Mortgage holiday scheme is extended for a further three months

The government has announced that homeowners who are still unable to pay their mortgage because of the coronavirus crisis will now be eligible for a further three month repayment holiday.

The initial three months, the mortgage holiday scheme was set up in March, however, ministers have now decided to extend it due to lockdown measures still in place and the UK economy still spiraling.

More than 1.8 million mortgage payment holidays were taken up by consumers when the scheme was first announced. However, where people can afford to restart payments they are being encouraged to do so, even if it is not for the full normal monthly amount.

But the option of a further three month holiday will be available to people who are struggling and need extra help, giving them a six-month break from payments.

Mortgage-holders will be contacted by their lender to discuss the best way forward.

 

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Private renters need more help to ‘ride out crisis’

Thousands of private renters who have lost their jobs may face eviction when the coronavirus lockdown ends, the government has been warned. According to data from Shelter, close to half a million people are at “high risk” of homelessness, this is according to 187 local councils across England with shelter advising the benefits system is not helping enough.

Shelter advised many of the nearly two million people who are applying for universal credit to help them through the crisis are finding that it does not come close to covering their monthly rent leaving them at risk of missing payments and accruing debt.

Many are left in limbo because they can’t move to cheaper accommodation, or get a new job, due to the lockdown.

The charity is calling on the government to temporarily increase the housing element of the benefit – the Local Housing Allowance – to match 50% of the average rent in an area.

At the moment, payments are based on the bottom 30% of rents in an area.

Shelter says hard-hit renters relying on universal credit must find an estimated £13m a week in total to keep up with their rent payments, which could add up to a £660m black hole in their finances over the next 12 months if the government fails to act.

Chief executive Polly Neate said

“I hoped the government would listen because the country needed people to get back on their feet to help economic recovery, rather than being crippled by debt and insecure accommodation. With just a bit of help, they can ride out this crisis, they get can get a new job, and move somewhere cheaper. Without that help, we are just going to see a tsunami of evictions once the lockdown ends.”

In response, government officials said: “We’re fully committed to supporting all those affected by Covid-19 through these unprecedented times and we’ve implemented an enormous package of measures to do so. We’ve injected more than £6.5bn into the welfare system, including helping over one million households by raising Local Housing Allowance rates for universal credit and housing benefit claimants. “And we’ve increased protections for renters to prevent evictions due to difficulties caused by Covid-19. “We’ve also provided £180m in Discretionary Housing Payments to local authorities this year to further support those most in need.”

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Employees are feeling worried about their finances

A survey conducted by HR grapevine of over 2,500 UK employees to find out how they’re feeling and what they want from their employer during the COVID-19 crisis uncovered concerns over their financial situation. 

It showed 69% of employees said they felt worried, stressed, or anxious about their financial situation.

The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellbeing 2019-20 showed that employees are more stressed about finances than their careers, health, and relationships and highlighted the UK’s savings crisis of which 19% of UK employees save nothing each month and 20% only save up to £50. This is adding to their feelings of instability causing anxiety and leaving them feeling financially vulnerable.

The Resolution Foundation has estimated that between 7-10 million UK employees will be furloughed under the Government’s job retention scheme. 50% of all UK companies are currently putting staff onto the scheme.

For some employees, being furloughed won’t impact their financial wellbeing too much, but for others, a cut in pay could result in not being able to pay bills and taking on additional debt. Some UK households will have more of a reduction in pay if both earners in a household have been furloughed. Many UK employees will also be facing the uncertainty of redundancy for themselves and their families.

To find out how you can help your employees view the salary finance site here

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Gambling firms agree to stop advertising during lockdown

Gambling firms have agreed to stop all TV and radio advertising for games and products during the virus lockdown.

The Betting and Gaming Council said firms have voluntarily agreed to remove all advertising for at least six weeks.

The move comes amid criticism that the industry is exploiting people who are stuck at home.

TV and radio advertising slots will be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities or removed from broadcast where contracts allow.

BGC, which represents betting shops, online betting, and gaming, bingo and casinos, said the move would result in the removal of half of all product advertising on TV and radio.

It added that all operators will “look to implement this change as rapidly as possible but no later than Thursday, May 7.

Concern about gambling during the lockdown has increased. Earlier this month a cross-party group of more than 20 MPs signed a letter calling for curbs, including a moratorium on advertising.

Read the full BBC post here

What to do if you can’t pay bills & debts during the pandemic

You may be very worried about how you will cope if your income drops a lot because of coronavirus.

This article looks at what you can do if you think your bills and debt repayments will be unmanageable.

Things are changing fast: every week different sorts of help are being announced. On 9 April the regulator announced that people can get 3 month payment holidays for most sorts of loans and all credit cards and catalogues from 14 April. On 17 April more proposals were announced for car finance, payday loans, and some other sorts of debt.

If your income has fallen, or you know it is going to, there are practical steps you can take now. The common theme is that if you are affected by coronavirus problems, then ask your lender or utility company for help.

