Finance, housing and unemployment worries during the Coronavirus outbreak

Page last reviewed: 7 April 2020

These are unprecedented times. Many of us are facing daily challenges relating to the Coronavirus epidemic – both in terms of health but also in terms of finance, job security, housing and caring responsibilities.

Our sense of time is out of shape – events in the news seem to move so fast – and everyday sees another problem or a possible solution. At the same time the days at home, or the nights can seem to drag.

Whatever is happening to you, or to us, there is an impact on our mental health. For now, the best thing to do is to focus on the here and now, this minute.

We are in the first phase of an emergency – lots of people are coming to terms with a rapidly changing situation. It may seem today that the problem you are facing with your bills, your landlord, your childcare or your job is unsolvable.

Everyday there are new solutions – from government, from our communities, and from the businesses in our lives. Sometimes we must find a way to take a breath, look at the issue from a different angle, and reach out. There isn’t always an answer today - but the only way is through.

Stay away from continuous news and stay connected to the people that matter - read more of our tips for looking after your mental health during the epidemic.

It is OK to feel afraid, scared or desperate. This isn’t your fault.

If you need someone to talk to, reach out to Samaritans on 116 123, to CALM on 0800 585858.

For a range of advice, you can contact Citizens Advice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Adviceline is a national phone service operated by Citizens Advice. You can contact an Adviceline adviser on 03444 111 444 (Text relay: 03444 111 445)

Financial worries

Use time you are at home to work through your finances 

Using a budget tool to redo your household budget for being at home could be useful. Remember that you may be saving money by not spending on things like transport and socialising. Factor that in when looking at your budget. 

Find out what help you might be entitled to

The government is offering a range of measures to support people financially. There is a complete list here: under the heading “Employment and financial support”, this includes support for individuals, employers and people who are self-employed.

Reach out for help and advice from services like The Money Advice Service (England and Wales), Stepchange or National Debtline – but remember that services may be busy as organisations of all sorts try to manage staff availability.

Remember debt and money advice varies across the UK so make sure you find the appropriate service for your nation. 

For Scotland try Money Advice Scotland and in Northern Ireland Advice NI

Speak to your bank if you are worried about paying your mortgage as many are arranging mortgage breaks.

Keep connected and look after yourself

Don't keep it in – talk to family or friends if you can.

Look after your sleep, your diet, and other basics – try to avoid drinking excessively and if you are a smoker try to give up or cut down – it may help both financially and in terms of making COVID-19 less serious if you develop the illness.

Look at what is available in your community

Sadly, many food banks have had to close but rapidly services like this will generally find ways of providing services around the restrictions.

If you have children, and they are entitled to free school meals, take them – your school will be in touch about how to access this service.

Check any insurance policies you have

Life cover, critical illness cover, mortgage insurance and even home insurance sometimes offers legal advice or cover that could help.

If you have a mortgage or other major commitment, try and speak to your lenders soon, they may help.

Think about groups you might be a member of

Do you have a trade union or does your sector have a benevolent charity for example – things like Hospitality Action and The Charity for Civil Servants, or the Lighthouse Club for construction.

Beware of scams

Use a reputable source such as the gov.uk website or organisations linked above. Never respond to unsolicited messages (texts, calls or emails) that ask for your personal or financial information.

Unemployment or furlough

It can be very hard to lose access to your work – whether you are let go, furloughed (sent home temporarily) or your work drops if you are self-employed.

For more information about your rights at work visit Acas.

If you aren’t at work try and keep in touch with colleagues – demand will increase again, and you will have a future. If you are isolated and live at home keeping those connections can be so important.

If you are used to a very physical job, try and keep up the exercise – because a sudden change can hit your moods quickly.

If you run a business, or employ staff, try to hold off making decisions about jobs and pay until schemes being developed to support staff are up and running.

If you are self-employed, try and reach out to your normal networks – or see if there's an opportunity locally to connect with others through business forums. It’s an uncertain time but your skills will be needed again soon.

As we adjust to a period of living and working differently employers will be looking for staff – think about how your skills transfer – and if you want to help and are able, consider doing something else for a while.

Housing

In these uncertain times, when we are asked to stay in our own homes, poor housing or difficulties paying for mortgages or rent can be doubly hard.

If you have a mortgage and your income is reduced, speaker to your lender about a payment holiday.

If you are a tenant in a similar situation, find out your rights by visiting Shelter or Citizens Advice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or Scotland and then approach your landlord or agent. It is likely that support for tenants will come on stream in the next few weeks.

Remember, these are times that we have not seen before in peacetime. A lot of us will be affected in lots of ways. But keeping calm, checking your options, seeking advice and working through your possibilities will help you come up with a plan. There are helplines available and people willing to support you. We will get through this together.

The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the Coronavirus outbreak.

We need your support to keep providing vital information during this time.

Please consider making a donation today