We've put together lots of important information to help you through these changing times. For any questions which aren't answered here, you can send a direct message to the Coronavirus information for Middlesbrough Facebook page. You can also get the very latest information on GOV.UK.
Lockdown has started to ease. You can now meet outdoors either in a group of 6 (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible). Check the latest rules to see what's allowed. You can also see the government's full plan for completely ending restrictions later in the year.
To protect yourself and others, it's essential that you keep following the rules, when you leave home:
- wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
- wear a face covering (unless you're exempt) - this includes in public places and on public transport - view the government's list of places you must wear a face covering
- keep your distance (2m if possible) from people you don't live with or who are not part of your 'bubble'
Information about how to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus and how to self-isolate are also available on the NHS website. If you do not self-isolate, you could be fined.
Now restrictions are starting to ease, you might be feeling a bit worried about going back to work, or places where you'll be around lots of people. The Mental Health Foundation has a great guide to looking after your mental health as we come out of lockdown.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases in Middlesbrough is available on the Middlesbrough Local Outbreak Plan website. The site also has information about how we aim to reduce the number of local outbreaks.
If you're worried about a business not following social distancing rules, please email email@example.com with details.
If someone is breaking coronavirus restrictions, you can report it to Cleveland Police online. Alternatively, you can call 101.
It's a legal requirement to wear a face covering in the following places:
- public transport (aeroplanes, trains, buses)
- indoor transport hubs (airports, train stations, bus and coach stations)
- shops, supermarkets, and indoor shopping centres
- premises providing professional, legal or financial services (post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)
- premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
- visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, funfairs, casinos, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
- places of worship and funeral providers (funeral homes, Teesside Crematorium, and burial ground chapels)
- community centres, youth centres and social clubs
- in various other venues as listed on GOV.UK
Not wearing a face covering is against the law and you could be fined.
Money and housing
Test and Trace Support Payment
Covid Winter Grant and Financial Assistance, Advice, and Support Payment
Applications for the Covid Winter Grant and the Financial Assistance, Advice and Support Payment have now closed.
If you need help with food in an emergency, the White Feather Project offers help 7 days a week, from 9am to 10pm. If you need support, please contact the White Feather Project on 07552 830185.
We also offer emergency help through the Community Support Team, who can be contacted on 0808 1789278 (Freephone).
You can call us on 01642 726006 if you need help or you're struggling to pay your Council Tax because of coronavirus.
Are you struggling to pay your Council Tax or Housing Benefit Overpayment? Are you struggling to make payments as part of an arrangement we've put in place with you? Please complete the online budget sheet to help us understand your current financial situation.
A caseworker will review the information you give us, and get in touch with you. They'll help you put a plan in place for making payments which works for both you and us. They'll also help you to keep on top of your current payments, and tell you how to get in touch with charities or organisations who can help you, if you need it.
Hardship Fund (Council Tax)
If you're of working age and getting Council Tax Reduction in the 2020/21 tax year, you'll get up to an extra £155 off your Council Tax bill through the Hardship Fund. Bills issued from 27 May will show this extra help. There is no need to apply for the reduction - it will be automatically applied to your bill if you're getting Council Tax Reduction.
Please note, if your Council Tax charge is already less than £155 after your normal entitlement to Council Tax Reduction has been applied, then the Hardship Fund reduction will also be less.
Crisis Awards (food, clothing, utilities)
If you cannot afford to buy food, pay your gas and electric, or buy urgent clothing essentials due to coronavirus, you may be eligible for a Crisis Award as part of the Community Support Scheme. You can make a crisis application by calling the Freephone number 08081 789 278 or you can apply online. Find out more about Crisis Awards and apply online.
Any awards will be delivered via email / text where possible, given the current guidance to avoid contact with people. Awards are usually made as vouchers or pre-paid cards. So if we can, we'll email the Award to you, or send you a text message telling you how to use your Award at a PayPoint outlet.
The financial support directory has information about how and where you can get support with your money, as well as contact details for banks, housing providers, and utility companies, so you can contact them quickly if you're struggling to pay your bills.
Lots of help and information is available from the government, including what to do if:
- you're employed and cannot work - for example, you're on furlough, or you've got coronavirus symptoms and cannot go into work
- you were employed and have now lost your job
- you're self-employed and getting less work, or no, work
- you're already getting benefits - for example, how interviews will be carried out
Pay your Self Assessment tax bill in instalments
If you're a tax Self Assessment customer, you can apply to spread the cost of your tax bill into monthly payments. You can do this online, without needing to call HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The online payment plan service can now be used to set up payment instalment arrangements for paying tax bills of up to £30,000 (it was previously £10,000).
Visit the pay your Self Assessment tax bill page on GOV.UK for more information.
Benefits, Business Rates, and Council Tax help
Find out how to complete common tasks relating to benefits, Business Rates, and Council Tax, while the Customer Centre is closed and you're unable to do those things in person.
It's always important to be on the lookout for scams. We keep a list of benefits, housing, Business Rates, and Council Tax scams that we're aware of.
Help for renters
The protection for renters which the government put in place earlier in the year has ended and landlords are now allowed to evict tenants again.
Citizens Advice has lots of helpful information for people who rent. This includes what to do if you cannot afford to pay your rent, and what to do if your landlord is trying to evict you.
