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Coronavirus

Coronavirus

If you need this information in a different language or accessible format, scroll to the bottom of this page and select the appropriate icon. More information about Orbit’s response to coronavirus can be found here.

Is support available in my local area?

Many local authorities/councils are coordinating community support for residents facing difficulties as a result of coronavirus. Working alongside local charities and community groups, they aim to help people who may be struggling with food or medical supplies as well as supporting those with issues relating to health, loneliness or money.

You can find contact details for your local authority by clicking here, including links to information they have released regarding support that is available to local residents at this time, such as food deliveries and prescription collections. Whilst we keep this information regularly updated, Orbit is not responsible for the information published by other organisations. 

What should I do if I am worried about debt?

Get help with your debt as soon as possible. You can contact Payplan – Payplan offers free and confidential advice that is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and is updated continuously based on the latest Government coronavirus guidance. Whatever your concerns are, PayPlan is here to help.

Talk to a member of the team today via phone, email, WhatsApp or live chat - visit: www.payplan.com/orbit/ and complete a contact form, selecting your preferred method of communication. You can also call Payplan on 0800 1970 669, and can find out more by watching their introductory video here.

What should I do if I am struggling with rent and bills?

Firstly, if it is rent you are struggling with please call us on 0800 678 1221 to talk through your situation and options. Our latest statement is available here.

You can also contact Payplan – Payplan offers free and confidential advice that is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and is updated based on the latest Government coronavirus guidanceWhatever your concerns are, PayPlan is here to help.

Talk to a member of the team today via phone, email, WhatsApp or live chat - visit: www.payplan.com/orbit/ and complete a contact form, letting us know how you would like to be contacted. You can also call Payplan on 0800 1970 669, and can find out more by watching their introductory video here.

We can show you ways to earn more, negotiate your bills down, get cash back on purchases and do more with your money. To sign up, please fill in the Financial Resilience form.

The Money Advice Service also provides information on a wide range of issues including banking, money-saving tips and budgeting.  You can use their Web Chat service, contact them via WhatsApp (+44 7701 342744), or call them on 0800 138 7777. To get started with a budgeting tool straight away, visit the Money Advice Services budget planner

You might qualify for a reduction on your council tax bill if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently. Citizens Advice has posted useful information about council tax payments and who may qualify for a council tax reduction. You should check your local council's rules to see if you qualify. If you’re not sure, you can contact your local council to find out if you can get this additional support.

I am worried about fraud, what do I need to look out for?

It is important that you are extra careful during this time, and that you make sure that any links or attachments that you are clicking on are genuine.
Some examples of the scams include:

  • Online shopping where face masks, hand sanitiser and other products have been paid for and not received
  • E-mails that appear to come from the Government asking for donations to the NHS
  • SMS messages claiming that the recipient has breached lockdown regulations by leaving their house on several occasions and are required to make a penalty payment

If you believe you’ve been a target or a victim of a fraud attempt, please report it to Action Fraud.

What should I do if I receive benefits or believe I am entitled to receive benefits?

You can find up-to-date information on the Government website. The Government has put in place extra support in the budget to help benefit claimants, employers and businesses, including sole traders.

ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, has the latest up-to-date information for people who are on zero hour contracts and may need more guidance. Find out more by clicking here, or by calling 0300 123 1100.

If you would like to know what benefits you may qualify for please use the ‘Entitled To’ calculator. Alternatively, you can use the ‘Turn2Us’ calculator. Turn2Us also offers a grant finding service.

You might qualify for a reduction on your council tax bill if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently. Citizens Advice has posted useful information about council tax payments and who may qualify for a council tax reduction. You should check your local council's rules to see if you qualify. If you’re not sure, you can contact your local council to find out if you can get this additional support.

