Home > Coronavirus > Coronavirus general advice

Coronavirus general advice

A variety of advice has been published ranging from cash handling advice for volunteers to paying your utility bills.

Cash Handling Advice for Individuals and Volunteers

COVID-19 Cash Handling for Individuals

If you are self-isolating because the Coronavirus, you may be worried about getting your essential supplies and medication. Giving your money to someone to do this for you may be an option, but if you don’t know them, there are some ways in which you can make yourself safer:

  • Try online deliveries. Many of the larger supermarket chains have delivery services. If you are struggling to get a slot, try a smaller local shop. Many small independent shops are offering help and support within their local communities.
  • Click and collect is also a service offered by the larger supermarkets. This is where you place and pay for your order online and someone can pick it up for you and drop it to your home.
  • Pharmacies are currently only able to deliver medication to people on the ‘Coronavirus Shielded Patients List’ (i.e. those who are ‘extremely vulnerable’). Ask your local pharmacist or your GP about this service.
  • If any of these don’t work, you may need to ask for help. Ask someone you trust in the first instance - family, friends or neighbours. Avoid giving cash to someone you don’t know if you can, and it is not recommended that you give out your bank card. A bank transfer is recommended as the best option as there will then be a record.
  • If you don’t know the person, ask to keep some ID or take photograph of them before they leave with your money. Someone genuine won’t mind this being done as you are only protecting yourself.
  • Ask where the volunteer has come from - if it is a neighbour, where do they live, and have you seen them before? If the person is from an organisation, ask for details so that you can check them out.
  • Only ask for the essential supplies that you need to ensure you are not giving out any more than you have to.
  • Always maintain social distancing, don’t invite anyone into your home and wash your hands before touching anything.

COVID-19 Cash Handling for Volunteers

If you are a group that is supporting people in the community by getting shopping for vulnerable or isolated people, then you should be following best practice for volunteers handling any cash.

In normal circumstances you would need to do a DBS check for volunteers, as this is regulated activity. A DBS from another organisation or role is acceptable. However, if you choose not to do a DBS check then you can safeguard individuals by taking the following simple precautions:

  • Firstly, determine if cash is needed to be handled at all. The individual may be able to pay for items by telephone and some shops may be able to draw up a bill for them to pay at a later date or online.
  • All volunteers should be fully aware of safety and avenues of support. - It is a good idea for your organisation to issue photo ID for each volunteer to present to the beneficiary. If this can’t be done, you may issue a letter stating their role, that they can carry with them.
  • Let the beneficiary know when the volunteer will be arriving, their name and some details to enable easy identification.
  • If the volunteer needs to take cash to pay for goods, instruct them to leave their photo ID with the beneficiary until they return.
  • The volunteer should always get a receipt which should be provided to the beneficiary and a photo of it sent to the co-ordinator.
  • Call the beneficiary afterwards to make sure that everything went smoothly. Always keep good records of all visits.

Paying for groceries – Alternatives to cash

Supermarket ‘Volunteer Shopping Cards’

As of the 20th April 20, volunteer shopping cards are available from the following supermarkets. Further information is available on each website.

Supermarket Gift Cards

Some supermarkets sell their own gift cards that you can use in their supermarket. Issue: You have to buy them in store.

You can buy gift cards for places like Sainsburys / Morrisons / M&S / Tesco on other websites but they charge for postage. 

Payment over the phone at checkout

This option will allow the volunteer to go to a local store, collect the items, and then payment details for the shopping can be taken over the phone by the shop assistant.

Check with your local store to see if this is an option. Most Spar stores have confirmed this payment option. Please note, major supermarkets are not able to support this process.

Call and collect

There may be an option for residents to call a local trusted shop and place an order for shopping, then make the payment over the phone. Then when ready, the volunteer can go and collect the shopping and deliver it to them. Please note major supermarkets are unable to support this process.

Local Arrangements

Co-op

Across Tamworth, Lichfield, Stafford, Cannock and East Staffordshire, the Co-op supermarkets have specific arrangements with the local voluntary sector organisations in order to support vulnerable people in need of food.

Local arrangements in place with the Co-op supermarkets are being focused on those people referred from the County Council’s COVID-19 Contact Centre as well as others, thereby enabling those vulnerable people who self-isolating, to make food orders and payment both online and via the telephone.

Access to supermarkets for vulnerable shoppers

The supermarkets have now received a list of registered NHS vulnerable individuals and in some cases will be contacting them direct by email, where an email address has been registered.

Sainsburys – will be contacting all NHS vulnerable individuals by email, but they encourage over 70’s to register for priority deliveries by calling 0800 953 4988.

Tesco – have identified over 70’s using data from their Clubcard holders and will be emailing them with priority slot details. Over 70’s can also call them on 0800 917 7359 for a priority slot.

Morrisons – the ‘Morrisons Doorstep Delivery Service’ is available to vulnerable and elderly members of the community who are unable to go shopping in-store.

