Residents praise bin crews during coronavirus crisis
Despite the challenge posed by coronavirus, the city’s waste collection crews, supported by other street scene staff, have continued to keep Birmingham clean – attracting many supportive messages.
Notes have started appearing in household windows and attached to bins, thanking the hardworking crews for their efforts to keep things running as smoothly as possible, despite the effect of the pandemic on front-line services across society.
Some of the messages attached to bins include:
- “Thank you for carrying on and doing this. We appreciate it. Take care and stay safe.”
- “Thank you for helping keep us safe. I have cleaned handles. We are currently symptom-free. Much appreciated chaps.”
- “I think you are wonderful.”
- Thank you to our binmen – you are appreciated.”
Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks, said: “We are immensely proud of the professionalism and commitment demonstrated by our staff throughout this pandemic and we will continue to support them.
“It’s great that their effort to give their very best in such circumstances is being recognised by the people of Birmingham.
“The positive words are having a great effect on morale. I want to formally place my thanks and gratitude on behalf of the council alongside those kind comments from residents.”
The council, in recognition of concerns raised by a very small number of workers, has also moved to again clarify the position on protective work gear for waste management crews.
Cllr O’Shea added: “We are working closely with our public health team and the Health and Safety Executive to keep our staff and their families safe and well. We will, of course, continue to provide protective equipment necessary to keep our people safe and we’ll follow any changes to guidance.
“There is a national shortage of masks and we are looking at what more reassurance we can provide, but the key message to staff and the public is that protective gear worn as standard by our bin crews is adequate as they are not in regular face-to-face contact with residents.
“In addition, like all responsible employers we are asking anyone with symptoms to stay away from work as per the national government and NHS guidance, so only those fit for work should be presenting for duty alongside their colleagues.
“We would ask that residents also play their part in helping keep our crews safe, by cleaning their bin handles before and after presentation and by ensuring residents who have had COVID-19 or have displayed symptoms follow government guidance to tie and double-bag their waste – and wait 72-hours before disposing of it in their household bin.”
In light of the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, Birmingham City Council would like to ensure our residents are fully aware of all of the financial support which is being made available through the Government.
Going forward, we will issue a weekly update with details of any grants or relief which business can apply for with links to the relevant sources of information.
Information if you are an employee
You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.
Statutory sick pay
The Government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to stay at home due to COVID-19. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March.
COVID-19 Sick note
If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) after 7 days of sickness absence.
If your employer intends to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they will discuss with you becoming classified as a furloughed worker. This would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off. This will allow your employer to claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. You will remain employed while furloughed. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to. The Government plans for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to run for at least three months from 1 March 2020, but will extend if necessary.
Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit. From 6 April the Government will increase the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual up-rating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.
Information if you are self-employed
Lay-Offs and Short-Term working
Your employer can ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work for you. A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day. Short-time working is when your hours are cut. There’s no limit for how long you can be laid off or put on short-time. You could apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if it’s been four weeks in a row or six weeks in a 13-week period. For lay-off pay entitlement and short-time working payments, you should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs. If you’re unpaid, you’re entitled to guarantee pay.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
- have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
- traded in the tax year 2019-20
- are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
- intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
- have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
- Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment.
Income tax payment deferral
If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system can be deferred to January 2021.
Support for businesses paying tax: time to pay service
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.
Statutory sick pay
If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or the new style Employment and Support Allowance. If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.
Whether you are currently in or out of work, if you are on a low income and affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, you will be able to access the full range of the welfare system, including Universal Credit. From 6 April the Government will increase the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants and to existing Working Tax Credit claimants.
Support for rent costs
You should check your eligibility for Universal Credit, which is available for people in and out of work. Support for rental costs will be paid through Universal Credit. From April, we are increasing Local Housing Allowance rates to the 30th percentile of market rents. This applies to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.
Benefits and financial support
Employment and support allowance
You can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work. It gives you money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work and support to get back into work if you’re able to. You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed.
Council tax support
You may be entitled to up to 100% Council Tax Support if you or your partner is:
- A pensioner
- Entitled to a disability premium or disabled child premium
- Entitled to Employment Support Allowance and who also receives a qualifying disability related benefit
- Receiving a carer’s premium
- Receiving a war disablement pension, war widow’s pension or war widower’s pension
- Caring for a child dependant under 6.
If you are of working age (other than those listed above) you will now have to make a contribution towards their Council Tax bill. As Council Tax Support will be calculated as a means tested discount, the amount each household will have to pay towards the Council Tax will depend on their individual household circumstances.
Council tax hardship fund
BCC has been allocated £17m through the Government’s COVID-19 Hardship Fund to deliver relief to those who are struggling to make council tax payments in the current economic climate. These reductions will be applied after any award of council tax support (CTS), and will not affect the CTS scheme itself or entitlement to any other benefits. The government expects authorities to reduce the bills of all working-age recipients of Council Tax Support by £150, or by a lesser amount if that is all that remains to be paid for the year. It does not expect taxpayers to have to apply for this reduction – authorities should already hold enough information to be able to award this automatically. It does not matter whether or not a taxpayer has been affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19. The government recommends an upfront payment, although it accepts that in some cases it may be better to spread it over the year.
Housing rental payments
Contact your landlord if you’re struggling to pay rent; they may be able to give a rent reduction or accept late payment. Make sure you get something in writing. The Government announced on 18 March that landlords will not be able to apply to court to evict tenants for at least three months. That includes if you rent from a private landlord, a housing association or the council. The new law is expected to come in very soon.
Mortgage lenders have announced they won’t apply to court to repossess homeowners for 3 months starting from 19 March. They will also allow a three-month payment holiday for those struggling to cover their mortgage because of coronavirus. Be aware that this option may mean your monthly mortgage payment goes up after the payment holiday ends. Check if you have insurance that will cover your mortgage payments instead. For example, mortgage payment protection insurance or through your current account
You can receive free and impartial advice on a range of matters from organisations including:
- Consumer rights: Free consumer protection advice from the Government on issues including contracts, goods and services
- Employee rights: Free advice on worker’s rights from the Government
- Money Advice Service: Free and impartial money advice from an organisation set up by the Government
- Citizens Advice Service: Free advice on a range of topics including debt, money and finances; law and court and consumer rights
- Shelter: Free advice on issues such as housing, homelessness, eviction, repairs and repossession
A FINAL IMPORTANT REMINDER: if you have any concerns about coronavirus, all the important official advice to help restrict its spread and how to deal with any infection can be found on the NHS website.
B26 update on the Coronavirus (COVID-19)