Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

As the situation with Coronavirus is rapidly evolving we have put together a piece on frequently asked questions (FAQs). 

The Government is briefing the general public on a daily basis, we expect advice to change most days so please check our website for additional updates as well as the https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus website

 

Q&A contents

  1. What is the current Government guidance?
  2. What are the Government doing in response to coronavirus?
  3. How are the NHS testing for coronavirus?
  4. Who is classed as a ‘vulnerable group’?
  5. Why are people over 70 classed as a ‘vulnerable group’?
  6. Who is classed on medical grounds as being extremely vulnerable?
  7. What is self-isolation, social distancing and shielding?
  8. What is shielding and what support is in place for people who have to shield?
  9. I have a health condition on the Government’s list of extremely vulnerable people and I have not heard from the NHS?
  10. What can older people and the people that care about them plan for?
  11. What should someone do if they live with an older person and think they have Coronavirus?
  12. Should an older person go to their GP or hospital?
  13. What is the risk to older people who are staying at home?
  14. How can people support older people?
  15. What is the NHS Volunteers scheme?
  16. Can I still ask my parents, relatives or friends who are over 70 to look after my children while I work?
  17. How can people ensure information and advice is correct and up to date?
  18. Should I visit relatives in residential care?
  19. What is the risk to people in care homes?
  20. How will the NHS cope with the additional strain of the coronavirus?
  21. What is the new procedure for hospital discharge?
  22. Will older people be refused care / lowest priority for healthcare?
  23. What is Age UK North Tyneside doing to support older people around the coronavirus?
  24. What should older people do if they have travel plans?
  25. Do people still have to pay their mortgage and rent?
  26. What is happening with loans and savings?

 

  1. What is the current Government guidance?

 

The Government have announced, as of 23/03/2020, that everyone should now be staying at home. 

You should only leave the house for the following four reasons: 

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

Everyone should now be complying with these measures and the police have the power to enforce them, including by issuing fines and dispersing gatherings. 

The Government will be reviewing these measures after three weeks and will relax them if evidence shows that it is possible to do so.

There is also separate advice for the most vulnerable people and for those who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus:

  • The Government have identified people who are ‘extremely vulnerable’ as a result of their health. These groups of people will receive a letter in the post and are being advised to shield, meaning that they avoid face-to-face contact and do not leave the house at all for at least 12 weeks. They should not go to the shops for supplies of leave the house to exercise
  • A person must stay at home if they have either a high temperature – where the person feels hot to touch on their chest or back AND/OR a new, continuous cough – where the person has started coughing repeatedly. They must do this for 7 days. This guidance applies to the whole population, regardless of increased risk.
  • Anyone who lives with the individual presenting symptoms must also stay at home and should do so for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms. If another member of the household develops symptoms they must stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day period.
  • Most individuals should only use the online 111 service or call 111 if symptoms are unmanageable, worsen or do not get better after 7 days, at which point appropriate testing and treatment can be organised. Do not go to your GP surgery or hospital. For a medical emergency dial 999. The exception is those who are classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’, who should use the online 111 service or call 111 if they develop any symptoms.

It remains extremely important for everyone to practice good personal hygiene, particularly by washing hands frequently, with hot water and soap, and for at least 20 seconds (or two rounds of ‘Happy Birthday’) and ‘to catch it, bin it, kill it’ when coughing or sneezing.

 

  1. What are the Government doing to address coronavirus?

 

The Government have passed emergency legislation to help them deal with the outbreak of coronavirus. . These proposals will be reviewed every six months and allow action in five key areas:

increasing the available health and social care workforce – by allowing recently retired NHS staff and social workers to come back to work tackling this outbreak

  1. easing the burden on frontline staff – by reducing the number of admin tasks they have to perform, enabling Councils to prioritise care for people with the most pressing needs, allowing key workers to perform more tasks remotely and with less paperwork, and taking the power to suspend individual port operations if key staff are needed elsewhere
  2. containing and slowing the virus – by closing restaurants, cafes, shops, and leisure spaces and introducing new measures for everyone to stay at home. The Government is also stopping social gatherings, including weddings, baptisms, and other religious ceremonies. This ban does not apply to funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
  3. managing the deceased with respect and dignity – by enabling the death management system to deal with increased demand for its services
  4. supporting people – by allowing them to claim Statutory Sick Pay from day one, and by helping the food industry to maintain supplies.
  1. How are the NHS testing for coronavirus?