If you need further support, we have a range of advice, information and guidance offers which include trusted independent partners such as Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service. They can give you the latest advice regarding the impact of coronavirus on your benefit payments. We can also show you ways to earn more, negotiate your bills down, get cash back on purchases and do more with your money. To sign up, please fill in the Financial Resilience form

Do I still have to attend the Jobcentre?

Please note: you DO NOT have to attend Jobcentre appointments for at least three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020. You will continue to receive your benefits as normal, but the requirement to attend the Jobcentre in person is suspended. 

Skills Toolkit

The Department for Education has launched The Skills Toolkit, which allows adults to access free, high quality online courses whilst at home. This will enable them to build new skills and help boost growth and productivity.

The Skills Toolkit is available to everyone and consists of digital and numeracy courses, ranging from basic to more advanced levels. These are skills that are sought after for many types of jobs, with 82% of job vacancies requiring digital skills.

What should I do if I am struggling to feed myself/my family?

Visit the Trussell Trust website to find your nearest foodbank who can offer support and guidance.

Set up online grocery shopping accounts with your preferred supermarket, and find out more about online food delivery services here.

If you do not have access to digital equipment to enable you to shop online, please refer to our Getting Online page for more information.

What should I do if I have an upcoming court hearing?

If you have a scheduled court hearing and have not already contacted us, please call 0800 678 1221 and ask to speak to the Legal Team who will be able to advise you on the arrangements for your local court. More information can be found here

What should I do if I have issues with my gas/electricity supply including difficulty paying the bill or topping up my prepayment meter?

The Government has agreed measures with the energy industry to support people during the coronavirus situation, so please contact your energy supplier in the first instance if you are having issues paying or are unable to top up. Your supplier contact details can be found on your energy bills.

You can also contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help using their hardship fund, such as access to energy vouchers. Find contact details for your local council on GOV.UK. The Citizen’s Advice website also offers useful information and guidance.

If you still have concerns or are not happy with the way you have been dealt with by your energy supplier, please visit the Ofgem website for more information.

Some large utility companies have released information about their coronavirus response. You can find out more and contact the companies directly by clicking the company names below:

Information for anyone who is shielding or has an existing health condition

We want all of our customers to know that we’re here to help. We’ve been making a series of wellbeing calls to customers to make sure people are managing at home, not experiencing any issues with general wellbeing, and are able to do food shopping and pay their rent. If you would like to receive a wellbeing call, or need to talk to someone, please call us on 0800 678 1221.  

Keeping you safe in your home is always our number one priority. We have put together some information and advice here on some of the issues you may experience whilst staying at home.   

Many local authorities have coordinated specific responses to the coronavirus situation in their areas. You can find contact details for your local authority by clicking here, including links to information they have released regarding support that is available to local residents at this time, such as food deliveries and prescription collections.

If you have a received a letter from the NHS regarding your vulnerability status, you can register for support here. You will need to have your NHS number to hand. If required, you’ll be able to:

  • get a weekly box of basic supplies
  • get priority for supermarket deliveries
  • ask for help for your basic care.

Please continue to follow NHS advice and social distancing guidance.

Support for people with OCD

While the coronavirus pandemic is a scary and uncertain time for everyone, it could be particularly challenging for people with pre-existing mental health conditions, in particular OCD, as there are constant triggers and reminders from all media platforms to carry out behaviours to keep ourselves and others safe.

OCD Action have collated some tips for those who may be struggling. They have also listed information about a number of Skype-based support groups.

Support for young people

The Mix’s emotional support services are open as normal – and if you’re under 25 you can talk to them about anything that’s troubling you over the phone, via email or webchat.

You can call their helpline on 0808 808 4994 from 4pm to 11pm, or access their online counselling service.

Young Minds have also collated some useful tips for looking after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

What can I do about managing my mental health?

We all struggle with our mental health at times, and we all need support. Talking it through can help and it’s important that you know you are not alone. Your mental health is equally as important as your physical health.

We work with the mental health charity Mind and The Big White Wall. They provide a FREE confidential service offering you support and guidance by phone, text, or digitally. This service is called "Breathing Space".

