Coronavirus Updates

The following information regarding the ongoing coronavirus has been updated by the Marr Area Partnership. A big thanks to them for keeping us all up to date.

Testing changes to the testing Covid-19 programme were announced by the Scottish Government. Anyone over age five years of age with any of the three symptoms of COVID-19 (continuous cough, high temperature, or loss of sense of taste or smell) can book a test at a UK testing site (Aberdeen Airport) or military drive-through sites. The nearest for many here will be Aberdeen Airport. They can be booked online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 0300 303 2713. It is important to remember that all NHS, health and social care and care home staff, or symptomatic household members of those workers, should continue to access the staff testing service in Forresterhill, Elgin and Huntly via www.covid19.nhsgrampian.org/pages/for-nhs-grampian-staff/staff-covid-19-testing/

Here is some advice for renters.

New legislation protects renters from being evicted if they fall into rent arrears as a result of the coronavirus. This will extend the minimum period of arrears required to evict from three months in a row to six months in a row so you should not face the threat of eviction for at least six months. From April, new and existing private renters claiming Universal Credit and Housing Benefit now have additional housing support. All Local Housing Allowance rates will be increased which is worth an extra £14 a week on average for existing claimants and any additional Universal Credit claimants who rent in the private sector.  Students should able to exit their purpose-built student accommodation contracts early. This means that students currently tied into a student accommodation contract, and who may have returned home due to coronavirus, should be able to exit that lease with a seven-day notice period.

If you are concerned about facing insolvency there is some guidance for you.

Scotland’s insolvency service, Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), has suspended sale and eviction from property in ongoing bankruptcy administrations until further notice. The requirements for evidence coming from individuals seeking debt relief through bankruptcy has been changed to allow faster access therefore providing protection from debt enforcement. AiB is also reducing the need for face to face contact, allowing access to debt relief to be maintained by accepting electronic signatures on protected trust deeds and other documentation.  The latest information from AiB can be accessed here www.aib.gov.uk/aibcovid-19-business-continuity.

Veterans have the following advice.

All Armed Forces Pensions, War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme regular payments are continuing to be made as usual. However, due to COVID-19, there have been some changes to Veterans UK Services. The latest information is available at www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-changes-to-veterans-uk-services. A new website has been designed specifically for the defence community to provide 24/7 access to self-help tools that can enhance mood, drive and confidence, and help you manage the stresses of everyday life. Go to , www.HeadFIT.org, The ‘Unforgotten Forces’ partnership has been given extra funding. Further information is available at www.poppyscotland.org.uk/get-help/unforgotten-forces/about-unforgotten-forces/.

Foreign nationals have the following information.

The UK Government have extended the visas of foreign nationals, who cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation, until the 31st of May. This extension will apply to anyone whose visa expired after the 24th of January but were unable to return home as a result of coronavirus. The scheme will be kept under review in case it requires extending. Anyone in this situation should email the COVID-19 immigration team at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.  All NHS frontline staff with visas due to expire before this October will have their visa extended for one year. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists will automatically have their visas extended, free of charge, for one year.

The council tax reduction scheme has received additional funding so to find out if you are eligible please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/help-with-yourcouncil-tax-council-tax-reduction-s/.