 

The Government are ramping up testing of coronavirus. As well as testing to see if somebody currently has the virus, they have purchased 3.5 million antibody testing kits (25/03/2020), which will test to see if people have had coronavirus and whether they are now immune to it. Public Health England have announced that testing kits will be available online to the public within days and that tests will also be carried out in Boots pharmacies.

  1. Who is classed as a vulnerable group?

 

As of 16/03/2020 the government has advised that certain groups are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus.  These groups include:

  • People who are aged 70 or older regardless of medical conditions
  • People with complex health problems. These health conditions include:
    • People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
    • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
    • People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma

(requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)

  • People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)
  • People who are under the age of 70 who have underlying health conditions which means they are instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year. These health conditions include:
    • Chronic, long-term respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • Chronic heart disease, such a heart failure
    • Chronic kidney disease o Chronic liver disease such as hepatitis
    • Chronic neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone

Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy

  • Diabetes
  • Problems with your spleen – for example sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
    • A weakened immune system as a result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS or medicines such as steroid tablets, or chemotherapy
    • Being seriously overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
  • Women who are pregnant

However, everyone should now be staying at home. This is because even if you are not vulnerable yourself you may pass it onto someone who is. 

  1. Why are people over 70 classed as a ‘vulnerable group’?

It is well-documented that our immune system weakens as we age and becomes more vulnerable to infections of all types. This decline in the strength of the immune response becomes noticeable in many people by age 50, but drops off dramatically around age 70.

On top of the changes in the immune system, we also tend to get more long-term health conditions as we age, such as cardio-vascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People with these types of diseases (plus others) seem to be more susceptible to extreme cases of COVID-19, so it’s a ‘double whammy’ for older people who are living with these conditions. For example, significant reductions in immunity with age, plus a lifetime of accumulated exposure to air pollution, smoking, etc., increase the risk of lung infections

Emerging evidence from cases of COVID-19 and further modelling of COVID-19 infections resulting in hospitalisation and requiring critical care shows that these rates of cases rise steeply from around the age of 50 and are especially high from the age of 70.

  1. Who is classed on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable?

The following people are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus and have been advised to shield themselves from all forms of face-to-face contact and not leave the house at all for at least 12 weeks:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers:
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • People with cancers of the blood of bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • People having immune therapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and sever COPD
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient enough to significantly increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

These people will all receive communication from NHS England with more information on what this means. Appropriate support is being put in place to ensure that people shielding have access to groceries and medication.

  1. What is self-isolation, social distancing and shielding?

Everyone is now being told to stay inside their homes, except for buying essentials; one exercise session per day; for medical need; or to go to work (if it is not possible to work from home).

However, some people are being advised that they should not leave the house at all.

People who are extremely vulnerable on medical grounds have been told they should be shielding. This means avoiding all face-to- face contact, remaining in your home and only allowing essential visitors, such as NHS or care workers. If you need to have something delivered or if family and friends are bringing shopping or other essentials, then they should drop them to the doorstep. People who are classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ are being advised to shield.

People who are showing symptoms of coronavirus are also being told to ‘self-isolate’. Self-isolation is where someone who is showing symptoms of the virus should stay in doors for 7 days and others in the household will also have to self-isolate for 14 days.

  1. What is shielding and what support is in place for people having to shield?

The government has produced guidance for those who are extremely vulnerable and the people they live with. They are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks, this is known as shielding. The NHS will be contacting everyone who falls into that category to give specific advice by the 29th March

Once people have received their letter, they should tell their friends and family so that they can help them to understand it and follow the guidance. Where possible they should also ask friends, family, and neighbours for support with groceries, supplies and prescriptions.

Everyone who receives a letter should register with the government’s helpline either online or over the phone. This will enable them to access support, such as food or groceries. Even if they have friends or family who can do this for them, it is important that they still register.

GPs and hospitals are being informed which of their patients have been contacted and are being asked to review ongoing care arrangements for these patients. Access to medical assistance where possible should be conducted remotely. For scheduled appointments people should talk to their GP or specialist to determine the best way to receive the care they need.

The only people who should be visiting extremely vulnerable people are healthcare workers and essential carers, whether this is from an organisation or from friends and family members. They should only be providing essential care, which includes things like help with washing, dressing, or feeding. People should talk to their carers about their care needs and agree a plan for continuing their care that includes contingency plans if their main carer is unwell.

