Advice hub. Cost of Living Crisis - what help can households access across the UK?
On 26th August, Ofgem announced the latest energy price cap rise - the maximum amount suppliers can charge in England, Scotland and Wales for each unit of energy used. Northern Ireland has its own energy market and the regulator there does not currently employ a price cap.
The rise will take effect from 1st October and a typical customer in Great Britain will pay £3,549 a year from October with analysts predicting that this will rise further to £5386 per year from January when the cap is next updated. October’s rise is a staggering 80% increase in bills from £1,971 currently for a typical household.
The figures quoted for typical households are not limits on the amounts paid for energy but an annual bill for a typical household now that the price cap has been increased. Big energy users will pay more, and people who use less energy will pay less. In Northern Ireland, bills have also risen steeply with the annual bill for a typical household just under £2,500.
On top of already existing pressures on households, this means that many more households are facing poverty and will struggle to pay their energy and other household bills.
There are some very difficult months ahead so it’s really important that every household is claiming all the support it’s entitled to, not just for energy bills but more widely. It is also essential for anyone owing money and struggling to pay to speak to the organisations that are owed money, as they might let individuals pay back smaller amounts or take a break from payments to provide some breathing space.
Help with Electricity Bills £400 energy grant for all households
The government is giving every household in Great Britain £400 off their electricity bill via the Energy Bills Support Scheme.
From October 2022, 6 instalments will be paid out:
- £66 in October and November
- £67 in December, January, February and March
Households don’t need to anything to receive the money nor does it need to be paid back. The grant will automatically be applied by suppliers in England, Scotland and Wales. For those who pay their bills monthly or quarterly by direct debit or are standard credit and payment card customers, the money will be added to their accounts. Pre-payment customers with meters will have the amount applied to their ‘smart’ payment meter or if they have a traditional payment meter will receive a voucher to be cashed in at the Post Office or other top-up centre.
In Northern Ireland separate arrangements are being made for households and details are still to be confirmed.
£650 payment to Low Income households
Two payments totalling £650 are being made to more than 8 million low income households who receive the following benefits: Universal Credit, income-based Jobseekers allowance; income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Pension Credit.
A first payment of £326 was made to most households between 14 to 31 July, some payments were made later in a small number of complex cases. A second payment of £324 will be made in the autumn, the date is still to be confirmed.
Those on tax credits are having to wait longer with the first payment for most expected to be made between 2 to 7 September, with the second payment in the winter, date to be confirmed.
Payments are made directly into bank accounts usually marked: DWP Cost of Living. Those in receipt of New Style Employment and Support Allowance, contributory Employment and Support Allowance or New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance are not eligible unless they get Universal Credit.
£150 payment to those receiving non-means tested disability benefits
Up to 6 million people on the following disability benefits will receive £150 from 20 September:
Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance, Scottish Disability Payments, Armed Forces Independence Payment, Constant Attendance Allowance, War Pension Mobility Supplement.
£300 for pensioner households
Households in receipt of the Winter Fuel Payment (worth £200-300) which is paid to nearly all homes with at least one person of pension age will receive an extra £300 in November or December.
Pensioners on low incomes on Pension Credit will receive the money in addition to the £650 support for those on benefits and if in receipt of disability benefits they will also receive the £150 payment in September.
For further information on these payments see: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/get-help-with-the-cost-of-living/
Households who think they may have missed out on any help they might be entitled to should contact the office that pays their benefits or tax credits. This is particularly important for pensioner households as the Government estimates that 850.000 of these are not claiming Pension Credit which is a gateway to the extra cost of living payments.
Check Benefits Entitlements the Turn2Us benefits calculator can help households check benefits they might be entitled to.
Council Tax Rebate
Households in Council Tax bands A-D should have received a Council Tax Rebate of £150 during April 2022 which does not have to be paid back. Households who haven’t received this should contact their local council https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
Pay less council tax?
Depending on individual circumstances individuals might be able to pay less council tax or not pay it all, for example discounts for a single person or empty property or for those on low income a Council Tax Reduction (CTR). Further information:
Help with Paying Water Bills
For those struggling with paying water bills the first step is to talk to the water company as soon as possible to look at the possibility of a payment plan. For those without a water meter it’s worth checking if having one installed will save money. Asking for advice on ways to reduce water usage is also helpful and ensuring that there are no waters leaks resulting in bills that are higher than they should be.
Many water companies run hardship schemes or fund independent charitable trusts which may help with bill payments, find out more here: https://www.ccwater.org.uk/households/help-with-my-bills/
For those on certain benefits and who need to use a lot of water for either medical reasons or because a household has a certain number of school-age children, the WaterSure scheme might be able to help with the payment of water bills Households need to have a meter or be waiting for one to be installed. Find out more about eligibility here:
Those living in Wales without a water meter may quality for the Welsh Water Assist Scheme if on certain benefits with high essential use of water due to medical reasons and/or a certain number of school-age children in the household.
Energy Company Grants and Schemes
A number of energy companies offer grants and schemes open to anyone – individuals don’t have to be a customer to apply. Find out more here:
Food banks are community organisations that can help people who can’t afford the food they need and are mainly accessed via a referral. A good place to ask for a referral is Citizens Advice who will make the referral, subject to eligibility and very often support with information about other local help available and advice on budgeting and debts. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/using-a-food-bank/
Additional help from local councils and from the governments across the UK
Local Welfare Schemes
Local councils may help with food, energy, water bills and essential items e.g. a cooker.
Such help is provided via what is known as a Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (LWAS) sometimes called Local Welfare Provision (LWP) or Crisis Support. The End Furniture Poverty - Local Welfare Scheme Finder can help locate what help may be provided by individual councils.
Not every council have these schemes and support provided will vary from council to council. Even if a council doesn’t have a scheme its worth getting in touch as they may provide some support such as advice on additional benefits entitlement.
In England the Government has extended the Household Support Fund offering one-off grants for essentials such as food, clothing and utilities to vulnerable households until 30 September 2022. Funds are distributed by Local Authorities, information about how to contact a local authority here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
Further information for those in need of advice in England can be found here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
In Northern Ireland for information on the cost of living support package for those on income related benefits, disabled claimants and pensioners, click here: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/cost-living-support
Further information for those in need of advice in Northern Ireland can be found here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/northern-ireland/
In Scotland, Scottish Welfare can provide Crisis or Community Care Grants for some households in financial hardship https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-welfare-fund
There may also be help available for energy bills through the Home Heating Support Fund which has been extended to 31 March 2023 https://homeheatingadvice.scot/
Further information for those in need of advice in Scotland can be found here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/
In Wales, lower income households may be able to apply to the Discretionary Assistance Fund through the Welsh Government. This could be an Emergency Assistance Payment (EAP)for essential costs such as food, utilities, clothing or emergency travel or an Individual Assistance Payment (IAP)to help you or someone you care for to live independently with essential household goods. Find out more: https://gov.wales/discretionary-assistance-fund-daf
In Wales for information on help with the click here: https://gov.wales/get-help-cost-living
Further information for those in need of advice in Wales can be found here:
*Please note that support available varies across the UK and from local authority to local authority so not all the information here may be applicable to every household situation. Advice and the law can vary depending on where you live in the UK.
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the content is accurate, relevant and current we do not accept liability for any errors or omissions contained herein.