The COVID-19 pandemic has led us to close our office, in order to protect our service users, staff and volunteers.

We are still offering all our usual services remotely and you can reach us on our helpline.

You can also find below some of the important information that you need to know during this time, such as the social distancing measures, understanding the furlough scheme, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Health

COVID-19 is a recently discovered infectious disease caused by the coronavirus. The coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause disease in both animals and humans. A person can contract COVID-19 from contact with another who is infected with the virus.

The disease is spread mainly from person to person through droplets that are thrown out of the nose or mouth of an infected person when coughing, sneezing or talking. That is why it’s important to practice social distancing and wear a facemask. 

The main symptoms are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature).
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

If you have any of the symptoms: 

Book a test as soon as possible. You can do this through: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

Stay at home until you get your results. Members of your household will have to stay at home too.

If you have tested positive, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started. If symptoms continue after 10 days, you must continue to self-isolate.

To book a test, visit the government’s website  and follow the instructions on the website. The test is free of charge. You can also call your GP and let them know you have symptoms and this way you can receive a link to book a test on your mobile through text message. There is no phone number to call and book a test at the moment. When booking a test, you will get directed to facilities near your place of residence and will be given different time slots available.

When self-isolating, you and members of your household are expected not to leave your home because you have or might have COVID-19. Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms), and the next 10 full days. For more information, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance. If you are self- isolating, you can benefit from the NHS Volunteer scheme and someone might be able to help you with your shopping, medical appointments or just check on you: https://nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/

The clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to shield. This means people with underlying conditions contacted by the NHS and people over 70 years old. Unlike self-isolation, shielding means staying at home and reducing face to face contact and interactions with others as much as possible. If you live with other people, they should shield as well in order to protect you. Ideally, only one and always the same person should go out for essential services. 

For more information, visit:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/advice-for-people-at-high-risk/

A support bubble is a bubble that combines a household where only one adult lives and another household where two or more adults live. In this way, people from both households can meet in closed spaces without the need to maintain social distance. Keep in mind that if you form a bubble, you can only socialize in closed spaces with those who are part of it. If you want to socialize with people who are not part of your bubble, you must do it outdoors and follow the rules of the tier that corresponds to your area of ​​residence.

It is a system by which the government has divided the country, establishing different rules of social distancing in each area based on the number of positive cases of COVID-19. Each tier, or level, is assigned an alert number: Tier 1 – medium risk; Tier 2 – high risk; Tier 3 – very high risk; Tier 4 – stay home and Tier 5 – national lockdown.

The NHS has started to apply the vaccine in certain areas of the country and the following groups meet the eligibility criteria: 

 

people who live in care homes and care home workers

people aged 75 and over

health and social care workers in England (includes cleaners in the health sector)

As the vaccine is offered to wider sectors of the population, GPs will contact those who are eligible. It is more important than ever that you register with a GP.

To register with a GP, you need to visit https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-gp and enter your postcode. You will be shown all the medical practices near your area of residency. 

Due to COVID-19, some practices are accepting applications online, which means that you will have to complete an online registration form. If this is not the case, you need to go to the practice and request a registration form. You also need to bring supporting documents such as any form of identification. Some practices also ask for a proof of your residency, which can be a utility bill or a bank statement. You can present it if you have it, but if you don’t, keep in mind that the NHS has stated that this is not a requirement to register with a GP. You can show them this website: 

https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-surgery/

If you don’t speak English, you can download a bilingual leaflet to take to the practice with you and show the staff here: https://www.clauk.org.uk/register-with-a-gp/

Bear in mind that you have the right to request an interpreter and you can register with a GP no matter what your immigration status is. 

The pandemic can increase anxiety around lockdown, going to work, your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your loved ones.

You might feel stress when coming into contact with lots of people, working longer hours or if you are having money concerns. If you are a key worker, the lack of PPE or wearing a facemask for long hours can also trigger anxiety or stress.

If you are worried about your wellbeing and mental health, you can contact us.

Domestic Abuse/Violence

If you are at risk of domestic violence, have a look at the following guidance to keep you and your family safe:

  • Always keep your phone with charge and with you.
  • Agree on a secret word with friends and family you trust so they can call the police in case you contact them.
  • Chat with your children on where to go if your partner becomes aggressive. Ask them not to intervene as it could be a danger for themselves.
  • Teach your children to dial 999 from a safe place. They need to know your full address in English.
  • If your neighbours are aware of your situation, let them know they need to call 999 if they hear any problems in your home.
  • If your partner becomes aggressive, avoid sharing the kitchen, garage or any other place with harmful objects that can be used as weapons.

