Finance, housing and unemployment worries during the coronavirus pandemic
Page last reviewed: 11 September 2020
These are unprecedented times. Many of us are facing daily challenges relating to the coronavirus epidemic – both in terms of health but also in terms of finance, job security, housing and caring responsibilities.
Our sense of time is out of shape – events in the news seem to move so fast – and everyday sees another problem or a possible solution. At the same time the days at home, or the nights can seem to drag.
Whatever is happening to you, or to us, there is an impact on our mental health. For now, the best thing to do is to focus on the here and now, this minute.
Even though we are moving into the next phase of the pandemic – lots of people are still coming to terms with the rapidly changing situation. It may seem today that the problem you are facing with your bills, your landlord, your childcare or your job is unsolvable.
Everyday there are new solutions – from government, from our communities, and from the businesses in our lives. Sometimes we must find a way to take a breath, look at the issue from a different angle, and reach out. There isn’t always an answer today - but the only way is through.
It is OK to feel afraid, scared or desperate. This isn’t your fault.
Adviceline is a national phone service operated by Citizens Advice. You can contact an Adviceline adviser on 03444 111 444 (Text relay: 03444 111 445)
Use time you are at home to work through your finances
Using a budget tool to redo your household budget for being at home could be useful. Remember that you may be saving money by not spending on things like transport and socialising. Factor that in when looking at your budget.
Find out what help you might be entitled to
The government is offering a range of measures to support people financially. There is a complete list here: under the heading “Work and financial support”, this includes support for individuals, employers and people who are self-employed. Additional financial support is now also available for people living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are on low-incomes and have been asked to self-isolate.
Reach out for help and advice from services like The Money Advice Service (England and Wales), Stepchange or National Debtline – but remember that services may be busy as organisations of all sorts try to manage staff availability.
Remember debt and money advice varies across the UK so make sure you find the appropriate service for your nation.
Speak to your bank if you are worried about paying your mortgage as many are arranging mortgage breaks.
Keep connected and look after yourself
Don't keep it in – talk to family or friends if you can.
Look after your sleep, your diet, and other basics – try to avoid drinking excessively and if you are a smoker try to give up or cut down – it may help both financially and in terms of making COVID-19 less serious if you develop the illness.
Look at what is available in your community
Sadly, many food banks have had to close but rapidly services like this will generally find ways of providing services around the restrictions.
If you have children, and they are entitled to free school meals, take them – your school will be in touch about how to access this service.
Check any insurance policies you have
Life cover, critical illness cover, mortgage insurance and even home insurance sometimes offers legal advice or cover that could help.
If you have a mortgage or other major commitment, try and speak to your lenders soon, they may help.
Think about groups you might be a member of
Beware of scams
Use a reputable source such as the gov.uk website or organisations linked above. Never respond to unsolicited messages (texts, calls or emails) that ask for your personal or financial information.
Unemployment or furlough
It can be very hard to lose access to your work – whether you are let go, furloughed (sent home temporarily) or your work drops if you are self-employed. In the UK, the furlough scheme has been extended until 31st March 2021 – you can find more details here.
For more information about your rights at work visit Acas.
If you aren’t at work try and keep in touch with colleagues – demand will increase again, and you will have a future. If you are isolated and live at home keeping those connections can be so important.
If you are used to a very physical job, try and keep up the exercise – because a sudden change can hit your moods quickly.
If you run a business, or employ staff, try to hold off making decisions about jobs and pay until schemes being developed to support staff are up and running.
If you are self-employed, try and reach out to your normal networks – or see if there's an opportunity locally to connect with others through business forums. It’s an uncertain time but your skills will be needed again soon.
As we adjust to a period of living and working differently employers will be looking for staff – think about how your skills transfer – and if you want to help and are able, consider doing something else for a while.
In these uncertain times, when we are asked to stay in our own homes, poor housing or difficulties paying for mortgages or rent can be doubly hard.
If you have a mortgage and your income is reduced, speaker to your lender about a payment holiday. In the UK, these have been extended until 31st January 2021.
If you are a tenant in a similar situation, find out your rights by visiting Shelter or Citizens Advice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or Scotland and then approach your landlord or agent. It is likely that support for tenants will come on stream in the next few weeks.
Remember, these are times that we have not seen before in peacetime. A lot of us will be affected in lots of ways. But keeping calm, checking your options, seeking advice and working through your possibilities will help you come up with a plan. There are helplines available and people willing to support you. We will get through this together.
The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.
We need your support to keep providing vital information during this time.
Public Health England have developed explicit guidance on mental health in the crisis. If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can also visit the PHE Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.
If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.