Read the full post here

COVID-19: Brief Tips on How to Support Bereaved Staff – by Sue Densley, the bereavement coach

Sadly many of us may find ourselves in a position of having to support a member of staff whose loved one has died because of COVID-19. As if coping with bereavement isn’t hard enough, these people may now face the extra burden of a lack of social interaction. Many of them will be working remotely or have even been furloughed. Some may be vulnerable and in self-isolation, so what can you do as a line manager or organisation to support them?

Firstly, ensure they know where they can go for support

Don’t just rely on Employee Assistance Programmes as these often don’t go far enough. Make sure that your staff have access to specialist bereavement support such as through Grief ChatCruse Bereavement or through a private counsellor via the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists or through a free service via their GP.

Autumn trees

In the early stages they are likely to be in shock and may not be able to process information; keep your initial conversation brief, offer your condolences, ask if there is anything specific you can help with.

Have some answers ready for them

They may have questions about how to work, the most googled question asked at a time of bereavement is ‘How much time can I have off?’, so make sure you know what your policy is, what their entitlements are, and where you may have some flexibility in what you can offer (bear in mind that if the bereavement involves the loss of a child then parents are automatically allowed 2 weeks paid leave).

Be prepared for out of character behaviour

Bear in mind that bereavement is literally a traumatic experience and that our normal response to trauma is shock, often followed by a period of altered behaviour. The bereaved person may be erratic, they may be distracted and unable to focus, they may disengage from work completely and even go so far as to hand in their notice.

River flowing gentlyWith any resignation that comes out of the blue, the first response should always be to invite the employee to take a few days to consider if this is really what they want to do. If it transpires that what they are actually trying to get is a break from work then consider your options, you might be able to offer a sabbatical, using compassionate leave and annual leave, using some unpaid leave or looking at amending hours or duties for a period of time.

Plan structure and support

After they choose to return to work, it will be absolutely essential to ensure that they have a structured workload and access to ongoing support. Stay in regular contact with the individual to tailor the work according to their requirements, perhaps on a weekly basis. Discuss together

What works best for them and be prepared to change this as they move through their own response to grief.

Know your employee’s context

Consider the personal circumstances regarding the individual. Have they people living with them or are they alone? How much support are they getting from external sources? What degree of social contact does work account for in their lives? Is there someone in the team they can talk to if needs be? If not is there someone in the organisation, other than their line manager, that can help if they need a listening ear?

Bluebells in woodBecause the nature of grief changes, sometimes many times a day, and grief are prolonged, stay vigilant to signs that the individual isn’t coping. You may experience changes in consistency regarding the individual’s motivation and productivity.

Grief fundamentally alters our perspective on life, and the impact of this can deeply affect our ability to operate effectively in our chosen careers. As they adjust to their loss and when they have been back in the workplace for a while, e.g. 3 to 6 months, consider using an external coach if you feel that they are finding it difficult to deliver as they would have previously.

You don’t have to do this by yourself

COVID-19 is going to be an issue that will be present for some time, and it’s likely that we will continue to hear about it through the media for while yet, making it impossible for those affected to escape the coverage and process their own grief privately. We’re all affected as a Nation and World, but those who lose their loved ones will be impacted for years to come and will need supportive and understanding line managers who will see them through an extremely tough time and who’ll stick with them for the long haul.

As a line manager you need to remember that you are not solely responsible for helping the individual in the workplace, do you have mental health specialists who can provide support? If not consider external sources. The impact on the wider team is likely to be heightened while we are all in this period of uncertainty. Make sure there are opportunities for them to air their fears and consider virtual group activities such as mindfulness or exercise activities to help people feel connected and to have a social element to working.

Think about what support you need too, don’t be tempted to carry everything.

If you think we can help, talk to Sue on 07867 500666 or email us at info@thebereavementcoach.co.uk

Coronavirus, Social Distancing & Mental Health

As a result of coronavirus, many people across the country and globe are, understandably, reporting high levels of worry and stress.

Each and every person will face a distinct and personal challenge at this time. Whether we are confronted with bereavement, job insecurity, financial concerns, stressful home lives, or general life uncertainty, there are many things that could cause us to feel distressed and anxious.

The Mental Health Effects Of Social Distancing

One thing that will undoubtedly affect us all is social distancing. The UK Government has instructed that we must:

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if working from home is not possible)
  • Stay at least 2 meters away from others if we go outside

People are naturally hardwired to be sociable beings, and these rules may pose challenges to the mental health of many. Being around our loved ones is inherently enjoyable, can allow us to take our mind away from stress, and is generally good for our sense of wellbeing.

Meanwhile, isolation and loneliness have repeatedly been shown to be detrimental to physical and mental health. Feelings of loneliness may also currently be exacerbated for people who live alone, have challenging home lives, or lack the technology that allows for online catch-ups.

Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated for the term ‘physical distancing’ to be used instead of ‘social distancing’. Their reasoning for this is that, while maintaining a physical distance is essential, we should not socially disconnect from our loved ones and should use technology to stay in contact, as it is good for our health and wellbeing.

