Leeds City Council Coronavirus Update

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Coronavirus – Support for people & communities – January 7, 2022

Dear Resident,

We would like to wish you all a happy New Year, and hope that you enjoyed the festive season while keeping safe in Leeds.

A lot has happened over the festive break, and this week we have an update for you on the current Covid situation in Leeds, the latest guidance from the Government on testing, and advice on keeping you and your loved ones safe as 2022 begins.

The new year is also bringing colder weather, so we have launched a new Winter Wellbeing webpage packed with practical information on how to keep warm, healthy and safe during the winter months.

The situation in Leeds

The number of Covid infections in England has increased significantly during the festive period, and figures from the Office for National Statistics reported that one in 15 people in England currently has Covid. The situation in Leeds is in line with this national picture, with Omicron now by far the most dominant variant in the city.

In line with many areas, the Covid rates for Leeds have increased significantly over the past seven days, and currently stand at 1775.2 per 100,000 people. This is an increase of 56 percent compared to the previous week.

These figures show clearly why it’s still so important that we all keep following the advice which will protect you, your family and friends, and your colleagues. Please remember to:

  • Do a Lateral Flow Test if you’re planning to meet up with others or visit a public venue such as a restaurant – find out where to order or collect a free LFT pack at Testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
  • Isolate if you test positive or have symptoms
  • Get jabbed – two doses and the booster provide the best protection
  • Have a mask handy in your bag or pocket when you go out, and wear it where it’s mandatory to do so
  • Grab the app – don’t forget your NHS Covid Pass if you are attending a large venue or event. Go to www.nhs.uk
  • Get some fresh air flowing if you’re meeting up with people indoors. This is more difficult in the colder weather, but if you can, try to open your windows regularly for 10 minutes

Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available, and keep surfaces sanitised and clean, including your workstation as well as your home.

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Get jabbed and boost your winter immunity

With Omicron infection rates still rising, by far the best way to protect yourself is to have your Covid vaccinations. In all age groups, people are significantly protected by being boosted. If you haven’t had any of your vaccinations yet, it’s not too late; you can still arrange to have first, second and booster vaccinations.

If you are registered with a GP, you can book your vaccination online at www.nhs.uk. Or find a walk-in clinic in Leeds that’s convenient for you at Walk-in vaccination clinics – NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (leedsccg.nhs.uk)

You can also boost your immunity this winter by having the flu vaccination, which is offered free by the NHS to people who are at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch the flu. Find out more about how to book your free flu jab at www.nhs.uk/wintervaccinations

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Changes to testing for Covid

From Tuesday 11 January, there will be a change to Covid testing for people without symptoms.

If you have no symptoms but test positive using a lateral flow test, then you won’t need to arrange for a PCR test as well. However, you will still need to self-isolate and report your test result at www.gov.uk

This new arrangement will help to improve access to PCR tests for people with symptoms and for healthcare, transport and other key workers. It will be reviewed when the Covid infection rate in England falls below one percent.

Changes to guidance on isolation

Over the festive period, the Government also changed the guidance around the need to self-isolate if you have symptoms or have tested positive. You can stop self-isolating after 7 days if you do a Lateral Flow Test on days 6 and 7 of your self-isolation period and: 

  • both tests are negative 
  • you did both tests at least 24 hours apart 
  • you do not have a high temperature 

If you do a rapid Lateral Flow Test on day 6 and test positive, wait 24 hours before you do the next test.

Testing is still vital to bringing down the number of infections and protecting ourselves and others, so please continue to test regularly, especially if you have symptoms, or are planning to meet up with others at a public venue or in their homes.

If you live with or have been in contact with someone who has Covid, you don’t have to isolate if you are not experiencing any symptoms and if any of the following apply to you:

  • You’re fully vaccinated
  • You’re under 18 years and 6 months old
  • You’re taking part in or have taken part in an approved Covid vaccine trial
  • You can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.

However, even if you don’t have symptoms, you’re advised to do daily Lateral Flow Tests for 7 days.

For more information on the latest Government guidance, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Rules for testing changing

Latest round of business grants open

Businesses in Leeds are being encouraged to apply for fresh funding support from two recently launched schemes to help them deal with the continuing financial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The schemes are set to deliver additional help as the local business community weighs up the impact of recently-imposed restrictions designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The first scheme is aimed at Leeds-based businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sector, with one-off grants on offer worth up to £6,000. The application deadline is Monday 28 February.