Dedicated hours for vulnerable shoppers

  • Aldi - Can enter stores 30 minutes before opening time from Monday – Saturday
  • Asda - No dedicated hours
  • Co-op - ‘Prioritised’ Monday – Saturday 8am to 9am, Sunday 10am to 11am
  • Iceland - First hour of trading Monday – Saturday
  • Lidl - No dedicated hours
  • M&S - First hour of trading on Mondays and Thursdays
  • Morrisons - No dedicated hours
  • Sainsburys - Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8-9am
  • Tesco - Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9-10am
  • Waitrose - First hour of opening

Accessing money from banks

Barclays

Barclays has “identified customers that are especially vulnerable at this time and is working on initiatives to support these people”. The bank said it is paying special attention to NHS workers, financially vulnerable customers and the over-60s. It is contacting customers it identifies as vulnerable or at risk of becoming vulnerable to ensure they can access their accounts. It also urged those who are facing hardship to get in touch.

It is prioritising NHS staff on its phone lines and is providing “virtual tea and teach” sessions to help older or vulnerable people who are not confident banking online.

It will allow a “trusted third party” access to an account on a one-off, temporary or permanent basis.

Barclays – ‘Third party access to bank accounts’.

Lloyds Banking Group Lloyds Banking Group

Lloyds Banking Group Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, has launched a new telephone service for the over-70s. It said its regular phone lines are “incredibly busy” and that the number of the new service is on letters sent to eligible customers.

It is also prioritising calls from NHS workers and has introduced a new system whereby a trusted person can make withdrawals on someone else's behalf, capped at £100. The individual will have to show ID in a branch and staff will then call the customer to confirm.

It urged its customers to bank digitally where possible.

Lloyds – ‘Appointing someone to manage your affairs’

Halifax – ‘Appoint someone to manage your affairs’

Bank of Scotland – ‘Appoint someone to manage your affairs’

Royal Bank of Scotland RBS

There are several ways we can support customers’ cash needs – and we are working to develop more options too. Customers can use ATMs, Post Offices and can call us or log into the mobile app to get a ‘GetCash’ code, which can be used to withdraw cash without a card.”

It has set up dedicated phone lines for NHS workers and the vulnerable across all of its brands – NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank.

Dedicated phone lines for older customers:

NatWest – 0800 051 4176
Royal Bank of Scotland – 0800 051 4177
Ulster NI – 0800 092 4238

Royal Bank of Scotland - ‘Caring for someone vulnerable’

NatWest – ‘Caring for someone vulnerable’

Nationwide

Nationwide has determined five groups of people who could be vulnerable as a result of Covid-19. They are:

  • People experiencing financial difficulty from a reduction in income;
  • Those unable to access their money;
  • People experiencing disruption to travel or travel plans,
  • Those at increased risk of fraud or scams and
  • Those who have lost a loved one.

In addition to the cross-industry help for those in financial difficulty, Nationwide is introducing third-party account access and putting extra staff on its phone lines.

There are also online tutorials for those who could be banking online for the first time.

The building society is also looking into how it can make registering the death of a loved one easier and is providing advice on how to avoid falling victim to scammers.

Nationwide – ‘Managing someone else’s finances’

Santander

Santander branch staff are able to allow third parties access to customer accounts as long as the customer can confirm over the phone. These third parties will also be able to set up new payments, at the customer's instruction, although this is not done in branch.

If potentially vulnerable people do have to visit a branch, the bank said they should do so early in the day and staff will do their best to help.

HSBC

A spokesman for HSBC said it is “dedicated to supporting elderly and vulnerable customers during this difficult time”.

Vulnerable customers may be referred to a specialist support team who can provide tailored assistance, including signposting to various charities.

The bank committed to finding solutions, including third-party access, for customers who are unable to bank online and said those people should get in touch.

HSBC – ‘Assisting someone with their money’

TSB

TSB said its customers may be considered vulnerable if they have notified the bank of their mental or physical health difficulties or of difficult life events, including divorce or a serious illness. They would be flagged as vulnerable on the bank’s system with consent. TSB is also contacting older customers to offer them the same support. The bank is in the process of contacting these customers, as well as those who it knows regularly use a branch.

For those who are not confident using online service it said it would help customers give access to their friends and family.

The bank is also sending ATM cards to customers who currently only hold a passbook. Customers are encouraged to contact their local branch if they need help or support.

Metro Bank

Metro Bank said it is contacting all of its customers to inform them of support available.

It urged those who could be at risk and need to visit a branch to come at the start of the day and pointed out that the bank can be contacted by telephone.

The bank has introduced a new system whereby an individual can make a deposit of up to £1,000 a day on behalf of a customer. This will require a signed letter from the customer and the acting individual will be asked for ID.

Starling

The digital bank has launched a "connected card" for vulnerable customers. It can be given to a trusted person so that they can spend on the customer's behalf. As always customers can do all of their banking from their mobile phone. It has also introduced a support scheme for those with an arranged overdraft who might struggle to meet repayments and is looking to offer the Government's business support loans to business customers.

