Updated: 17 November 2020
We’re here – help and support from Torus
We know these are uncertain and worrying times for many of our customers, but we want you to know that we are here to help and always encourage customers to tell us straight away if they are experiencing problems paying their rent and there is a range of help available.
We can agree affordable repayment plans and provide specialist advice on claiming benefits, maximising income and managing debt through our Rents, Benefits and Money Advice teams.
Contacting you - if you are experiencing financial difficulties and may not be able to pay your rent a member of the income team will be contacting you to offer support and advice.
You need to continue to pay your rent in full where possible. Paying as much as you can is better than paying nothing at all. We would encourage you to continue to do this to reduce your arrears and to avoid any action in the future which could put your home at risk.
We realise you may need help from benefits to do this. You will need to make a claim to Universal Credit or other benefits to help you pay your rent for the period you are not able to work. If you contact us we will be able to provide advice on this.
People living in social housing affected by Coronavirus were protected by the Government from eviction until the 21 September 2020. However, we can now make a claim to a court for eviction for rent arrears. This is the very last resort and we ask that you please contact us if you are unable to pay as we are here to help.
If you are worried about falling into arrears because you cannot pay us in the short term because of Coronavirus, it is important that you speak to us as soon as possible. Failing to engage with us or make every effort to maintain some form of payment could result in legal action being taken to recover the arrears which could put your home at risk.
Contact us for help
If you are experiencing financial pressures and are struggling to pay your rent, please get in touch as soon as possible, as it's better to let us know now. That way we can work with you to reach a solution.
- Email email@example.com
- Call free on 0800 678 1894 and ask to speak to our Rents Team.
What to do next?
We recognise that for many people, this will be the first time they have needed to claim benefits.
You can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a Jobcentre. The seven waiting days for ESA for new claimants suffering from Coronavirus or required to stay at home will not apply, so it will be payable from day one.
We can also support you whilst you make your claim for Universal Credit so please call our Tenancy Support and Money Advice teams, please email TenancySupportReferrals@torus.co.uk.
The Torus team are extremely busy trying to help as many customers as possible. If you are struggling to get through, try one of these alternatives, who can also offer help and support to make a claim for Universal Credit online:
- Money Advice Service - 0800 138 7777
- Citizens Advice Helpline - 0344 477 2121
- Stepchange (Debt advice) - 0800 138 1111
Additional help and support
We are regularly updating our website and social media feeds with information regarding our services and links to support for money-related matters. Keep updated on our dedicated coronavirus page
Keep updated on updates on benefits and Universal Credit on our DWP update page.
Torus Money Advice Team
The team can help you make sure you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to, support you with benefit claims e.g. Universal Credit, reduce outgoings, help to reduce your bills. They can also offer short term support with food vouchers, grant applications and much more. Call free on 0800 678 1894 and ask to speak to our Tenancy Support Team or email TenancySupportReferrals@torus.co.uk
Our charitable arm offers one to one support to find you work and training, can help you use the internet to job search and claim online and be confident using a computer and the internet, gives support to claim benefits including Universal Credit, debt advice, help with food vouchers, advice on energy bills, managing your budget and to access affordable loans. Call free on 0300 123 5809 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, they are here to help you, find out more on their website.
Want to know more about Universal Credit? Visit the understanding Universal Credit website.
Visit our Universal Credit page for regular updates from the DWP and to keep updated with how the Coronavirus is impacting Universal Credit.
Council tax support:
If your income has reduced, you may be eligible for support in paying your council tax. If you are already claiming but your income has changed, you will need let your council know there has been a change of circumstances so they can re-assess your claim. Visit St Helens Council’s Council Tax page.
Keep updated on the St Helens Council’s Council dedicated page.
Voucher scheme launches for schools providing free school meals:
Families who access free school meals will now get weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 to use in Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S. You should receive your voucher via you child’s school - click here to find out more about the scheme.
Test, Trace and Isolate Support Payments
If you have been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you may be entitled to a £500 payment that will ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate with financial assistance. Find out more, including if you fit the criteria and how to apply here.