The second scheme is aimed at Leeds-based businesses and charities from any sector, with discretionary grants ranging from £1,000 to £15,000 on offer to help cover fixed overheads such as service charges and commercial vehicle leasing costs. The application deadline is Monday 31 January. Find out more at https://www.leeds.gov.uk/coronavirus/grants-for-businesses

Keep warm and well this winter

The colder weather is already with us, but are you well prepared? The good news is that there are some simple steps we can all take to stay well this winter. We have launched a new webpage where you can find out information on how to protect yourself and family and friends this winter, at www.leeds.gov.uk/winterwellbeing

Remember to:

  • Boost your immunity! Make sure you have your Covid-19 and flu jab if eligible
  • Keep warm. Heat your home to at least 18 degrees, wear layers of clothing and seek help if you’re struggling with fuel bills
  • Stay healthy and fit, be aware of slips and trips. Keep active to build your strength and balance and seek help if you’re worried about a fall
  • Make sure you have regular hot food, drinks and snacks
  • Reach out, you are not alone! Connect to your local community, see friends or family, take up a new hobby or activity. If you are struggling with your mental health, there are organisations in Leeds which offer confidential support, including telephone support lines and Mental Health Hubs for young adults. Mental health advice for young people can be found at MindMate – Emotional wellbeing and mental health and there is more about mental health support services more generally at Mental health services (leeds.gov.uk)

During the colder weather, many of us spend more time indoors, but having the heating on for longer and paying higher fuel bills can be a worry for many people. If you’re worried about paying your utility bills, or have other money issues, you can find helpful advice on our Money Information Centre webpage, at Welcome to the Money Information Centre (leeds.gov.uk)

In the longer term, it might be worth thinking about how you can make your home more fuel efficient.

This winter, we are working with Better Homes Yorkshire to help low-income homeowners stay warm and reduce their energy bills by fitting free solar panels and/or insulation to suitable properties. To find out more about this limited-time scheme and see if you qualify, go to https://news.leeds.gov.uk/news/leeds-homeowners-encouraged-to-apply-for-free-solar-panels-and-home-insulation-before-scheme-ends

Stay well this winter

Beware of NHS Covid Pass fraud

People using the NHS App to create an NHS Covid Pass are being warned about fraudsters. Scammers are contacting people over email, text and telephone, asking for money and banking details to ‘buy’ an NHS Covid Pass.

The NHS Covid Pass is free, and the NHS will never ask for payment or your personal financial details. Find out more about the NHS Covid Pass at www.nhs.uk/NHSCovidPass  

Don’t miss out on Warm Home Discount

Warm Home Discount would give you £140 towards your winter fuel bills. It is paid in the form of a credit on your electricity bill from your supplier (if you get both gas and electricity from the same supplier you may be able to ask for it to be transferred to your gas account).

To get it your supplier must be part of the scheme – all the larger companies have to take part but it is voluntary for smaller firms although many of them do take part.

There are 2 ways you might qualify for this:

Core Group: If on the qualifying date (this year 4th July 2021) you were getting Guarantee Pension Credit and your, or your partner’s name was on the electricity bill, you will be eligible in the core group. You shouldn’t need to claim – the DWP should write to you with the details and you should get the discount on your bill sometime between November 2021 and March 2022. If you are in this group and DWP have not written to you by December contact the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214 to check.

Broader Group: Most suppliers who are part of the scheme will also give this discount to customers who are on a low income and/or get some means tested benefits. The exact qualifying criteria varies from different suppliers and you do have to appy for this so if you think this applies to you, contact your supplier directly to find out if you can get it.

Most suppliers have a limited fund for this so apply as soon as you can.

What if your energy supplier fails? If you are in the Core Group and your supplier fails, you should still be paid automatically to your new energy account, If you are in the Broader Group then you would need to re-apply to your new supplier as soon as your new account is set up.

Details can be found on https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme and including a list of all energy suppliers who are part of the scheme https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme/energy-suppliers

If you want help with Warm Home Discount please contact Valerie on 07483333115 or email valerie@caringtogether.org.uk

Are You missing out on Pension Credit?

