Welfare Support - Important Information
Coronavirus Update from City Council Leader Nick Forbes 24/03/20
Below is a city-wide update on council operations following the Government announcement of stricter restrictions on movement, key workers and social distancing.
The Council’s communications channels, including social media and website, will be kept up to date constantly and national guidance is provided via Public Health England and the Government.
Car Parking for NHS staff and Key Workers
On 23rd March we announced that over 700 of our city centre car parking places have been made free to all NHS staff. Today we have taken that a step further and have suspended Pay and Display in all our car parks, allowing essential council staff, NHS colleagues and those supported vulnerable residents to park for free whilst working. We will continue to enforce irresponsible and unsafe parking.
Hardship funding and Welfare support
For many families and residents across Newcastle the coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on their finances. Many people are having to adjust to the reality of reduced income, redundancies and reduced hours of work – all of which have a hugely negative impact on household finances.
The Council’s Welfare Advice service is still operating and providing additional support to anyone effected by the outbreak. The dedicated advice line is 0191 277 2627. It is now, more than ever, vital that all our residents receive the financial help and support they are entitled to.
Detailed below are additional schemes that are available to Newcastle residents. Some households may not be aware of their entitlement to these benefits due to their change of circumstance.
There is a dedicated page to individual support available for residents – including national announcements - available here.
Our Council Tax Reduction scheme is a council tax discount for working age people – the size of the discount depends on the income and household size.
Housing benefit provides help towards rent for people on low incomes. Residents can also apply for additional support through the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) scheme.
DHP are not a payment of benefits, they are a separate route of support made by the council for those who need additional short time financial support towards housing.
The Crisis Support scheme is led by the Council’s Revenues and Benefits Team. It is for any resident who has suffered a disaster or crisis, is at risk of damage to their personal health or safety and unable to secure funding from elsewhere.
The support covers the provision of food, clothing, fuel for heating and expenses to travel.
Council Tax Payments
A number of people have asked about alternative arrangements for payment of Council Tax for those who normally pay over the counter at the Post Office. People can pay both rent and council tax over the phone. Here’s the advice from the council’s website:
You can pay your Council Tax using your Debit or Credit card free of charge by phoning 0191 278 7878. You will need to have your council tax reference number, which is shown on your bill, in order to make your payment.
-When phoning to make a payment you should ask for "payments".
-When asked pleased state the payment you would like to make is "council tax".
The other thing we’re looking to do is swap round the 2 months when people who pay council tax by Direct Debit don’t make payments (February and March) to earlier in the year. This will help quite a lot of people over the next few months.
The Council’s new Citylife Line has launched which residents can use to register the need for assistance and support. Voluntary and Community sector volunteers will contact anyone who registers on this service. Full details on Citylife Line is available here. A summary is as follows:
· New CityLife line has officially launched on Tuesday 24th March.
· Initially an online form for volunteers to share their skills and availability, this is then shared with our VCS partners who will coordinate support
· There is also the capacity for residents to register their requirements for help and support
· The phone line will launch later this week
· A Business Support line is currently being developed with Council and NGI staff
· Full information on the line is available online here.
Scams and targeting vulnerable people
Northumbria Police are extremely concerned about posts on social media encouraging people to put colour coded signs in windows to advertise if someone is vulnerable. They ask that people DO NOT encourage this as it is a huge indicator to criminals that the house is occupied by a vulnerable adult, and is likely to mean the household is marked for sustained targeting over time. If you spot any of this in your area, please can you let PC Janine Turnbull know.
Janine Turnbull 3827
Constable, Community Engagement
Ext: 62315 | T: 01912218315
All bin collections will continue as normal with additional staff from across the Council to support refuse teams if needed. There is a plea to residents to consider what they are putting in their bins – many people socially isolating may use the time to ‘spring clean’ and we don’t want bins to be overwhelmed, particularly as sickness absence levels are likely to rise in the next few weeks.
All household waste and recycling sites have now closed, because it was impossible to enforce social distancing.
Trading Standards team are investigating claims from across the city of increased pricing of essential items such as food. We are communicating with traders directly to remind them of their responsibilities and role within the community and Chi Onwurah MP has also written directly to businesses in the West Road area.
The MOT vehicle testing centre at Newington Road has altered its operating times to protect staff and customers
All face-to-face Licencing meetings, including applications for private hire/hackney carriages, have been suspended indefinitely.
Cabinet have agreed to suspend implementation of the Selective Licensing Scheme for Private Landlords by 6 months
All existing cafes and restaurants have been given special permission from Government to operate as takeaways for 12 months
The Government have announced a 3 month moratorium on all eviction proceedings, regardless of sector
Our schools, head teachers and staff continue to a fantastic job of providing essential education and support to vulnerable children and families of key workers.
On Monday 23rd March we had just over 1,100 children attending schools in Newcastle. This shows clearly that many of the city’s key workers are listening to the advice to home-school their children where possible.
Vulnerable children and those of key workers can still attend school. For Key workers, the guidance is to only send your child if you need to.
We are awaiting national guidance on attendance figures – an update will be provided in the coming days and arrangements adjusted accordingly.
Free School Meals – schools are using a variety of ways to ensure children who are entitled to a free school meal still receive one – whether they are in school or at home.
Parents, carers and families with queries about places, attendance or free school meals should contact their school directly.
Bereavement and Registrars Services
Further changes to our Bereavement and Registrars services have been made following the Government’s announcement on March 23.
There will be no birth registrations for the next three weeks. Registrations, including those close to the 42-day deadline, will be carried out at a later date.
Wedding ceremonies have been cancelled until further notice. Anyone with a booking will be contacted and full refunds offered.
Death registrations will continue but be limited and by appointment only.
Funerals will continue. Special arrangements are in place to prioritise speedy funerals where a person’s faith requires it.
Attendance at funerals will be limited to immediate family only (spouse or partner, family, children) no more than 20 mourners will be permitted and social distancing guidance must be followed. This is more than some authorities, who have limited numbers at 6 or 8, but we are confident that social distancing can be maintained with 20 mourners in the two chapels at the crematorium.
The EU Settlement Scheme ID Verification Service have been suspended until further notice.
The Service has contacted all existing bookings and funeral directors to explain these new operational arrangements.
Drug and Alcohol Services
Face to face Drug and Alcohol support groups have been suspended. However:
Clients supported at Fenham Library are now being supported in other ways
A huge resource is being developed with online, social media and telephone support for the recovery community
Mutual aid support for specific groups is being coordinated by specialists
Clients are being supported in a range of ways but there is a lack of centre access for people; this is to minimise the spread of the virus and to protect staff as well as clients
Plummer Court and Clayton Street harm reduction service both remain open through buzzer access as of today (24th March). For needle exchange, clients will be able to take extra equipment with them, and of course sharps boxes. Pharmacy exchanges also remain open at this point.
Cllr Nick Forbes
Leader of Newcastle City Council and
Labour & Co-operative Councillor for Arthur’s Hill Ward