Coronavirus information and advice
What does this mean for you as a tenant?
If we are short staffed, we won’t be able to provide a full service. If this happens, we’ll keep you updated through our website (this page), social media accounts and on our telephone answering service 0300 323 1170.
If you, or someone in your household, is unwell with symptoms and are self-isolating
Please let us know immediately by calling 0300 323 1170. We’ll put a temporary note on our system to make sure staff and contractors don’t visit you during this period.
We need to reduce the risk to staff and contractors whenever possible.
If staff arrive at your household unaware you, or a family member, is unwell with symptoms and are self-isolating
If we don’t know about your situation and arrive at your property to find you, or any members of your family, have the virus or are self-isolating, we won’t come into your home. We’ll also put a temporary note on our system to make sure staff and contractors don’t visit you during this period.
Please let us know when you (and all other people who live in your property) are clear of symptoms.
Response times for our enquiries, complaints and customer services teams will be slower as we focus on emergency contacts.
- Housing team
Our housing officers are offering a telephone service for urgent enquiries but visits will only be carried out if an emergency occurs. Please call 0300 323 1170.
- Money and benefit advice
The team will continue to provide benefit, money and debt advice, through a limited phone service. Please call 0300 323 1170.
- Housing allocations
Our allocations team has a limited service at this time. We are still letting properties but are prioritising urgent cases to assist in preventing homelessness.
- Housing repairs
Our teams will be carrying out emergency and urgent repairs only. If you have an emergency repair, please visit www.westhighlandha.co.uk/tenants/repairs-and-maintenance/how-to-report-a-repair/ for more information on how to report this.
- Paying your rent
You should continue to pay your rent as normal.
We understand some tenants may have their income reduced as a result of this situation.
If this is the case, please make sure you contact your housing officer as soon as possible.
You may also wish to check the new Citizens Advice Scotland guide.
- Housing applications
Please visit www.westhighlandha.co.uk/find-a-home/rent-with-us/ for more information.
- My Home
If you’re not already registered on our customer portal, My Home, please contact us on 01631 566451 or email@example.com so we can activate your account
- General enquiries
For any other queries please visit the Contact section to get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0300 323 1170.
FAQs for claiming benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak
Please note: This guidance is primarily for West Highland tenants and only West Highland tenants can access our internal advice services.
- 1. I work full time and my employer has advised me to self-isolate for 14 days. Am I entitled to claim any benefits?
Your employer should pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day you were advised to self-isolate. SSP is £94.25 per week. If you are not entitled to SSP and or need help with rent costs, you may be able to claim Universal Credit. Entitlement will depend on your household income. There is currently no need to provide medical evidence or attend a work capability assessment. The normal requirements to attend the Jobcentre in person when claiming benefits has been temporarily suspended.
If you are already receiving Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit please see question 13.
- 2. I have lost my job/been laid of temporarily with no income. Can I claim anything?
It may be worth contacting your employer to check if it is possible to be included within the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ - see question 14 for more information. Failing that, you may have to make a claim for Universal Credit, especially if you need assistance with paying your rent.
Claims can be made online at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. If you do not have access to a computer or iPad, please call Universal Credit on 0800 328 5644.
If you do not qualify for Universal Credit, due to capital or other household factors, you may be able to claim New Style Jobseekers Allowance by applying online www.apply-for-new-style-jsa.service.gov.uk/ or calling 0800 055 6688, or claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance (if you have a health problem) by calling 0800 328 5644 (choose option 2). These new style benefits are based on the national insurance you have paid or been credited with.
You may also be able to claim for a reduction in your council tax.
If you are already receiving Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit please see question 13 below.
- 3. How do I make a claim to Universal Credit (UC)?
Claims can be made online: www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. You will need to create a username and password and answer two security questions. You will then be sent a code by email which you need to enter in the appropriate box which will then allow you to complete your claim.
You must provide details of your rent and services charge amounts separately on the claim to confirm your total monthly rent charge. If you are unsure how much these are, please contact your housing officer.
Couples need to make individual claims to Universal Credit and both need to have email addresses, create passwords and answer security questions. Although the claims are made individually, they must be made at the same time and the claims are joined for entitlement purposes. If you are self-isolating or infected with coronavirus, please let DWP know so your ID can be verified without the need to attend the Jobcentre. The normal requirements to attend the Jobcentre in person when claiming benefits has been temporarily suspended. If you are unable to complete an online claim, please contact Universal Credit on 0800 328 5644.
The Citizens Advice Bureau’s Help to Claim service can support you in the early stages of your Universal Credit claim. For more information, call 0800 023 2581.
If you are already receiving Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit, please see question 13.
- 4. When will I receive my first Universal Credit payment?
One month plus one week from the date of claim. e.g. for a claim made to Universal Credit 18 March, the first payment will be made 24 April. Any subsequent payments should be paid on the 24th of each month.
- 5. I have no money to keep me going until I get a payment from Universal Credit. What do I do?
You can claim an advance from Universal Credit. You do not have to attend the Jobcentre in person to qualify for an advance. This must be paid back at an agreed amount.
You may also be able to claim for a Scottish Welfare Fund crisis grant from your local council. This is usually payable in the form of food and utility vouchers.
If you require a food parcel you can contact your local foodbank. If you need advice or help with this please contact West Highland on 0300 323 1170.
- 6. Will I need to attend the Job Centre if I am self- isolating for any claims I make to benefits?