Nearly a million households are entitled to, but not receiving pension credit  and in Leeds alone there are thought to be over 10,000 households missing out on this.

Pension Credit is extra money for people over state retirement age to top up their income.

The basic amounts to qualify are weekly income less than £177.10 for a single person and £270.30 for a couple but you may still be able to get it if your income is higher depending on your circumstances – for example there is an extra amount if you have a disability, if you care for someone, or if you have certain housing costs.  And if you reached pension age before April 2016 you may be also be able to claim savings credit.

There is NO savings limit for pension credit although savings over £10,000 will reduce the amount you can get.

You can claim if you are still working if your income is low enough for you to qualify.  It’s tax free and you don’t have to have paid NI contributions.

What counts as income includes:

  • State Pension
  • other pensions
  • earnings from employment and self-employment
  • most social security benefits, for example Carer’s Allowance

If you’re entitled to a personal or workplace pension and you have not claimed it yet, the amount you’d expect to get still counts as income.

Not all benefits are counted as income. For example, the following are not counted:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Christmas Bonus
  • Child Benefit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Social fund payments like Winter Fuel Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction

You could do a quick benefit calculation on https://benefits-calculator-2.turn2us.org.uk/

Pension Credit is worth claiming even if you only qualify for a very small amount, as it can entitle you to lots of other things including:  full housing benefit, reduced council tax, warm home discount, cold weather payments, free tv licence if you are over 75, help with NHS dental treatment, glasses and transport costs for hospital appointments.

Pension Credit can be claimed by phone: 0800 99 1234 or online: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim.

Or ask Caring Together if you need help.

Make a your Will and help a charity – Will Aid month

HomeNovember will be Will Aid Month.  During this month  participating solicitors donate their time and skills to draw up a basic Will for clients without charging their usual fee. Instead, they invite their clients to make a voluntary donation to Will Aid.   Donations support the vital work of the nine Will Aid charities to help people in need in the UK and around the world.

The suggested donation is £100 for a single will or £180 for a pair of mirror wills (less than the usual fees charged) but you are free to donate as much or as little as you choose.

There are a number of solicitors locally taking part and many are offering online or telephone appointments as well as face to face.

To find out more and how to make a will aid appointment go to https://www.willaid.org.uk/will-makers

Could you be paying less for your fuel bills?

Ofgem recently announced an increase in the energy price cap from 1st October 2021.

All the major energy firms confirm massive price hikes from October – act now to avoid huge bill shock

The price cap puts a limit on how much companies can charge per kilowatt hour of gas and electricity.  The increase in October is 12% and it means the ‘average’ household cost for both fuels would rise to  £1,277 a year or £1,309 a year for a prepayment meter.  NOTE: this is an average cost – you could be paying more or less depending on how much you use.

The price cap only applies to you if you’re on a default or prepayment tariff:

You’re likely to be on one of these tariffs if you haven’t switched energy suppliers before or you’ve automatically rolled on to the standard variable rate after a fixed rate tariff came to an end.

If this applies to you you may be able to switch to a cheaper tariff and save a considerable amount on your bills.

You could ask your existing supplier if there is a cheaper tariff for you – this is the easiest option and you may be able to save money without switching supplier.

However, may be able to save more by switching to another supplier.  There are a number of comparison sites who can look at your energy costs and show you cheaper options, for example http://www.uswitch.com/  or http://www.moneysupermarket.com/  (these are both ofgem accredited but others are available).

If you want some help looking at options to save on energy bills, we might be able to assist you, call Valerie on 0748 3333 115 or email valerie@caringtogether.org.uk 

Note: before switching supplier there may be other things than just price to consider – for example if you get warm home discount you may need to check whether switching will affect this.

Free Will Service with Turn2Us

Turn2Us (a national charity that helps people to gain access to information and support around benefits, charitable grants and support services) has a scheme that enables you  to make your Will for free, using qualified solicitors within reasonable travelling distance of where you live.

This offers you the opportunity to make or amend a simple single or joint Will with a qualified solicitor, free of charge.

Making a Will is very personal and can be daunting initially. However, it is the best way to ensure that people and causes you care about are taken care of exactly as you wish.