Accessing money/pensions from Post Offices

Many of Post Office branches are dedicating the first hour of the day to vulnerable and elderly customers, and those who work for the NHS or care services. This includes all standalone branches and those in WH Smiths branches.

There is no disruption to Post Office Card Account (POCA) services (that State Pensions can be paid into).

For urgent queries, or if you are unable to leave your home, you can call 0345 722 3344 from 8.15am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 7.15pm on Saturdays.

What to do if you cannot reach a branch

You should not give your card and PIN to somebody else, however you can nominate someone you trust to become a Permanent Agent on your account.

This person will be given their own card and PIN to collect cash on your behalf. To nominate a Permanent Agent, please complete the ‘Permanent Agent Access Form’ (P6163), available from most Post Office branches.

We are aiming to upgrade this service to be simpler and quicker. Please check back for more information.

Please note: You can ask someone to take the form to the Post Office on your behalf, as long as the form is complete and has been signed by you.

Paying Utility Bills

Paying energy bills

What help is available from energy providers?

The Government and energy suppliers have launched an emergency package, to make sure anyone vulnerable doesn’t suffer hardship with heating or lighting their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.

If you’re struggling to pay for your gas or electricity, you may have the following options to help:

  • support reviewing bill payment plans, including debt repayment plans
  • take payment breaks or reductions in how much you pay
  • providers may give you more time to pay
  • receive access to hardship funds

The Government has reassured energy customers that no credit meters will be disconnected during the coronavirus outbreak.

What happens if I can’t go out to top up my prepayment meter?

If you’re unable to top up your meter, you should contact your supplier as soon as possible, to discuss how you can stay connected. You’ll find their contact details on their website or on your bill. This includes if you can’t get to a shop because you’re ill with coronavirus or following guidance to stay at home and self-isolate.

Here are some options which could help to keep you supplied:

  • asking a friend or family member to top up your prepayment card for you
  • having discretionary funds added to your account
  • receive a preloaded top-up card in the post

If your meter is outside, Ofgem recommends leaving your meter box unlocked, if this can be done safely. That means someone else can top it up for you. Where possible, arrange for a family member, friend or neighbour to take your top-up card to the shop. Please make sure it’s been sanitised first though, to avoid risk to others.

If you’ve run out of credit and need gas or electricity urgently, contact your supplier to ask for temporary extra credit. You’ll need to pay back any credit your supplier gives you – ask them when and how you’ll need to do this.

If you have a prepayment meter because you’re repaying a debt to your supplier, you can ask them to reduce the amount you repay each week.

Contact details for the main energy providers:

  • British Gas – 0333 202 9802
  • EDF – 0333 200 5100
  • E.ON – 0345 052 000
  • N Power – 0800 073 3000
  • Scottish Power – 0800 027 0072
  • SSE – 0345 026 2658
  • OVO Energy – 0330 303 5063
  • Shell Energy – 0330 0945802
  • Coop Energy (powered by Octopus Energy) – 0808 164 1088
  • Octopus Energy – 0808 164 1088

Further advice can be found on the Citizens Advice Website

Paying water bills

Priority Service Register

If you (or a family member) are vulnerable in any way, have a disability, mobility issue, chronic illness or medical condition, then the water companies encouraging you to join their Priority Service Register. This means that if you experience an issue with your water, they will give you all the support you need.

Problems paying your bills

The water companies also have various schemes available to help their customers who are having problems paying their bills.

Reminder: If you do find yourself without toilet paper and need to use an alternative, please make sure you dispose of it properly by bagging it and binning it. Things like kitchen roll and wipes don’t breakdown like toilet paper does and can lead to a nasty blockage causing sewage to back up into your home.

Illegal Money Lending

The Stop Loan Sharks team are here to help. They are the only government agency in the UK who have the power to investigate and prosecute loan sharks and illegal money lenders.

The Stop Loan Sharks helpline service remains open and fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. To safely report a loan shark, call the 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 555 2222. Or text a report to 078600 22116. Or complete an online report form.

Not sure what a loan shark is?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, you might be borrowing from a loan shark:

  • Did they offer you a cash loan?
  • Did they not give you paperwork?
  • Did they add huge amounts of interest or APR to your loan?
  • Have they threatened you?
  • Are you scared of people finding out?
  • Have they taken your bank card, benefit card, passport, watch or other valuables from you?

For more information see the Stop Loan Sharks website.  For debt and money advice, see the Citizens Advice website.

Cybercrime and Fraud

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a noticeable increase in cybercrime and fraud.

The way in which we are living our lives has changed significantly, we are communicating with one another in new and different ways, and we are engaged with agencies and organisations which we may not have been before.

For these reasons, it is important to be vigilant, especially where personal and/or financial information is being shared, to ensure that you don’t become a victim of a scam.

Information on the different types of scam.