People who are shielding should also minimise non-essential contact with other members of their household:

  • Minimise time in shared spaces for all who live in the house
  • Where possible extremely vulnerable people should keep 2 metres or 3 steps away from people, including sleeping in separate beds and using different bathrooms.
  • Keeping shared spaces like bathrooms and kitchens clean and practising good hygiene, such as washing spaces down after use, using different towels and making sure that crockery and cutlery are thoroughly cleaned including using different tea towels if hand drying items.

 

  1. I have a health condition on the Government’s list of extremely vulnerable people, but I haven’t heard from the NHS yet?

If you do not receive a letter from the NHS or communication from your GP by Sunday 29th March 2020 you should contact your GP or hospital clinician to discuss your concerns.

 

  1. What can older people and the people that care about them plan for?

We understand that asking people to social distance and shield is likely to be daunting and that older people, their carers, family, friends and workplaces will want to prepare. We recommend having honest conversations about what support an older person and their carer may need over the coming months, during an extended period of isolation. We recommend thinking about practical errands that people may not be able to run such as how to collect prescriptions, how to keep a reasonable provision of food in the house and other essential supplies.

It is also important for everyone to consider their mental health and wellbeing. We suggest:

  • Trying to keep in touch with friends and family over the phone, internet, or even by post.
  • Checking if there are things you would need to finish off those unfinished projects, be that wool or wood, and consider how you could pass the time. This includes anything from reading, doing jigsaws or puzzles, or watching films. Although all non-essential retail stores are now closed, many shops are still offering an online delivery service.
  • Thinking about different ways that you can keep moving inside or in the garden.
  • Making a note of organisations such as Age UK North Tyneside or other local charities that will be there to provide information and support over the next few months
  • Keeping an eye on reputable sources of information and advice

If you are a carer or an older person in receipt of formal care services, it is important to speak to your care provider about the care you receive The Government has issued advice to support home care providers to think about how they maintain delivery of care through safe working procedures.

They have also issued guidance for carers of people who are extremely vulnerable and shielding (23/03/2020). Carers should only be providing essential care, which includes support with washing, dressing, or feeding.

Carers UK and Carers Trust recommend thinking about developing a contingency plan looking at how a carer would make cover arrangements with trusted neighbours, friends or family members if they have to forego their care duties. Helpful information can be found on their website – https://www.carersuk.org/helpandadvice/health/lookingafteryourhealth/coronaviruscovid19

  1. What should someone do if they live with an older or vulnerable person and think they have Coronavirus?

If you or someone you live with has been identified as extremely vulnerable and develops a new continuous cough or a high temperature, then you should contact NHS 111 immediately.

If you live with someone who is at higher risk from coronavirus (but not identified as extremely vulnerable) you should try to stay away from them as much as possible:

  • Avoiding spending time together in shared spaces such as kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms, and make sure that any shared spaces are well ventilated.
  • Always try to keep 2 metres (or 3 steps) away from any vulnerable people and try not to share a bed with them
  • Where possible, use a separate bathroom to the older person. Ensure that they have separate towels from other people in the house, both for drying themselves after showering or bathing and to dry their hands with. If you cannot use a separate bathroom, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned before older or more vulnerable people use it. This includes cleaning any surfaces.
  • If you are sharing a kitchen with a vulnerable person, try not to use it while they are present. If possible, vulnerable people should take their meals back to their rooms to eat. If you have a dishwasher you should use it to clean crockery and cutlery each time it is used. If you do not have a dishwasher, you should wash them using warm water and washing-up liquid and dry them thoroughly. If vulnerable people are using their own cutlery or crockery, use a separate towel to dry them.
  • Ensure that everyone in the household regularly washes their hands, avoids touching their face, and that frequently touched surfaces are cleaned regularly.

 

  1. Should an older person still go to the GP or hospital?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus or live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus you should not go to your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.  If there is a medical emergency, you should still dial 999 and remember to let the telephone operative know that you or someone in the household may have COVID-19 if this is the case.

The NHS are trying to reduce the number of people visiting hospitals. This is to stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect the NHS.