Turn2Us say there is no obligation to include a donation to them in the will you make but they hope that you will consider a gift to them or a charity of your choice – after you have taken care of your loved ones

Here’s how it works
Register your interest on the Turn2Us website https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Support-Us/Ways-To-Donate/free-wills-service and tick the Free Will Service box.
Their partner, the National Free Wills Network, will then send you the names and addresses of at least two local firms of solicitors taking part in this scheme.
The solicitor draws up your Will and you don’t have to pay the bill.

There is also lots of other  information on the Turn2Us website that you may find useful

Do you need to pay for a TV Licence?

Last year, the automatic entitlement for free TV licences for all aged over 75 was scrapped and anyone not in receipt of pension credit now has to pay for their TV licence.

There has been a transition period which has meant anyone who hadn’t initially bought a licence would not be given a penalty charge.  This has now ended and so now if you haven’t bought a licence you could be prosecuted – although the BBC has said it will be arranging ‘customer care’ support visits initially.

If you are over 75 and not receiving Pension Credit, you will need to pay for your TV Licence, it currently costs £159 a year but there are a number of instalment options.  See https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/pay-for-your-tv-licence/ways-to-pay 

If you get Pension Credit and are over 75 it continues to be free but you do have to apply for it:  https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/for-your-home/aged-74-and-over-aud3

If you are under 75, nothing has changed and you still need to buy your licence.

You need a TV licence to watch or record live programmes on any television channel in the UK or if you’re watching something live using an online streaming service on any type of device.

If you are over state pension age and not receiving Pension Credit, it is worth checking if you might be entitled to it, you can find out more at gov.uk/pension-credit. You can use the online Pension Credit calculator which will provide you with an indication of how much you might get.



Rainbow Junktion Pay as You Feel Cafe now open – Mondays and Thursdays

Rainbow Junktion Cafe is back for pay as you feel sit down meals.  They will only be serving outside for the moment.

Mondays and Thursdays 12-2.30pm for the cafe – advice and signposting also available – 11.30am – 3pm

Fridays will be Food Share – groceries etc available for ‘pay as you can’ shopping 11.30am -4.30pm

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Legal challenge to inequality for ‘legacy benefits’

This may apply to you if you are getting ESA or JSA or have been during the pandemic – since March 2020.

We will be keeping an eye on the outcomes and sharing information as we get it.

DWP court battle means millions could get £1,000 benefits back pay.:
People on older ‘legacy benefits’ could be in line for a payout as the Government faces a court benefits battle.
The legal fight centres on the £20 a week uplift given to people on Universal Credit at the start of the pandemic, The Mirror reports.
The payment didn’t go to those on older benefits, like employment support allowance (ESA), income support, and jobseekers’ allowance (JSA).
Many of those still claiming the older benefits are disabled, sick, or carers. According to Disability Rights UK, over 1.9million disabled people are still claiming ESA payments.
And this week, two recipients of ESA challenged this decision at the High Court for judicial review.
They argued it was discriminatory and unjustified to exclude people from higher payments just because their benefits were administered under an old system. On Thursday, the High Court agreed the issue could be arguably unlawful and will decide the case later this year.
The claimants have asked for the trial to be heard before the end of July 2021.
William Ford, of Osbornes Law, which is representing the claimants, said: “We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.
“This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally. Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”
A DWP Spokesperson told The Mirror: “It has always been the case that claimants on legacy benefits can make a claim for Universal Credit if they believe that they will be better off.”
Helen Barnard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said “everyone should have access to a strong social security system that protects them from harm when they are struggling to stay afloat.”
She added: “Disabled people and carers already face a greater risk of poverty, so there can be no justification for offering them less support than people claiming Universal Credit simply because they are in a different part of the system.
“Discrimination has no place in our social security system and every day we fail to act undermines public trust and intensifies hardship. Ministers must right this injustice by urgently extending the £20 increase to legacy benefits.

Protect yourself from online scams with a personalised action plan

There’s been a rise in online scams over the last year and research by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – suggests 81% of Britons fear themselves, friends or family falling victim to cyber crime.

In response to this, the UK’s cyber security agency has launched a free tool providing people with bespoke advice on how to better protect themselves from online threats.

The service allows users to complete a short survey about their IT habits which will generate a personalised list of recommendations, as part of the government’s Cyber Aware campaign.

Create your action plan here https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberaware/actionplan

Or more general advice and tips https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberaware