Struggling to keep up with loan or mortgage repayments?
StepChange is the largest debt advice charity in the UK, and we’re here to answer your questions about how to manage your debts and live on less money than usual during coronavirus.
StepChange provides free, impartial debt advice online and on the phone. We recommend and set up debt solutions based on what’s best for your circumstances. We can help you with budgeting, to set up a debt management plan, find insolvency-based solutions, or give you advice about your mortgage.
Typically, 600,000 people a year contact us. But in the last few weeks we’ve seen much more traffic to our website than usual, with people searching for emergency advice about how to make ends meet as their income’s dropped because of coronavirus. And over time, it’s likely this will mean more people than normal might need full debt advice.
Here are answers to the questions you’ve been asking us about coronavirus, money and debt.
I’ve had a pay cut or lost my income because of coronavirus. What can I do?
Whether you’ve lost your job, gone on furlough or had clients cancel work, you might be living on much less money than usual. And even if you’re still getting your normal income, it’s natural to worry about coronavirus’ longer-term impact on your cash.
We’ve put together an 11-step guide to help you deal with any immediate worries, take control of your finances and feel more confident about your financial future. You can find it here.
We can help you build a budget, prioritise your bills and find debt solutions that suit your circumstances.
How can my lenders help if I’m affected by coronavirus?
Lots of you’ve been contacting us for advice on how to go about getting your lenders to let you temporarily postpone payments if you’re in financial difficulty due to coronavirus, and how that might affect your credit history.
Not all lenders have announced what they’re planning to do for their customers yet. But if your situation changes, you should contact your lenders as soon as possible as they might be able to help. Most lenders are willing to be flexible and supportive if you’ve been affected by coronavirus, to try and stop you falling into financial difficulty.
Your lender might be able to:
Reduce or delay unsecured loan repayments or mortgage payments
Offer you more credit through increasing credit card or overdraft limits
Reassess your energy arrears
Reassess you car finance payments
Be aware that if you’re on a debt solution like a debt management plan (DMP), taking out extra credit could go against the terms of your agreement. So it’s important to speak to your debt solution provider before considering this.
There’s more advice how creditors can help on the StepChange website.
If you use Monzo, we've explained how we could help on our website.
I’m confused about claiming benefits and statutory sick pay (SSP)
If you’re struggling financially, it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the income you’re entitled to. Our free benefits checker tool can help you find out if you’re entitled to any extra benefits.
You may be eligible for SSP if you’ve been affected by coronavirus and have to self-isolate, or if you’re caring for someone you live with who’s showing coronavirus symptoms and has been told to self-isolate.
SSP is £95.85 per week and it can be paid for up to 28 weeks. But you have to earn at least £120 a week to qualify. If you’re not eligible for SSP, there are other options like Contributory Employment and Support Allowance, and Universal Credit you might be eligible for.
Find out what benefits you might be entitled to on our website.
What can I do if I don’t have money for basic essentials?
If you’ve completely lost your income and you don’t have money to feed yourself or get basic essentials for you and your family, there’s advice on how you can get support on our website, like accessing food banks and getting emergency funding from your council.
Common words you might hear in conversations with your creditors, and what they mean
Arrears are another term for missed payments. If you miss one month’s payment for a bill or debt, you’ll be in arrears by one month.
A consolidation loan is when you replace two or more loans with a new single loan, often with a lower monthly payment and a longer repayment period. It’s also known as debt consolidation.
A creditor is a person or a company (like a bank) who lends you money.
There are various options that can help you deal with debt, including solutions to help you repay your debts like a debt management plan or debt consolidation, and insolvency solutions such as bankruptcy.
There are many different debt solutions and a certain solution may not help with your particular situation. You can find out about the different debt solutions available on our website.
A creditor issues a default notice when the terms and conditions of a credit agreement are broken, for example, if you can’t pay your contractual payments.
This is when a lender agrees to let a borrower temporarily postpone payments.
A charge for borrowing money, or a reward for saving money.
A legal process to get your debts written off. Insolvency solutions include bankruptcy, protected trust deeds and debt relief orders.
A secured loan is a loan that’s attached to something, for example a mortgage. If you miss payments to a secured loan, then your lender could try to take ownership of the thing it’s secured against, in this example, your property.
An unsecured loan isn’t attached to anything. These are normally called ‘personal loans’.
For more support with debt and money, go straight to stepchange.org
If you’ve never been in debt before, there’s a good chance you won’t have heard of StepChange.
Right now we know people are turning to internet search engines for help on how to deal with money problems. And sadly, we know there are imposters out there pretending to be StepChange. They’re trying to hoodwink people into thinking they’re dealing with a legitimate debt charity, when in fact they’re looking to make money out of people in debt.
So we’d ask everyone to spread the word that we’re here to help, and that it’s important to go straight to our website, www.stepchange.org. Watch out for advertisers with similar names who might be trying to take advantage of you.
If you need to call us, we’re on 0800 138 1111. Please bear with us if our phone lines are busy.
We’ve invited charities and organisations working hard to support people through coronavirus to share their work and answer your questions.
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