Homeworking agency Designer Travel is offering advice given to her own business to all self-employed agents during the coronavirus crisis.

Founder and managing director Amanda Matthews has produced a fact sheet of advice for her own 90 homeworkers to help them support customers and keep their businesses afloat over the coming months.

But she decided to make it more widely available to the rest of the industry, offering to share her advice sheet with anyone on Facebook. Here it is in full below:

What benefits might be available to you as a self-employed associate?

We wanted to try and help by looking into what support you may be able to claim from the government, local councils, banks (or building societies) or utility suppliers in, what is after all, an unprecedented situation, which is likely to continue for a number of weeks rather than days.

It’s really important that we all remember that we are all UK tax payers and we pay taxes at regular intervals so that the government can support us at times like this. 

Universal Credits (UC)

This form of credit is designed to support those who are on a low income or are unemployed (there are other people who can claim but in essence I think this would be the main category that applies to most associates).

In order to apply for universal credit go here 

Universal credits allow you to earn an amount (however small) and there are calculators you can run through in order to understand if you entitled to claim credits. I used this site in order to do some research but there are a number of calculator options (they do ask for a lot of personal information – just so you are prepared in advance). 

Mortgage holidays/rent reductions

As the financial markets tumble banks and building societies will also be very concerned about their long-term futures and strategy. They will want to keep customers on-side and support people through the next few months. Consider talking to your mortgage supplier about a mortgage holiday for a three month period to get you through this disruption to normal life.

If you rent your home consider speaking to the council or landlord to agree a payment reduction or holiday. You will not be the only one effected so don’t be shy about asking for help.

Statutory sick pay

If you are eligible for Universal Credits and you are ill as a result of coronavirus you should be entitled to claim SSP from day one of your illness. More information about how to claim can be found here.

Employment and support allowance

If you do contract coronavirus or need to self-isolate you should be able to claim Employment & Support Allowance from day one of the illness. The benefit is worth £73.10 per week (if you are over 25).

Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)

Self-employed job seekers allowance is designed to give support if you are on a low income or out of work. There are different types of JSA. 

My research indicates you would look at an income-based JSA. This is means tested and is an important benefit for self-employed people on low incomes. Eligibility depends on a number of factors including age, immigration and education status and most importantly how many hours you are currently working. This benefit requires your partner to be working for less than 24 hours a week on average.

Council Tax reductions

Council tax reductions (also known as Council Tax Support) allows people on low incomes to pay a reduced bill, making it a key benefit for the self-employed. In certain situations you may even be able to stop paying council tax.

You need to check how your local council manages this benefit on gov.uk, using the postcode checker. You can apply for this benefit whether you own your own home, rent, are unemployed or working but eligibility will depend on your circumstances, household income, and whether anyone lives at home with you. 

HMRC – Tax payments

There is a HMRC Time to Pay coronavirus helpline that should be able to assist with any tax payment queries you may have  the number is 0800 0159 9559 or visit gov.uk and search for “if you cannot pay your tax on time”.

Child Benefit

You can claim child benefit for one or more children up to the age of 16 (in some cases up to 20 depending on educational status).

This has benefits for the self-employed but, if your partner earns £50K + you may have to pay a tax charge.

TIP: Even if you don’t want to claim, filling out the form will help you get National Insurance credits which count towards your state pension. Take a look here.

Loan consolidation

If you have more than one loan or have monies due on credit card accounts you may be able to consolidate your “loans”. There are various charities that may be able to help with this including a company called Credit Fix.

Other charities can and will help and can be researched online.

Utility suppliers

You have an opportunity to ring suppliers of utilities including gas, electric, phones and internet and television services and ask for some sort of rate reduction. The next few months will be about cash flow for all businesses and some will be prepared to take a reduction in their costs to keep the cash flowing. 

Please noteThis list is not exhaustive and if anyone has any other ideas that can be shared with colleagues these would be greatly appreciate and can be shared with all on Facebook.