If you feel that this could be beneficial to you or a close friend or family member then you can:

MIND will then get in touch with you.

Become a birder

Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. If you are lucky enough to have access to a garden or private outdoor space, you may have already been able to spot birds from inside your home – you’re officially a birder! How about joining in the British Trust for Ornithology Garden Bird Watch?

They are giving everyone free access to join their research during the coronavirus lockdown – so you can support your wellbeing and contribute to scientific research!

Practice mindfulness

Search for free online meditation classes or take a look at Smiling Minds YouTube mindfulness videos.

What should I do if I have health appointments booked?

Follow NHS advice, and contact your local GP surgery.

What should I do if I am a carer for someone?

Contact your local authority, who may be able to give you specific advice and guidance. You can find more information about how to do this by entering your postcode here. More coronavirus-specific support information is available on our Local Authority Support Page.

Find Government guidance by clicking here.

I am worried about my own personal safety, or the safety of another family member whilst we are at home together during isolation. What help is available?

You can get advice and support from the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit their website www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

Our website also gives details of advice and support services that are available. Bright Sky is an app that provides support and information for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or someone concerned about a friend or family member. The app is also available for use by employers and service providers.

In an emergency situation, or if you think there is a risk of violence to you or someone else, do not hesitate to dial 999 and ask for the police.

How can I stay active?

Current government advice is that we are able to leave our home once a day for exercise, and if we are fortunate to have access to outdoor space we are able to use it. Activity doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good.

Sport England have some ideas for how to keep moving, wherever you are: https://www.sportengland.org/stayinworkout

What are my rights at work?

ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, have the latest up-to-date information for people who are self-employed, work on zero-hour contracts, have questions about SSP or are simply worried about the impact self-isolation will have on their working lives. Find out more by clicking here, or by calling 0300 123 1100.

I can’t go to work because I have to self-isolate, what’s going to happen?

If you can, you should work from home. Speak to your employer about this and agree with them what you should do. If you can’t work from home, your employer may be able to get help from the Government to continue to pay your wages even if you are not working. Find out more here, and encourage your employer to look into this.

Statutory Sick Pay webinars

To support businesses and employers HMRC has been offering live webinars on a variety of coronavirus related topics, including the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rebate scheme. The webinars provide an overview of the scheme, including who can claim, how to make a claim and keeping records. You can book places on live HMRC webinars or watch recordings on HMRC’s YouTube channel.

The company I work for has reduced my hours or made me redundant, what should I do?

The Government have announced that they will be helping businesses affected by coronavirus to continue to pay wages for their staff. Find out more here, and encourage your employer to look into this.

Lots of supermarkets and other companies are also recruiting temporary staff, so you might be able to find work elsewhere. Check job search websites like Indeed to find local vacancies you can apply for.

If you need help to update your CV, fill in an application form, or with interview skills, our Employment Support Team can help. Click here and enter your details, so we can contact you.

You can also find the latest guidance on claiming out of work benefits here.

Skills Toolkit

The Department for Education has launched The Skills Toolkit, which allows adults to access free, high quality online courses whilst at home. This will enable them to build new skills and help boost growth and productivity.

The Skills Toolkit is available to everyone and consists of digital and numeracy courses, ranging from basic to more advanced levels. These are skills that are sought after for many types of jobs, with 82% of job vacancies requiring digital skills.

I’m self employed and can’t continue working or paying my staff, what help is there for me?

The government have announced an income support fund for those who are self employed. You may be able to claim a taxable grant to cover 80% of your average profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months. Click here for further details.

The Government are also providing help to businesses, including offering grants to help pay staff wages, deferring tax payments, and offering loans. Find out more here.

You may be able to claim Universal Credit, and the normal rules about how much you can claim have been changed. Find out more here.