If you need information or support, you can contact us on:

0808 145 4909
Monday to Friday 11 AM – 1 PM

If calling is not safe, you can send an email to referrals@lawrs.org.uk with your name, your number and a safe time to call you. 

You can also call the National Line for Assistance on Domestic Violence at 0808-2000-247. You can request an interpreter. The line works 24 hours a day. 

Remember regardless of lockdown announcements or tier restrictions, you are allowed to leave your house if you are suffering from domestic violence. 

Domestic abuse is an abusive, possessive and or repressive behaviour pattern that involves emotional, physical, or economic abuse. You can be a victim of domestic abuse if, for example:

  • You suffer constant criticism by your partner.
  • Your partner forbids you to work and/or controls your money.
  • Your partner threatens to hurt you or your family and destroy your possessions.
  • Your partner hides your identification or passport and threatens to have you deported.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or any form of violence, you have the right to seek help and support regardless of your immigration status.

If you have a friend or a relative going through a situation of domestic violence during the pandemic, you can support her in a safe way:

  • Do not confront the perpetrator/her partner. This could worsen the situation and put you at risk.
  • Offer your friend or relative to stay in touch with you frequently by text messages, phone calls, video calls or emails so you can check she is not at risk.
  • Agree on a keyword with her in case she is at risk and you need to call the police. You have to dial 999 and give her address.

If you need information or support, you can contact LAWRS.

You can also call the National Line for Assistance on Domestic Violence at 0808-2000-247. You can request an interpreter. The line works 24 hours a day. 

Housing

You will need to contact your landlord/landlady as soon as possible and inform them of this. It is important that you keep all records of your communication with your landlord or landlady, preferable in writing.

You can discuss alternative options with the owners, such as instalment or smaller payments. If your landlord or landlady is not flexible about this you can have a look at the Government Funding for Discretionary Housing Payments to help people with rent payments in the private and social rented sector, but you will need to contact your Local Council to see if you are eligible.

If you are experiencing issues with housing, you can contact us. 

Employment

Work from home if you can. If this is not possible, then you are allowed to leave your home and go to work whatever tier you are in. Employers are required to carry out a health and safety assessment to ensure that your workplace is safe. 

If you don’t feel your workplace is safe, there is a provision in the Employment Rights Act through which you can refuse to go to work. We recommend that you contact your union so they can support you with this. 

If you are experiencing issues at work, you can contact LAWRS. 

The National Insurance Number records your national contributions and taxes in your name. UK residents automatically receive the NINO when they turn 16, but those new to the UK must apply to get it. 

Anyone arriving in the UK and having permission to reside and work.

No. You can start working without having a National Insurance Number (NINO). If your employer requests it, you can remind them that it is not mandatory to start work. You can, for example, start working and process it later.

Call 0800 141 2075 or send a text message to 0800 141 2438 from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm.

Request a form and you will receive it at your address.

Complete the form and send it, along with the proof of identity that is detailed in the documentation you receive.

After applying, you will receive your social security number. This can take up to 8 weeks, but you don’t need to wait to receive it to start working. Due to COVID19, you will not need to conduct an interview. 

Due to the pandemic, it was not possible to apply for a NINO for a few months. The Department of Work and Pensions has recently restarted issuing them again. However, this might take a while and if your employer is asking that you do it before you start, you can let them know that this is not the case. 

Statutory Sick Pay or SSP is the sick pay normally paid in the UK when you cannot work due to sickness. In order to be eligible to receive SSP you must: 

  • have an employment contract
  • have done some work under your contract
  • have been sick for 4 or more days in a row (including non-working days) – known as a ‘period of incapacity for work’
  • earn an average of at least £120 per week from the same employer

You can also receive SSP if you need to self isolate and cannot work.

SSP is paid by your employer in the same way as your normal salary, for example, weekly or monthly. If you have more than one job, you may receive SSP from each employer. Payment can total: £95.85 for each week you are sick, up to a maximum of 28 weeks.

If you cannot work because you have to self-isolate due to the coronavirus, you can receive SSP for each day that you are in isolation. You have to isolate for a minimum of 4 days to be eligible, but your SSP will start from the first day you isolate.