Cancer treatment and clinically urgent care will still be treated as a priority, but your treatment plan might be reviewed.  Your clinical team will talk to you and answer questions you may have about any changes to your treatment or appointments. This is a worrying time for everyone. For support, take a look at Macmillan’s guidance on coronavirus for cancer patients.

There’s going to be some changes to outpatient appointments. Some people will be asked to have their appointment over the phone or by online video consultation. Other patients will find their appointment has been rearranged or cancelled for now.

Patients who need to have their appointments face-to-face will be asked not to bring a friend or relative with them, unless completely necessary.

Most hospitals will contact patients with changes to their appointments, but if you haven’t heard you could look at the hospital’s website for guidance.

All non-emergency operations are being suspended for at least three months. This is to help keep patients safe and to make sure the NHS have the resources they need to tackle coronavirus.

This will include hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, as well as minor surgery.  We know lot of people will have already been waiting a long time for their treatment and this news might be frustrating for some, but keeping the coronavirus under control must be the top priority at this time.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, or a member of your household does, you must not go to your hospital appointment. Instead, you should contact your doctor to organise receiving treatment in an alternative way.

If you have health conditions which make you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and have been advised to shield, then you should contact your GP or specialist for advice on how to continue receiving your care and treatment.

  1. What are the risks to older people who are staying at home?

It is important that everyone follows the advice of healthcare professionals and the Government during the next few months.

We know that staying at home for longer periods than normal can have a negative impact on people’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Not only are there reduced opportunities for social interactions but people will find it harder to be active.

We are therefore encouraging people to try to keep a bit of a routine and think about ways they can keep moving, eat well, and keep connecting with friends, family, and neighbour. Although they can’t meet with people face-to-face they can stay in touch over the phone or online. Where possible older people should explore creative ways to stay active in their own homes. This will be different for everyone but could involve gardening, online exercise videos, or regular movement around the house.

Contact our Customer Services team on 0191-2808484 to ask about our telephone befriending service and explore what else is going on in the community to support you while you stay at home.

  1. How can people support older people?

 

The Government have announced, as of 23/03/2020, that everyone should now be staying at home.

People should only leave the house for the following four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

We all have a role to play in supporting those who need to self-isolate and we know that many people are thinking about how they can support their older relatives and neighbours.

Although people won’t be able to visit older people in their home, it is important that they stay in touch regularly by phone, online, or even post.  We would suggest talking to your family, friends and relatives about how you can help them with picking up prescriptions, food and other essentials.  Particularly as not all older people will have access to the internet so you could also offer to do an online shop for them. Bear in mind current government rules and make sure you are only making necessary trips.

It’s also important to think about supporting older people’s wellbeing.  You could recommend YouTube tutorials for exercise, use Skype or Zoom to share time doing things or catch up with a cuppa for example.

 

  1. What is the NHS Volunteers scheme?

NHS Volunteer Responders is a scheme that has been launched by NHS England They are  looking for 250,000 volunteers to help the 1.5 million people who have been identified as extremely vulnerable and are being asked to shield themselves. Members of the public can sign up and will get matched with tasks through an app once they have had their ID checked, even people who are shielding or self-isolating are able to support as there are roles to support people through telephone calls.

NHS Volunteer Responders do not intend to replace already existing voluntary and community schemes and people should still sign up to or continue to support local schemes where they can.

If people are volunteering for NHS Volunteers Scheme then this counts as providing support to a vulnerable person and so is allowed under new government measures.

  1. Can I still ask my parents, relatives or friends who are over 70 to look after my children while I work?

 

The Government has advised everyone stay at home and avoid non-essential social contact and only go outside to provide essential care, to pick up food and medicine, for one form of exercise a day, and essential travel to work.

Children must also abide by these rules and so should not go to another relative’s house to be cared for, except where parents have separated and have joint custody.

If your job falls under the Government’s key worker list, your child may be able to attend nursey or school in order for you to continue to work.

If you live with relatives aged over 70 it is important to remember that they are at an increased risk from Coronavirus and should be practicing social distancing.

  1. How can people ensure information and advice is correct and up to date?

Unfortunately, not all the information on the coronavirus is accurate and there is a lot of misinformation being spread on the internet and through word of mouth. Things can change quickly leaving people feeling confused about what advice to follow and what the situation is.

We know most people will want to stay updated through news programmes and sites but for reliable and official advice, the best thing to do is to regularly check the Government website https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronaviruscovid19informationforthepublic, and the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronaviruscovid19/.