Statutory Sick Pay webinar

To support businesses and employers HMRC has been offering live webinars on a variety of coronavirus related topics, including the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rebate scheme. The webinars provide an overview of the scheme, including who can claim, how to make a claim and keeping records. You can book places on live HMRC webinars or watch recordings on HMRC’s YouTube channel.

Information about the self employment income support scheme

Payments from the Government’s self-employment support scheme are now reaching the bank accounts of those who qualify. If you are self-employed and receiving Universal Credit, the money you may receive from this Government scheme will be treated as income. As a result, some of our customers will find their UC payments reduced or stopped altogether during this period.

For more information about the scheme, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

Support for small businesses: the new coronavirus Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund

As with other coronavirus business grant schemes, the Discretionary Grants Fund (DGF) is funded by central Government at the direction of Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), but distributed by local authorities (LAs). 

You may be eligible for a grant of £25,000, £10,000 or any amount under £10,000, if your business is based in England, employs fewer than 50 employees, and has fixed building costs like rent. If you have applied for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, you can still access this grant scheme. Businesses that apply for the discretionary grants scheme can still apply for coronavirus-related loans if they’re eligible.

To find out more and apply for a Local Authority Discretionary Grant, you should apply to the council that covers the area in which your business is located, NOT the council where you, the business owner, live. Some councils have certain criteria for prioritisation and size of grant award, and some have set deadlines for applications. 

Full details about this fund can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-local-authority-discretionary-grants-fund

What should I do if I am told to self-isolate?

Follow NHS advice, and take a look at the Mind toolkit. Information about how self-isolation may impact your work can be found here and by clicking the relevant question above.

If you are interested in getting online whilst self-isolating, you can apply for FREE digital skills support delivered by our partner 'We Are Digital'. This service is tailored for our customers who are struggling with the impact of coronavirus.

Doing more online can be a great way of becoming more independent:

  • Keeping in touch with friends and family through Skype and Facebook.
  • Ordering groceries and goods online and having them delivered to your door.
  • Searching the internet for the latest information and news whilst staying safe online.

We can arrange for an experienced tutor to talk through how to use digital devices and equipment over the phone.

Please contact us to apply for digital skills support, and find out more information about getting online here.

What should I do if I am already isolated, feeling lonely and/or do not have support nearby?

Contact us - we’re here to help you.

  • Text cv19 to 07860 017 857 including your name and an Orbit colleague will contact you
  • Call us on 0800 678 1221 and press option 4
  • Email us at betterdays@orbit.org.uk
  • Prepare for staying at home by taking a look at the Mind toolkit

Need ideas and activities to keep yourself and the kids entertained?

Click here to access resources to keep the kids busy - there are educational and fun activities for them to complete, plus some ideas on how you can use this time together as a family. We have also produced some resources that can be used in communal areas and large buildings - you can find these on our Customer Hub website.

I need coronavirus information in a different language or format.

Books Beyond Words have developed a picture-only booklet about coronavirus which is non-language dependent and therefore suitable for those with learning disabilities or autism. You can also download a free version of their wordless story app for smartphones and tablets from the App Store or Play Store.

Contact are regularly updating their information page for families with disabled children, and the National Deaf Children’s Society  are providing updates on coronavirus support and ways to access British Sign Language NHS advice.

Doctors of the World have translated the latest NHS guidance into 43 languages.  The CDC have also produced information in different languages.

Still can’t find the help you need?

If you are still unsure or need further information or support, we can put you in touch with the right people at the right time. Click here to contact us and we will give you a call.

You can also contact our Customer Services Centre in the usual way on 0800 678 1221. Phone lines are open as usual, but we are having to manage significant demand so it is possible you may experience a delay in us responding to your call – but please be patient and we will answer as soon as we possibly can.

We are also on Facebook and Twitter (search @Orbit Help). We will be updating these FAQs regularly, so please check back to this webpage for further updates.

Need help? Contact us!

Contact Us Let us know if you'd like more help and advice and an Orbit expert will get back to you.
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