Your employer can also opt to put you on furlough.

Businesses that have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak can place their employees on furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This means that employers can access Government support to continue paying part of their employees’ wages. It is up to the employer to apply for this scheme. If you have no work due to coronavirus, if you cannot work from home and cannot go to work, or if you are ill or self-isolating or shielding, you could request your employer to furlough you.

You can also be furloughed for some of the hours you work, and continue working normally for the rest. 

The scheme has been extended until April 2021 and the Government’s contribution is 80% of your wages, up to a maximum of £2500. Your employee will only need to cover contributions for your National Insurance Number and pension and, if they want to, they can top up the remaining 20% of your salary.

If you are self-employed or work in collaboration with other partners, you can apply for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme. The government is offering grants to self-employed workers affected by the coronavirus, to cover 80% of their business profits up to a maximum of £ 2,500 per month in instalments of 3 months. To apply for this grants you need to:

  • Be self-employed or work in collaboration with other partners.
  • Have submitted your income statement on income for the year 2019-20.
  • Have done business during the 2019-20 financial year.
  • You are doing business when you apply for the grant, or you would have been if it weren’t for COVID-19.
  • You intend to continue your business in the 2020-21 financial year.
  • You have lost business profits due to COVID-19.
  • Your business earnings must be worth less than £ 50,000 and represent more than half of your income as a freelancer. This is calculated in one of two ways: look at your earnings and income for the year 2018-19, or look at your earnings and income for the years 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19, and calculate an average.

If you don’t feel your workplace is safe, there is a provision in the Employment Rights Act through which you can refuse to go to work. We recommend that you contact your union so they can support you with this.

You can apply for Universal Credit if you are eligible. Universal credit is a payment to help you with your living costs. It’s paid monthly, and you may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work. 

Brexit

The UK has left the European Union. If you are an EU citizen or family member/ dependent of one and were living in the UK by the 31st of December 2020, you need to register as a European citizen through the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline to do this is 30th of June 2021. If you don’t apply before this date, you might lose your right to live and work in the UK and your immigration status.

Depending on your time of residency, you can qualify either for Pre-settled status or Settled Status.

Pre-settled status is the immigration status granted to European citizens and their non-European family members who have not yet lived in the UK for a continuous 5-year period at any point in the past.

Settled status is the immigration status granted to European citizens and their non-European family members who have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years.

If you have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) you do not need to apply, but you have the option to do so and obtain ILR under the European Citizens Registration system. In this way you can spend up to 5 years outside the UK without losing your residence.

You can apply online. For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status

The application is free of charge. 

Welfare

Universal Credit is a government’s payment to help with your living costs. It is usually paid monthly and to qualify for it, you must be unemployed, on a low income or you cannot work. You may have also heard about housing benefits and tax credits. These are benefits paid to people that made claims under the older system, but these benefits have now been replaced by Universal Credit.

A child tax credit is a tax credit for parents with dependent children given by the Government, but Child Tax Credit has been replaced by Universal Credit for most people. You can only make a new claim for Child Tax Credit if you:

  • Receive the severe disability premium, or are entitled to it.
  • Received or were entitled to the severe disability premium in the last month, and you are still eligible for it.
  • If your child is 16, you can claim up until 31st August after their 16th birthday. If they are in approved education or training, you can claim until their 20th birthday.

Working Tax Credit is a state benefit in the United Kingdom made to people who work and have a low income. It has been replaced by Universal Credit.

Is an allowance for people who have in their care minors from 16 to 20 years of age if they are studying a degree full time (Not if your child is studying a course at university or in ‘advanced education’).

Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit. You can only make a new claim if:

  • You are getting the severe disability premium*, or are entitled to it 
  • You got or were entitled to the severe disability premium within the last month and are still eligible for it.
  • You have reached State Pension age
  • You are in supported, sheltered or temporary housing (for example, temporary accommodation provided by the Local Council).

*This is extra amounts of money for a disability, added to other benefits.

Housing Benefit is still available for people who live in temporary accommodation provided by the local council. For this reason, some people that are making a new claim could be able to claim Universal Credit and HB if they are living in temporary accommodation. You can also contact your Local Council and find out if you qualify for Council Tax Support or Council Tax Reduction on your Council Tax Bill.