The BBC has recently held an online FAQ session and answered questions from members of the public https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-51176409

As the situation is frequently evolving the Government are now hosting daily press conferences.

If people share information with someone, we advise asking them where they found the information so that you can check the source and deciding for yourself how accurate the information is.

  1. Should I visit relatives in residential care?

 

In line with current Government guidance only health and social care workers, and those providing services to people in Care Homes are permitted to visit care homes. Unfortunately that does mean that relatives and friends are unable to visit people in care homes at this time.

We know that older residents may feel lonely, bored, and scared. If you have a friend, relative or neighbour in a care home think about ways you can provide companionship and reassurance, even if you can’t visit them.  A regular phone call, Skype or FaceTime could make someone’s day, or perhaps a personal email or letter could help someone to feel less alone.

  1. What is the risk to people in care homes?

 

There are around 400,000 older people living in care homes in England and we know there is a high risk that if care home residents contracted coronavirus, they would experience severe illness from the disease. This is because many people living in care homes also live with complex health problems and long-term health conditions.

Care home staff are well trained in hygiene measures to help reduce the spread of infection and Government contingency planning should ensure that all health and care providers are issued with Personal Protection Equipment to minimise risk of infection.

  1. How will the NHS cope with the additional strain of the coronavirus?

 

We are currently in the delay stage of the Government’s response (17/03/2020), which is aiming to push back the coronavirus peak until the summer, when demands on the NHS will be lower. However, we know the NHS is already stretched and there are significant concerns that there may not be enough staff to meet extra demand from coronavirus, particularly if staff become ill themselves or must look after infected family members. Over recent decades, there has also been a significant reduction in hospital bed numbers, including intensive care beds, particularly in comparison to other countries.

The Government and NHS England are doing all they can to ensure that there are enough staff, resources, and beds to deal with coronavirus. This includes:

  • Increasing workforce capacity by mobilising final year nursing and medical students and asking retired doctors and nurses to return.
  • Establishing a deal with the private sector to bring in thousands of additional beds, ventilators, and staff to the NHS
  • Enlisting manufacturing companies to produce additional ventilators
  • Opening a field hospital at London’s Excel Centre, which will be able to accommodate up to 4,000 patients
  • Halting junior doctor’s rotations to avoid unnecessary disruption

NHS resources are additionally being prioritised in order to support those with the greatest need

  • Non-urgent operations are being cancelled and patients will be discharged from hospital wherever possible to free up beds.
  • While efforts are being made to prioritise cancer treatment and urgent care, some patients may have their treatment plans reviewed.

The Government have launched an NHS volunteer scheme and are seeking 250,000 volunteers, who are in good health, to help the public with shopping, delivery of medicines and transport for the vulnerable.

  1. What is the new procedure for hospital discharge?

The Government issued guidance on 19 March about the hospital discharge process. They have allocated funding to enable hospitals and community health and social care staff to help patients leave hospital safely and quickly when they no longer need hospital treatment.

Staff will discuss this new policy with patients and their families on admission, so they are aware of how their discharge will be managed when it’s time for them to leave.

The new funding covers follow-on care costs for those needing additional support on leaving hospital, which may be needed either at home, in a community setting, or a care home. Local NHS commissioners, providers and their associated councils across England will be working closely together to target resources and adapt to circumstances in their own area.

  1. Will older people be refused care / lowest priority for healthcare?

As pressures on the NHS increase, resources are being reallocated to deal with the spread of coronavirus.

NHS England have announced that non-urgent surgery, which will include operations for hip or knee replacements or cataract surgery, will be cancelled from 15 April 2020 for three months. There are currently 4.5 million people, including older people, waiting for surgery who will be impacted by this. GPs are also being advised to reduce routine appointments (such as checks for blood pressure, heart disease and lung disease), medicine reviews, and annual health checks for over 75s. Wherever possible patients will be discharged from hospital to free up bed space and over £1 billion has been allocated to speed up the hospital discharge process.

Going forward difficult decisions may need to be made about where resources are prioritised. While cancer care and urgent treatment will be prioritised as much as possible, some people may have their treatment plan reviewed. The National Institute of Clinical Excellence have developed guidelines to help clinicians make decisions about how resources should be used.

