avoid any extra costs or charges.

Given the demands on our contact centre, we would request that all contact is via email to ctax.enquiries@manchester.gov.uk. We will come back to you promptly.

Changes to Jobcentre appointments and Universal Credit (Last updated 8.47am. Wednesday 25 March 2020)

The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) have announced that people receiving benefits no longer need to attend Jobcentre appointments.

People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the Jobcentre in person are suspended. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 19 March 2020.

Anyone already claiming Universal Credit who thinks they may have been affected by COVID-19, should contact their work coach using the online journal, or
calling the Universal Credit helpline.  
 
On Friday the Chancellor announced that the standard rate in Universal Credit and tax credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April. 

People applying for Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance or other benefits should not go to a jobcentre but apply for them online.

Suspension of face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits

Face to face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have been suspended. This includes new claimants.

The DWP will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.

This affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment, those on Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, as well as recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. These changes will be in place for 3 months from 17 March 2020.

Help with food costs while schools are closed (Last updated 2.15pm, Wednesday 25 March)

We want to ensure that all our children and young people have access to a lunchtime meal. 

We have the following arrangements in place to support families during this period:

Please read this information carefully before making application

Eligibility

  • Children must be born between 31/08/04 and 01/09/2014 to be eligible.
  • Preschool and early years children are not eligible 

Free school meal pupils – School age children who would normally receive a free school meal from the school

This is based on household income or due to being an asylum seeker.

The government has advised that they expect to have a new scheme up and running in the near future. They intend to issue vouchers directly to families. This will not be up and running for a few weeks.

Because of this, the Council has made local arrangements to support families until the national voucher scheme is in place. Some schools are picking this up by providing lunches and vouchers and other schools have asked the Council to make payments on their behalf.

If your school is not providing support and you normally receive free school meals due to low income please make a claim for support.

We cannot make a payment if your school has alternative arrangements in place. 

The contribution towards a lunchtime meal is £2.00 per day (£10 per week) for each school child or young person in the household.

We will be able to pay this money within a few days by the following methods

  • A bank transfer into a nominated bank account, which is the quickest option
  • A secure text message that can be used to access cash from a range of Paypoint outlets in the city
  • A voucher that can be printed and can then be exchanged for cash from a range of Paypoint outlets in the city.

Parents can make an application please submit a request via the Council’s Welfare Provision Scheme.

The DfE have confirmed that schools will be reimbursed for the cost of provision of FSM prior to the launch of the national FSM voucher scheme, given this schools will be recharged for the cost of the payments when using the Council’s scheme.  Should schools wish to continue with their own arrangements please send notification of opting out to finance4schools@manchester.gov.uk

Hardship – To support to families facing hardship

Because schools have closed and some families are facing additional financial challenges due to the Covid 19 virus, we want to provide support to families, who most need it.

We are providing a financial grant to parents and carers of the following groups of school age children and young people.

To qualify the family must be:

  • a Manchester resident or supported by our Homelessness Service; and 
  • whose family has been hardest hit by the recent issues and may be waiting for benefits to be assessed or have a gap in their income due to being laid off etc.

To make an application, families need to submit a request via the Council’s Welfare Provision Scheme.

The costs of support to families facing hardship will be met by the Local Authority and will still be offered after the national voucher scheme for FSM is launched.

Help if you’re self employed

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

What is it?

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for the scheme you must meet all the criteria below:

  • Be self-employed or a member of partnership;
  • Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19;
  • File a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have an additional 4 weeks from this announcement to do so;
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
    • Your trading profits and total income in 2018/19
    • Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.

How do I access it?

Individuals should not contact HMRC now. HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational. HMRC will then pay the grant directly to eligible claimants’ bank account. HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid out by beginning of June 2020. For eligible individuals who have not submitted their returns for 2018-19, they will have 4 weeks’ notice from the date of the announcement to file their returns and therefore become eligible for this scheme.

HMRC are publishing guidance on the scheme, available here. This guidance will continue to be updated.

 When can I access it?

HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid by the beginning of June 2020. This time is necessary to ensure that the scheme is both deliverable and fair. In the interim the self-employed will still able eligible for other government support including more generous universal credit and business continuity loans.

Further information on how to access these schemes can be found here.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to individuals whose 2018/19 profits are very different to what they would have expected to make this year?

The government can only act on the most recently available data. This is from the 2018/19 tax year.

To try to provide the most accurate possible estimate of self-employed income, we can look at average profits over 16/17, 17/18 and 18/19.

What about those who haven’t filed their 2018/19 tax return yet?

The scheme is for those who have filed a tax return to report income from self-employment in the tax year 2018-19.

For eligible individuals who have not submitted their returns for 2018-19, they will have 4 weeks’ notice from the announcement to file their returns, until 23 April 2020, and therefore become eligible for this scheme.

Is this grant subject to tax?

Yes – individuals will pay Income Tax and National Insurance on any payments received through this scheme as they are replacement for income in line with normal practice for benefits or grants that replace income.

The grant is recognised as income for the purposes of Universal Credit and Tax Credits and may impact the amount claimants are entitled to.

What should self-employed people do while they wait to be paid? 

In the interim, self-employed individuals may be eligible for universal credit.

The government has provided over £6.5bn of additional support through the welfare system for those affected by Covid-19. Further information on how to access this support can be found here.

Why is this scheme limited to those who with trading profits below £50,000? For many, higher incomes might mean higher losses at this time.

In order to target support at those most in need, the government has chosen to cap this scheme.

For all those with trading profits of £50,000 and over, the mean self-employment income is £186,000 and the mean total income is £217,000.

Those with higher average incomes are more likely to have access to savings and other resources.

They may also still be able to access support through the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Why does this scheme not cover small businesses who are incorporated? 

Self-employed individuals who are owner-managers and pay themselves a salary through PAYE will be eligible for support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Further details can be found here.

SMEs can also access support through the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

This new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is open to anyone who reports trading profits through Income Tax Self-Assessment. Self-employed individuals who work through a company do not report their trading profits in this way.

What about self-employed people on Universal Credit?  Why should they benefit twice?

We have announced measures that can be quickly and effectively operationalised. DWP and HMRC are experiencing high demand and the government has to prioritise the safety and stability of the benefits system and tax system overall.

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in UC in the same way as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.  Universal Credit is designed to adjust the amount of benefits you receive in response to changes in your income.

Unemployed people will benefit from the package of welfare measures announced by the Chancellor.  These include increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, and nearly £1bn of additional support for private renters through increases in the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit. Further information on how to access this support can be found here.

Help for tenants and landlords

Measures to protect tenants and landlords affected by COVID-19

Last updated 3.31pm, Friday 27 March

The Government has announced a package of measures to protect tenants and landlords affected by COVID-19.

Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3 month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction.

Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on landlords, the Government has confirmed that the 3 month mortgage payment holiday announced on 17 March 2020 will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.

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

To support this announcement the government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit. This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.


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