The normal requirements to attend the Jobcentre in person when claiming benefits has been temporarily suspended. The work search and work availability requirements for Universal Credit will be temporarily switched off also.
Please contact Universal Credit on 0800 328 5644.
- 7. I am self-employed and due to current situation have no work or I am having to self- isolate, what can I claim?
If you became self-employed before 6 April 2019 you may be entitled to a payment from the UK Government Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. This will be a taxable HMRC grant and will provide support at 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month.
The scheme will cover the three months to May, with grants being paid in a single lump-sum instalment covering all three months. However, the payment will not be made until June 2020.
The new UK scheme will be available to those with a trading profit of up to £50,000 in 2018/2019 (or an average of less than £50,000 between 2016/2017 and 2018/2019); where the majority of their income comes from self-employment; and where they were already in self-employment with a tax return for 2019.
The UK scheme will last for three months in the first instance, and people can continue to do business while claiming. More information is available on the UK Government’s website.
If you became self-employed on or after 6 April 2019 you may be entitled to a payment from the Scottish Government Newly Self-Employment Hardship Fund for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Successful applicants will receive a one-off payment of £2,000.
This cannot be paid if you are entitled to payment from other COVID-19 related business support.
More information is available on the UK Government’s website.
- 8. I work a zero hour contract. If I self-isolate will I get SSP?
People on zero-hour contracts may be eligible for SSP. It will depend on how many hours you have worked regularly and the income received, but in the first instance, contact your employer directly to find out if you are entitled.
- 9. I am on partial housing benefit due to my earnings, but my income has reduced/stopped. How do I make up the difference to pay my rent?
Contact your local council’s benefit team and advise them of your change in circumstances. If you are unable to do this your local council should have a change of circumstances online form for you to complete.
Your entitlement to housing benefit will then be amended to reflect your change in income. If your income reduces, your entitlement to housing benefit will usually increase.
- 10. I am currently on Universal Credit and my income has reduced/stopped. How will Universal Credit know?
Let Universal Credit know by inputting a note on your online journal, detailing how and when your circumstances changed, and your Universal Credit award should be adjusted accordingly.
You can ask for a further advance until your Universal Credit is adjusted but remember, any advances will be recovered by deductions from your ongoing Universal Credit award.
- 11. I am in receipt of Personal Independence Payment or Employment and Support Allowance and I completed a review form recently. Will I be called in for a face to face medical assessment?
The Department for Work and Pensions has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.
This is aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus and safeguarding the health of individuals claiming health and disability benefits, many of whom are likely to be at greater risk due to pre-existing health conditions.
If you already have an assessment appointment arranged, you do not need to attend. Your assessment provider will contact you to discuss your appointment and explain the next steps to you.
- 12. I feel like my situation is critical, I have no one to assist and I don’t know where to turn for help.
Contact West Highland on 0300 323 1170 and request a referral to our advice services. One of our advisors will contact you as quickly as possible to discuss your situation and provide you with any necessary advice or available assistance.
- 13. What if I am working and receiving Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit.
Currently, if you claim Universal Credit your Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit will stop. Universal Credit replaces these benefits and the intention is everyone in receipt of these benefits will move on to Universal Credit over the next few years.
However, if you claim Universal Credit now, these benefits will stop now and, importantly, you cannot reclaim them after this crisis is over.
- 14. My employer has advised me not to come in to work but has not made me redundant.
For workers, the Government’s ‘worker’s support package’ announced on 20 March included a new ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ to help pay worker’s wages. The official intent is this will enable most employees who are temporarily not working due to coronavirus to be kept on the payroll rather than be laid-off or made redundant.
Under the scheme, the Government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per worker each month. This can be backdated to 1 March and initially apply for three months, to be extended if necessary.
Both you and your employer must agree to put you on “furlough” - so speak to your employer about whether they can claim. You cannot apply for the scheme yourself. Once agreed your employer must write to you confirming you have been furloughed to be eligible to claim.
More information is available on the Government’s website: www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
- 15. My child receives free school meals, what will happen now the schools are closed?
The Scottish Government has stated free school meals will continue with local authorities making them available either through vouchers or through community hubs where the meals can be collected by families.
How you access the meals depends on the area you live in. Check your local council’s website or phone them for more details.
- 16. I am really worried about getting into debt with my bills and who should I pay first.
You should try to pay your priorities first i.e. rent, council tax and utilities. If you are struggling to pay your bills, advice is available from the Money Advice Service www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or contact your housing officer who will be able to refer you to a money advisor in your area.
- 17. I can't afford to pay my debt due to coronavirus as I've lost some or all my income. What can I do?
Talk to your creditors direct ask them for a freeze on any payments where possible or discuss with them other things they may be able to offer i.e. reduce interest charges or reduce repayments.
- 18. If I get or a freeze on any payments or an increased credit limit due to coronavirus will my credit rating be affected?
No. If a temporary payment holiday is in place your credit rating will not be affected.
If you require advice and assistance with regards to your money/debt issues, please get in touch with an approved money advisor.
- 19. I have received a letter from the Scottish Government advising I am in the “shielding” group. What help can I receive?
A helpline can help provide essential assistance to those who don’t have a network of support, or who are at increased risk if they contract coronavirus. This service is in addition to local support already available for people who have received letters advising them to shield.
If you are not yet receiving assistance, you can access support by calling 0800 111 4000. For more information about shielding and local support, visit the Scottish Government’s website.