  1. What is Age UK North Tyneside doing to support older people around the coronavirus?

Age UK’s across the country are working to ensure that older people have the support they need to manage during this difficult time. This includes going shopping for older people; picking-up prescriptions; dropping off meals; and providing befriending calls. We are continuing to provide care and support both in the community and within our Extra Care Housing Schemes, our Advice and Information and specialist dementia support service is still available via telephone and email with our Admiral Nurses delivering support to those that need it most in the community.

We also are offering a telephone befriending service to anyone that would like a friendly chat with a number of volunteers already checked, trained and ready to call.

Please contact our Customer Service team on 0191-2808484 to find out more about what Age UK North Tyneside can do to offer support or to volunteer to get involved.

 

  1. What should older people do if they have travel plans?

 

The Government are now advising that everyone should stay in their home and not be travelling.

They have also advised (23/03/2020) that all Britons who are currently abroad should return to the UK, if commercial flights are available. For the latest travel advice visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/traveladvicenovelcoronavirus

  1. Do people still have to pay their mortgage and rent?

Mortgages

The Financial Conduct Authority have produced new guidance for people who are struggling to pay their mortgage, which can be seen here- https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/mortgagescoronavirusconsumers

If people cannot pay their mortgage, they must contact their lender to discuss the options available to them as soon as possible.   

Lenders have been asked by the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure that they treat customers fairly and consider the needs of those impacted by the corona virus

FCA guidance requires firms to give a mortgage holiday to a borrower of up to three months if:

  • the borrower believes they may encounter problems repaying their mortgage and they ask for a mortgage holiday
  • a borrower contacts them and it becomes apparent that the borrower may encounter difficulties repaying their mortgage and the borrower agrees

A mortgage holiday means that the mortgage does not have to be repaid for a period of time. However, the borrower would still have to repay the amount that is missed and interest will continue to accrue. This means that it will take longer and cost more to pay off the mortgage. They will also contact the borrower at the end of any mortgage holiday to discuss the best course of action going forward, and how the deferred payments can be made up. 

Borrowers should ensure that they fully understand the implications of any action agreed with their lender, including how long the mortgage repayment period will be extended for. The FCA guidance requires lenders to ensure that ‘there should be no negative impact on the customer’s credit score.’

The FCA guidance also allows lenders to use other measures if they are more appropriate. This could include things like reducing or waiving interest.

If a borrower is unable to pay their mortgage due to something unconnected with the virus, they should – if they have not already done so – tell their lender as soon as possible. While they will not be eligible for help under the COVID-19 provisions, your lender will ‘make every effort’ to help you

Lenders have agreed a 90-day moratorium (from 19 March) suspending repossession action, and not commencing any court action. They will, however, continue to issue formal demands, but will not take any further action until after the 90-day moratorium has expired.

The moratorium does not apply to empty properties or where the borrower wants the possession to go ahead. If the possession concerns a buy-to-let mortgage, a Receiver of Rent will be appointed by the lender where appropriate, but the lender will not move to possession if the tenant is unable to pay the Receiver. 

Renting

If tenants can’t pay their rent because of coronavirus they should tell their landlord or managing agent as soon as possible. Help is available to landlords to help them to pay their mortgage, and this help should be passed onto the tenant.

Landlords will be expected to self-certify that their tenant’s income has been affected by the virus, and they are expected to pass the help they receive from their lender to their tenant. Any payments that are deferred will attract interest and will have to be made up later.

  1. What is happening with loans and savings?

Loans

Several lenders have announced that they are allowing loan and credit card payments to be deferred or fees for missed payments to be waived. Borrowers who believe they may have difficulty repaying a loan should contact their lender as soon as possible.

Several banks have also said they are willing to consider credit card limit and overdraft increases for people impacted by the virus.

This is something that specific firms have announced – further information can be found at https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/findsupportyourbankorfinanceprovider

Savings

Many people have savings accounts that cannot be closed, or which don’t allow money to be withdrawn for a specific period of time. Some savings providers have announced that they will allow people with such accounts to close them or take money out early without any incurring any charges.

This is something that specific firms have announced – further information can be found at https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/findsupportyourbankorfinanceprovider

Our colleagues within Age UK North Tyneside’s Information and Advice team are available to provide additional advice and support

Telephone : 0191 2808484

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If you’re thinking about accessing support for yourself or a loved one, we’re here to help whether you’d like more information, need some advice or want to discuss the support available.

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