This page was last updated on 17 January at 19.15
January is always the toughest month of the year and this time around, the usual post-Christmas pressures are compounded by Covid-19.
UNISON is able to support members with several different forms of financial assistance, ranging from specific Covid-19 grants to debt advice and support on writing off debts, benefits advice and winter fuel grants.
UNISON – There For You
UNISON is responding to the national coronavirus crisis by offering practical help to members experiencing financial hardship. Staff at the union’s dedicated charity, There for You, are seeking to reassure members that they are still offering a service to them. The team at There for You is fully committed to providing a complete service throughout the current crisis. The charity remains open and fully operational.
Covid-19 Response Fund
Have you or your partner had your hours reduced or lost your job as a result of coronavirus? Have you been furloughed? Are you having to rely on statutory sick pay during isolation, shielding or COVID-related sickness?
Grants of up to £500 are available to help members struggling financially due to the pandemic. An anonymous member who received a £500 grant just before December said: “It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve had such a bad week: me, my mum and my Dad have all had COVID-19 and it’s been a scary time as my Dad is in the vulnerable category.
“Thankfully, he was strong and pushed through it, and we are now all on the mend. This grant meant so much for my family.”
The COVID-19 response fund reopened on Monday 16 November, offering grants of up to £500 to help members whose household incomes have been affected in any of the following ways:
- You and/or your partner are currently furloughed
- You and/or your partner are currently receiving Statutory Sick Pay and are either shielding, self-isolating or off sick due to other COVID-related reasons
- You and/or your partner have been made redundant or lost your job due to coronavirus
- You and/or your partner’s employer have reduced your working hours, including loss of regular overtime (applicable also where partner is self-employed and loss of earnings can be proven)
Please note that applicants must be a UNISON member with savings of less than £2,500 and have paid at least two months’ subscriptions.
We want to make this fund go as far as possible and help as many members as we can. Therefore please only apply if you are in financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19.
Depending on your situation, help will be awarded as follows:
- £350 living costs for applicants who are furloughed or have a salary reduction due to COVID
- £500 loss of employment grant due to redundancy
- Up to £500 housing costs grant – towards rent, mortgage, or council tax arrears that have accrued since March 2020
If you’re struggling under the weight of debts, including mortgage payment holidays, UNISON’s Debtline service is available to help you manage money and stay in control of your debt. UNISON’s Debtline can help you access a debt relief order, individual voluntary agreement or bankruptcy.
UNISON’s Debtline service is available free to all members to help. Simply call UNISON Debtline on freephone 0800 389 3302. You’ll have an initial chat with one of our trained advisors to get a true reflection of your circumstances.
UNISON member Jackie Dolphin has used Debtline’s services. She said: “After 18 months of worrying, I now feel like a huge weight has been lifted.”
She described how she felt conflicted about reaching out for support. “It’s pride. You think ‘no, I can’t’, and then you’ve got to admit that you’ve got into debt, that you’ve made errors. It’s facing up to the fact that that’s what’s happened. Once you’ve faced it, that’s the way forward.”
Winter Fuel Grants
If you’re worried about the cost of turning the heating on this winter, our winter fuel grants scheme will be launched on 25 January.
Grants of up to £200 will be available – a huge increase on the usual cap of £40.
Members on low incomes who are financially struggling will be eligible to apply. We welcome applications from members whose income has been affected by COVID-19.
Online applications will open on 25 January.
What about support from the Government?
If you are on a low income you may be entitled to Universal Credit.
The government announced on 20 March that Universal Credit will be increased by £20 per week (£1,000 a year). Working Tax Credit will also be increased by £20 per week (£1,000 a year). The increase applied from 6 April 2020, but is under threat as the Conservative government has refused to rule out withdrawing this increase.
Navigating the world of social security and government support can be difficult. UNISON has built a social security calculator to help members to work out what, and how much they may be entitled to.