Coronavirus briefing: financial support

Coronavirus briefing: financial support

The purpose of this briefing is to help members understand their rights to the different kinds of financial support available during the Coronavirus outbreak and how to claim.

Equity’s General advice on Coronavirus

Equity’s Coronavirus update for those working in theatre and live performance.

This briefing covers the following:-

  1. Advice for those who become ill or have to go into quarantine due to Covid-19
  2. Advice for self-employed businesses affected by Covid-19 (i.e. not sick or self-isolating)
  3. Help with living costs for children, rent and council tax
  4. Charitable support
  5. Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line contact details

Advice for those who become ill or have to go into quarantine due to Covid-19

Employees (PAYE)

Employees (PAYE) may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). For information about the eligibility conditions for SSP see https://www.acas.org.uk/checking-sick-pay/statutory-sick-pay-ssp*

*PLEASE NOTE: the government have announced that there will be a temporary extension of SSP to cover individuals from the first day of sickness (not day 4)

If you are not entitled to SSP as an employee (PAYE) you may be entitled to Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (CESA) otherwise known as ‘New Style ESA’ (see section below). This is now available from day one of illness.

Working on an Equity contract

Those working on Equity contracts may be entitled to Contractual Sick Pay (CSP) from day one of illness, but it will depend on what standard agreement is in place. Your engager should be able to advise you. If not, contact the relevant Equity industrial team for further advice. Call the Equity Head Office on 020 7379 6000 and ask to speak to your Industrial Organiser (recorded media or live performance) or call your regional office. Find Contacts.

Self-employed workers

Those who are self-employed workers only will not be entitled to SSP or CSP.
You may be entitled to the following social security benefits:-

A) Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (CESA) otherwise known as ‘New Style ESA.’ It is the state benefit that is paid to people who are unable to work due to ill health and covers basic living costs not including housing and council tax costs. Eligibility is based on your national insurance record - see https://www.equity.org.uk/media/2908/national-insurance-based-esa-and-jsa.pdf for more detail.

The basic rates for CESA are £57.90 per week for those under 25 years, or £73.10 per week for those 25 years old. There are different rates for couples. Rates will increase from 8/4/20. 

B) If NOT entitled to CESA, you should be entitled to the equivalent support through Universal Credit (limited capability for work due to ill health), subject to means testing; for example, savings over £6k and your partners income will be taken into account.

To claim CESA or Universal Credit (limited capability for work due to ill health), call 0800 328 5644 to start your claim.   You may be asked to start a UC claim online also (https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit).*

 
 

*IMPORTANT PLEASE NOTE: If you are already in receipt of Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seekers Allowance, Working/Child Tax Credit or Housing Benefit DO NOT MAKE A CLAIM FOR UNIVERSAL CREDIT WITHOUT GETTING ADVICE FROM THE TAX AND WELFARE RIGHTS TEAM AT EQUITY FIRST (see contact details below, section 5).

 For Universal Credit, the basic rate is £251.77 per month for those under 25 years, or £317.82 per month for those 25 years old (subject to means testing). There are different rates for couples. Elements are also available for living costs for children and rent (see section 3 below). Rates will increase from 8/4/20.

Advice for self-employed businesses affected by Covid-19 (i.e. not sick or self-isolating

The government has announced (2020 Spring Budget) that it will be looking to relax Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for those who are deemed gainfully self-employed (GSE) as part of their UC claim. The MIF is notional amount of income that is applied to your claim regardless of whether you actually achieve any earnings on a month by month basis.  The figure is usually based on National Minimum wage x 35 hours per week. For more info see https://www.equity.org.uk/media/3992/uc-briefing-sheet-2020_-current.pdf.

Current DWP guidance suggests that it is possible to not be deemed GSE and therefore not subject to the MIF, if you are experiencing a period of ill health. The government has so far announced that it will not be applying the MIF to claimants whose gainful self-employment is ‘directly affected by Corvid-19.’  As of the date of this briefing, we have no further information on exactly what this will entail.  We will update members once we know more.  Please check the Tax and Welfare section of the Equity website members’ area https://www.equity.org.uk/at-work/tax-welfare/. Updates here will be flagged on social media.  

If you are a self-employed entertainer whose work has been affected by Covid-19, and you are not already in receipt of a benefit such as Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit or Tax Credits, it may be advisable for you to claim Universal Credit.  First, check that you meet the basic, means tested eligibility conditions by going to https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/eligibility then claim by going to https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit.

UC is not paid for the initial first five weeks of claim.  You can request a UC advance as part of your claim (will need to be paid back). The government said that they are seeking to ensure that the processing of advanced payments is accelerated.

Help with living costs for children, rent and council tax

NOTE: all of the above payments mentioned so far -  SSP, CSP, CESA and UC - are paid as a replacement for individual/couples' essential living costs excluding the living costs for a child, rent and council tax.

You can claim Universal Credit in addition to the above for help with children’s living costs, paid at £277.08 per month for the eldest child, and £231.67 for other children, subject to a two child limit (note: as of the time of writing the government said they would be re-visiting this policy). Rates will increase from 8/4/20.

You can also make a claim for rent costs through Universal Credit. Mortgage support is only offered in the form of a loan for interest-only mortgages, and only after nine months of claiming UC. If you have a mortgage and need financial help, we recommend contacting the Entertainment Charities for support - see 4 below.

For more information on UC and how it works, please see our briefing https://www.equity.org.uk/media/2580/uc-briefing-sheet-2019.pdf.

Help with council tax may be available from your local authority.   Go to your local authority website for more information on how to claim.  Support is mean tested and paid in the form of a rebate.

Charitable support

There are several entertainment charities that may be able to help Equity members in financial difficulties.  Awards are made on a discretionary basis.  For a list of the charities available see https://www.equity.org.uk/media/3986/act-charities-list-2018.pdf

You can apply for help in addition to applying for state support.  Most charities will want to see that you have applied for the state support that you are entitled to before they consider making an award.

Equity Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line

For further information and advice, please contact the Tax and Welfare Rights Advice Line at Equity.  We are open on a message only basis on Monday mornings 10-1pm, then open to take calls from 2-5pm.  We are also open on Thursday all day - 10pm-1pm and 2-5pm. Call 0207 670 0223 or email helpline@equity.org.uk.

Please note: Whilst the material contained in this briefing is believed to be accurate, no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting, or refraining from acting, as a result the material contained herein can be accepted by Equity. The material contained in this Guide is believed to be accurate at the date of publication, March 2020, but will be subject to change.