Money, benefits and paying the council

This information is aimed primarily at residents of Southampton regarding their personal circumstances and finances. If you have your own business, you may find the information for businesses useful as well.

Test and Trace support  

Last updated: 19 January 2021

If you are in work, on a low income and need to self-isolate and can't work from home, you can apply for a self-isolation payment from 12 October 2020.

Please be aware that we are currently unable to deal with enquiries due to a high volume of claims. Delays mean your claim may not yet be showing as received - please allow extra time before contacting the council. Thank you for your patience.

Financial support for those that need to self-isolate

Council tax hardship scheme  

Last updated: 3 March 2021

The Council Tax Hardship Scheme 2020-21 ceased on 31st March 2021. These payments were designed to make up some or all of the shortfall between the help you already get and the amount of Council Tax you have to pay.

This scheme ended on 31 March 2021.

How much was the support worth?

£150 per claimant for the tax year starting 1 April 2020.

Spread your council tax payments 

Last updated: 31 March 2020

One option to help you manage your money is to change how you spread your council tax payments.

If you're on a 10 month direct debit

You will have two months between April 2020 and March 2021 when you don't make council tax payments. These are usually February and March 2021. You can ask us to change your non-payment months to a different two months.

  • If your next direct debit is due on 8, 15 or 23 April 2020, you can start your two non-payment months from April if you want to.
  • If your next direct debit is due on 1 April 2020, the earliest you can start your non-payment months will be May onwards. If you are unable to make your payment on 1 April, please cancel your direct debit and discuss your options with us.

Alternatively, you may prefer to spread your payments over 12 months.

If you’re currently on a 12 month direct debit

You can ask us to condense your payments over 10 months instead. You can choose which two months are your non-payment months, as described above. For instance, you could choose May and June 2020 as your non-payment months.

Next steps

Please contact us online, by telephone or by webchat to make any of the changes described above. You do not need to cancel your direct debit unless your next payment is due on 1 April 2020 and you cannot afford to pay at this time.

If you're worried about paying the council during COVID-19 

Last updated: 29 May 2020

We appreciate this is a difficult time and people are worried about their finances. As a council we want to do everything we can to support you. For a temporary period till the end of May 2020 we suspended all recovery action to reduce the pressure you are experiencing and to give you time to get support e.g. from the government’s furlough scheme, claiming benefits you are entitled to and business grants.

Now other support is available, from 1 June 2020 we will be starting recovery action again.

We still want to support you as much as we can and know that you may still be struggling financially because of Coronavirus. So we will be talking to you about affordable payment options that are based on your personal circumstances. We will be using a mixture of phone calls, letters and texts. If you are worried it may be a scam call/text then there are contact details available on the links below, or you can call Customer Services on: 023 8083 3000. We will avoid taking more formal action as much as we possibly can.

You can also contact us about your situation. Our friendly, experienced staff can talk through options with you and also tell you where you can get free advice to help with debt.

If you still need help please contact us

Money and benefits  

Last updated: 6 May 2021

Changes to benefits as announced in the March budget

Universal credit and working tax credit

In April last year the government introduced a temporary weekly increase of £20 for people receiving Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits. This ‘£20 uplift’ was designed to support those struggling through the Coronavirus pandemic and was due to be in place for one year until the end of March 2021. However, it has now been extended until September this year.

The Working Tax Credit (WTC) uplift will be replaced with a £500 one-off payment that is intended to cover six months of extra support for existing claimants. If you were in receipt of Working Tax Credit on 2 March 2021 you should already have automatically received your £500 payment.

If you receive WTC and your working hours have reduced as a result of Coronavirus (including your role being furloughed) you will continue to be treated as working your normal hours and do not need to report your change to HMRC.

Universal credit advance payments

You can apply for an advance payment of Universal Credit (UC) to help you get by while you are waiting for your first payment.

The advance payment is a loan that will have to be repaid from your future UC payments until the advance is fully paid back. The time that you have to repay this has now increased from 12 to 24 months.

This has now reduced from 30% to 25% of your standard allowance. These changes were originally due to come in from October 2021. Also announced in the budget was the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from your Universal Credit payments.

Universal credit deductions

Also announced in the budget was the maximum rate at which deductions can be made from your Universal Credit payments. This has now reduced from 30% to 25% of your standard allowance. These changes were originally due to come in from October 2021.

Work and pay

We understand people having to self-isolate may have concerns about whether they will get paid while they are away from work. Here is the government advice on what you need to discuss with your employer. Statutory sick pay and other financial support is available.

Job retention scheme update

The Government has announced that the job retention scheme will continue until 30 April 2021.

For more information visit GOV.UK.

Tax Credits

If you receive Tax Credits and are unable to work your normal hours due to Coronavirus you don’t need to tell HMRC about changes to your working hours until eight weeks after the Job Retention Scheme closes at the end of April 2021.

You will have to tell HMRC if you have any permanent changes - for example if:

  • you're made redundant or lose your job
  • you've stopped being self-employed because you weren't getting any work
  • your hours change permanently

For more information visit GOV.UK.

Help for people who are self-employed

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) update

The Government’s self-employment income support scheme has also been extended. Those eligible will be able to claim a third grant which will be up to 80% of average monthly trading profits capped at £7,500.

For more information see the SEISS section below or visit GOV.UK

Other help

If not eligible for the job retention scheme people may be able to claim Universal Credit depending on individual or family circumstances.

From 30 March 2020, the way Universal Credit is worked out for claimants who are self-employed has changed due to Covid-19. Payments are no longer calculated using an assumed level of earnings called the ‘minimum income floor’.

Mortgages and credit cards

Mortgage holidays and credit card forbearance will be available for those who are struggling. Contact your bank to discuss.


The mortgage payment holiday scheme was extended until 31 March 2021.

For more information visit the FCA website

Gas and electric pre-pay meters: If you are having problems topping up due to social isolation or having financial difficulties please contact your utility provider. If you are not sure who your supplier, use Find My Supplier.

Help with housing costs (rent and council tax): If you are struggling to pay your rent, please contact your landlord urgently. There is also information further up this page on the council tax hardship scheme and information below on claiming benefits.

Water bills: Southern Water has expanded the support available for customers during the current pandemic. This includes three-month payment breaks for any customer impacted by the virus, automatic renewal of support tariffs so customers don’t need to worry about reapplying, and accepting referrals to its priority services register from councils, emergency services and Citizens Advice. The best way to contact Southern Water is via email or through its website.

If you are worried about money or are struggling now, please read our full update on coronavirus and benefits.

Cash Office 

The Cash Office will be closed from 12pm on Tuesday 24 March 2020 until further notice. You can pay the council online.

COVID Local Support Scheme 

The Government has extended its Winter Support fund and renamed it the Covid Local Support Grant.

It is designed to directly help families and individuals who have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with the majority set aside to ensure that the city’s children do not go hungry.

Find out more about the COVID Local Support Scheme.