The Current Importance Of Mental Health

The extent to which coronavirus has impacted, and will impact, on mental health is not yet fully apparent. It may take many months, or even years, for the true effects to be discovered.

What is evident is that people with existing mental health problems may find that they get worse. In fact, a recent survey by YoungMinds has found that 83% of young people with existing mental health problems have found that their conditions have worsened since the coronavirus crisis began in the UK. Sadly, some people may also develop mental health problems as a result of things that happen to them because of the pandemic.

It is vital for us all to monitor how we are feeling and take the right steps to look after ourselves, many of us will have read advice about having regular video calls, embedding movement and exercise throughout the day, and having breaks from social media and the news. Although some tips may seem simple, they could prove to be beneficial to you. Ultimately, we must all recognise the potential impact that coronavirus may have on our mental health and take steps to protect our wellbeing. Mental health is something that can affect us all, and we should take it seriously at the moment. If you are feeling distressed, talk to someone about it.”

If you need emotional support, you can contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123.

References:

UK banks postpone plan to increase overdraft rates

Some of Britain’s biggest banks have postponed plans to double the interest rate that they charge customers for using their overdraft.

New overdraft rules come into force from today, which mean that lenders can only charge one single annual interest rate for both arranged and unarranged borrowing and must scrap extra fees.

The changes were designed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the City regulator, to make overdrafts simpler and cheaper for households that are under pressure. Banks responded by increasing their standard interest rate for arranged overdrafts, in many cases doubling it to about 40%

However, the coronavirus crisis has prompted the banks to put the increase in interest rates on hold. This means that many overdrafts will become cheaper to use because fees are still being scrapped.

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Loan & credit card payments to be frozen due to virus

People who are struggling with loan repayments and overdraft fees during the current coronavirus pandemic will be granted temporary relief under new proposals by The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA is asking banks to freeze payments on loans and credit cards for up to three months for those facing difficulties. They also want interest on the first £500 of existing overdrafts to be frozen for a period of time.

The FCA said the outbreak had caused an “unprecedented financial shock”

They are asking banks to respond to the proposed measures by Monday 6 April, and want them to come into force by Thursday 9 April.

The news has been welcomed by many, as it will provide relief to many people in the country who were concerned about their ability to make credit card and loan payments amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Martin Lewis, finance expert and founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, has also announced that he understands that the FCA will be looking at car finance in the near future. An announcement related to that may be made within a week or so.

If you have debts or payments due and are worried, reach out to the company you have debt with: mortgage providers, credit card companies, banks, utility companies, etc. Many already likely have a contingency plan in place to support you – allowing you either payment and interest breaks or deferred payments.

Read more about what support is available during the coronavirus outbreak.

Employee financial wellbeing | Tips on a successful company programme

Money worries affect millions of workers on a regular basis. Financial concerns can lead to poor mental health, sleepless nights, and stress-related illnesses, and businesses need to be taking action.


Not your problem?

You might think that the financial status of your employees is not a concern for your business. However, the reality is that employee financial distress contributes to absenteeism, presenteeism, high staff turnover and low productivity. This is all costing businesses millions of pounds every year.

In fact, research by Neyber has found that employee financial worries cost employers around £15.2bn each year.


What to do

Many businesses want to do more to support their employees. Financial wellbeing programmes are a popular approach. But for a wellbeing programme to be successful, there a number of things that businesses need to take into consideration:

1) Have a whole approach

Your approach needs to be comprehensive. Don’t just provide standalone financial training. Rather, offer a comprehensive approach that includes things like training, personal financial diagnosis and tracking, and options for solutions and support.

2) Talk about it

There is no point in having a good programme if nobody is going to use it. So you must ensure that you put out consistent and regular communications about the programmes you offer. This will ensure that they achieve a high level of employee engagement and make a difference.

3) Ensure confidentiality

Employees need to have peace-of-mind that their sensitive information is confidential and secure. Any financial wellbeing programme that you choose to implement must give employees privacy. Money worries can be an extremely sensitive issue, so reassure employees that their information is safe.

4) Signpost, don’t overstep

Do not step into giving employees financial advice unless you are a trained financial counsellor or advisor. Instead, always signpost employees to qualified professionals who can ensure that the right advice is given.

5) Practice what you preach

Ensure that financial wellbeing remains on the company agenda. Match the company’s actions to the company’s words. For example, you should never automatically expect employees to pay company expenses upfront and then reclaim them back. If that’s not possible, then ensure that expenses are reimbursed immediately afterwards.

6) Check the impact

If your business is implementing a new employee wellbeing programme, you must measure its effects. Only then will you know if it’s making a difference. You can measure the impact in a variety of ways, such as by:

  • Using staff surveys
  • Conducting focus groups
  • Using exit interviews
  • Monitoring absenteeism, presenteeism, staff turnover and productivity rates

Read more about how we help employers to support employees with our digital platform and mental health consultancy on our main site, Mente.