Unfortunately we're aware of new scams relating to coronavirus. If you're worried about fraud or scams, or think you might be a victim, Action Fraud has helpful advice and an online fraud reporting tool. Some businesses are trying to illegally profit from the current situation. If you'd like more information on how to report a business, or think you have been a victim of a scam, contact Citizen's Advice online via the Citizens Advice website or call 0808 223 1133.
Fake 'lockdown grant' text messages
There have been reports of people being sent a scam text message offering a grant 'due to the current lockdown'. The message uses 'GOVUK' to look like it's sent by the government, but it is a scam. It also includes a link to 'claim' the grant. If you get a message like this, please do not click on the link, just delete the message.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're aware of scammers offering a fake coronavirus vaccine to people in the local area.
When it's your turn to get the vaccine, you'll be contacted by the NHS, your employer, or your GP surgery. The NHS will never turn up unannounced at your home to offer you a vaccine.
The vaccine is free. At no point will you be asked to pay. The NHS will never ask you:
- for your bank account or card details
- for your PIN or internet banking password
- to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills, or payslips
The vaccine is only available through the NHS. You cannot get it 'privately'.
There are also reports of vaccine scams by phone and through text message, as well as fake websites. Find out more about staying safe from vaccine scams (PDF).
Test and Trace scams
We're also aware of scams relating to the NHS Test and Trace service, so it's important that you can recognise genuine contact from the Test and Trace service. Text messages will come from NHStracing. Calls will come from 0300 0135000. Sometimes scammers can hide their phone number and look like they're calling from the official NHS Test and Trace phone number. So there are things to watch out for, which can help you tell if you're being scammed. Genuine Test and Trace contacts will never ask you:
- to call a premium rate number (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
- to make any form of payment
- for any details about your bank account
- for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
- for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
- to buy a product – including a coronavirus test
- to download any software, or give them control of your PC/laptop, smartphone, or tablet
- to visit any website that does not belong to the government or NHS
Residents who are 'clinically extremely vulnerable'
If you've had a letter from the government which says you're someone thought to be 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and you need:
- help to register for the national government coronavirus shielding support service (which will let you get access to priority supermarket deliveries and other support)
- support with getting shopping or other essentials
- advice about local support services the council and its partners are offering (mental health support, financial hardship, employment support, getting online etc.)
please call our advice line for clinically extremely vulnerable residents who need support during lockdown on 01642 729777.
Schools have now reopened to all children. You can find out more about the return to school on GOV.UK.
Parents needing information about schools can speak to the Single Point of Contact by calling 01642 201831 (Monday to Thursday: 9am to 5pm, and Friday: 9am to 4:30pm).
Everyone is now encouraged to get a twice-weekly rapid COVID-19 test, to help stop the spread of the virus and allow us to ease restrictions more. Find out more about rapid testing.
We know this might be a scary or uncertain time for you. You may be feeling unhappy, anxious, or worried about your finances, your health, or the health of those close to you. It's okay to feel like this - everyone reacts in their own way. The Every Life Matters charity has created a booklet to provide advice during coronavirus.
The following websites will give you tips and advice on things you can do to help you cope with how you're feeling, but make sure you get further support if you feel you need it:
- NHS - Every Mind Matters
- Mind - coronavirus and your wellbeing
- Mental Health Foundation
- Recovery College
- Suicide Prevention Network
You can still access the services you need below:
- The Live Well Centre website has a full list of all support services which are still running, including sexual health services, substance misuse and alcohol services, and harm minimisation (needle exchange)
- Your local sexual health service is still open and offering support in different ways to keep you safe. The service is open for phone consultations with doctors/nurses, and face to face appointments when needed. For appointments and support please call 0300 330 1122. If you don't have symptoms you can order an STI testing kit by post. If you have any concerns about your contraception, contact the sexual health service by calling 0300 330 1122. To find out more about the services offered, and get advice and support, visit the Sexual Health Hub website.
- Stop smoking services can be accessed online via the Stop Smoking South Tees website
- All group-based health visiting and school nursing services have been suspended (including breastfeeding groups, baby clinics, school nurse drop-ins, antenatal groups, and vision/hearing/weight screening)
- New birth visits will be available as home visits, and all other routine development checks will be offered via phone - call 0300 303 1603 for phone advice and support
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, there is always help available.
You can call My Sisters Place for advice on 01642 241864, or speak to their counselling service on 01642 256063.
You can also get lots more information including tips on staying safe.
Things to do
You can use our Borrowbox service to download eBooks and audiobooks 24 hours a day.
Get together with others (virtually)
South Tees Book Club is a monthly online book club, which is open for everyone to join, and is a great way to (virtually) meet people.
So how does it work?
- Register your interest by emailing email@example.com
- Get yourself a copy of the book that month from your local library (find out about borrowing eBooks from the library using Borrowbox), or bookshop, and read it
- Join the online discussion group a couple of weeks later – this will be on a platform like Cisco WebEx which allows up to 100 people to join via video or phone - we'll email you the link and phone number to join
East Cleveland Arts Movie Club is a great way to watch a movie and talk about it with like-minded people from all around our area. Once a fortnight, all members get together online to enjoy a film and then discuss everything about the film they all watched together. Find out more, register and get your free trial on the East Cleveland Arts Movie Club website.
Working from home
StretchWell is a quick and easy routine of desk exercises following an instructed video. The videos are a combination of stretches which encourage you to move your body after long periods of time sitting at your desk. The routines can be done any time of the day.