Help if you’re worried about falling into debt

None of us know exactly how long this crisis will last, but it’s vital to act quickly to try to alleviate some of the financial pressure you may be under

Senioren, Zuhause, Munchen, Bayern, Deutschland

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting jobs and incomes hard, with many of those losing work understandably worried about how they’ll make ends meet.

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None of us know exactly how long this crisis will last, but it’s vital to act quickly to try to alleviate some of the financial pressure you may be under. Here are some steps which might help.

Pause debts payments where possible

If you’re finding it hard to cover your outgoings, you might be able to delay payments temporarily. For example, if you’re struggling to cover your mortgage payments, you can apply for a three-month payment holiday until you get back on track. Bear in mind though that your mortgage payments will be higher once the payment holiday ends in order to make up the payments you’ve missed.

The city regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recommended that repayment on loans and credit cards should be frozen for up to three months for those having financial problems. If you think you’re not going to make your credit card repayments, get in touch with your provider as soon as possible.  Some, such as Barclaycard, Lloyds and Halifax are waiving fees for missed payments, whilst others, including First Direct, HSBC and Nationwide are already offering credit customers payment holidays. Taking a payment holiday shouldn’t affect your credit score as long as you’re up to date with your payments before you take a break from them.

The FCA has also suggested that those struggling financially shouldn’t be charged interest on the first £500 of existing overdrafts for 90 days. It has said banks must respond to these proposals by Monday 6 April, with the aim that these measures should come into force by Thursday 9 April.

Get help with other bills

Council tax bills are often our second biggest outgoing after our mortgage, so if you’ve worried about paying yours, some councils are allowing those in financial difficulties to take a break from payments for a couple of minds. Other councils have said that they won’t penalise people if they don’t pay on time. Get in touch with your local council to find out whether it can help. You can find contact details for yours here.

You may also be able to get help with energy costs. Energy customers who can’t leave home to top up prepayment meters either because they are self-isolating or have contracted coronavirus should get in touch with their energy suppliers as soon as possible. Some providers such as E.on and EDF Energy have said they will post top-up cards or keys with credit to your home. If you’re on a standard meter and are struggling to pay your energy bills, contact your supplier and they may be able to delay your payment date, or waive late payment charges.

Claim what you’re entitled to

If your income has fallen due to coronavirus or you’ve lost your job, you might be eligible for financial support from the government. If you’re self-employed you may be able to claim help through the self-employment income support scheme or if you’re employed you might qualify for coronavirus job retention scheme. If you’re not covered by either of these schemes, you should check your eligibility for Universal Credit, which is available for people in and out of work.

Seek professional help

If it feels as though your debts are spiralling out of control, and you’re not sure where to turn next, get professional help. There are several charities which offer free debt advice and may be able to help you resolve the issues you’re having. These include StepChange, National Debtline and the Debt Advice Foundation.

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