Furlough extended until the end of March 2021 & increased support for self-employed
The furlough scheme that pays 80% of the wages of people who cannot work because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has been extended until the end of March 2021. Plus, the next self-employed income support grant will also increase from 55% to 80% of average profits - up to £7,500. Find out more on the gov.uk website.
Gas and electric:
Some of you may be worrying about how you are going to pay your utility bills, and for those on pre-payment meters, how you’re going to keep them topped up.
Ofgem, the regulatory authority for gas and electric have published the following advice on what to do if you are faced with affordability issues.
The government has launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure you don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting your home during the coronavirus outbreak. If you are struggling with money problems or are repaying a debt, options will include:
- reviewing bill payment plans, including debt repayment plans
- payment breaks or reductions in how much you pay
- giving you greater time to pay
- in some cases, access to hardship funds.
- No credit meters will be disconnected during the outbreak.
If you think you can’t afford to pay for any extra gas or electricity used because you’re having to self-isolate at home, support will be available through your energy supplier.
Your supplier must take into account how much you can afford and will explain your options.
For further general advice on household energy bill support, see Ofgem’s guide: Who to contact if it’s difficult paying bills.
For more information from Ofgem, you can visit their website.
United Utilities have published the following advice:
“We wanted to let you know what we’re doing in response to the Coronavirus outbreak to protect our staff and customers. We’re following the government health advice to make sure our customers and our colleagues stay safe and we are putting all the necessary measures in place to ensure this advice is followed by everyone. We understand this is a challenging time and we’ve put our robust business continuity plans into action so we can make sure we can still supply our water and wastewater services to all customers across the North West. Advice from the World Health Organisation is that the water treatment process – specifically the addition of chlorine which is routinely used for disinfection – will kill the virus. Remember, only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper. Please do not flush any kitchen roll, wet wipes or newspaper down the toilet as these can cause major blockages in the sewers”.
You can find more information on their website.
Are you struggling to pay your water bill due to the impact of Covid-19?
If you're receiving benefits or tax credits and are either in arrears with your water charges, or your income has been affected by COVID-19, United Utilities can reduce your water bills. Find out more and apply here (pdf).
Warm and Safe Homes (WASH) – FREE Advice to keep warm and safe in your home:
WASH is a free support service providing advice to vulnerable householders living in England on their energy bills and keeping warm and safe in their home as well as information for frontline workers on current advice agency and fuel supplier support for customers in relation to Covid-19. They offer:
- Telephone/online support for householders and case workers
- Supported e-learning for frontline staff We can help you with
- Warm Home Discount and Priority Service Register information
- Support with gas and electricity accounts including fuel debt
- Switching suppliers Energy efficiency
- Trust fund applications
- Water rates
- Benefits advice and income maximisation
From - National Energy Action (NEA), the leading fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity.
No advice has been published about support TV Licensing is able to give if you have difficulty paying, it is still a legal requirement to have one if you want to:
- Watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on TV, on any channel
- Watch or stream programmes live on an online TV service (such as ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Sky Go, etc.)
- Download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer.
This applies to any device you use, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.
BBC is introducing TV licence fees for over-75s from 1 August 2020:
Free TV Licences, funded by the Government, for all over 75s will come to an end in July 2020.
From 1 August 2020, there will be a new scheme.
Under the new scheme, anyone aged 75 or over receiving Pension Credit will be eligible to apply for a free TV Licence, paid for by the BBC. Pension Credit can be in the name of the licence holder, or in their partner’s name if they are a couple living at the same address.
If you already have a free over 75 licence you will be covered until 31 July 2020. You do not need to take immediate action.
TV Licensing will be writing to all free over 75 licence holders from early August to let you know how you may be affected and what you will need to do next. You will then be offered payment options that include spreading the cost in weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments.
Many internet providers are still working out their response to the coronavirus, many are looking at giving free phone calls and extra data and speed boosts. Check your supplier’s website directly for more information.