I know many families across Sevenoaks and Swanley are struggling with the rising cost of living. The Government has rightly announced a significant package of measures to help households through this difficult time, and I thought it would be helpful to run through the various components, so that everyone can check what they might be eligible for. My team and I are here to help if you need it, just email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost of living
- Low-income Households: A £650 cost of living payment was made in 2022 to all households who receive eligible means-tested benefits. In 2023-24, a further £900 payment will be made across three instalments. £301 will be paid in Spring 2023, £300 will be paid in autumn 2023, and £299 will be paid in spring 2024. All those who live in the UK and are in receipt of Universal Credit, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, or Pension Credit are eligible. If you think you are eligible and have not received any payment, you can report a missing Cost of Living Payment online.
- Pensioners: An extra £150 or £300 cost of living payment for every pensioner household in receipt of Winter Fuel Payments was made in November last year, alongside the standard Winter Fuel Payment. An additional £150 or £300 Cost of Living Payment for pensioners will be made from November 2023, and further detail on timing of the payments and eligibility dates will be provided in due course. These payments are in addition to the other cost of living payments for those eligible.
- Disabled people: An extra £150 cost of living payment for people who receive disability benefits – including Personal Independence Payments, Disability Living Allowance, and Attendance Allowance. Eligible households should have received this payment in late September or early October last year. An additional £150 payment will be made during the summer of 2023, and further detail on timing of the payments and eligibility dates will be provided in due course This is in addition to the other cost of living payments for those eligible.
These Cost of Living Payments are automatically paid, and you do not need to apply. They are all exempt from tax and will not affect your eligibility for other benefits.
Help with energy bills
- Energy Price Guarantee: This replaced Ofgem’s energy price cap and ensured that a typical household in Great Britain did not pay more than £2,500 a year for their energy bill from 1 October 2022 until 31 March 2023, saving a typical household up to £1,300 since October. This has been extended until June and will save a typical household a further £160 this spring. You do not need to apply and there is no need to contact your energy supplier. For those on prepayment meters, energy charges will be brought in line with customers who pay by direct debit from July.
- Alternative Fuel Payment: A £200 payment to households who are not on the mains gas grid and therefore use alternative fuels, such as heating oil, LPG, wood, solid fuel, and bottled gas, to heat their homes. The payment will ensure that a typical customer using heating oil does not face a higher rate of growth in their heating costs since last winter, in comparison to those using mains gas who are supported by the Energy Price Guarantee. Payments commenced in February, with most made through electricity suppliers. Households which cannot receive the payments automatically can apply through an online portal here.
- Energy Bill Discount Scheme: Replacing the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, the Energy Bill Discount Scheme will provide a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices for all non-domestic customer, including businesses, charities, and schools, for 12 months from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024. The price reduction for each business will vary depending on their contract type and circumstances, and the discount will be automatically applied to fixed contracts agreed on or after 1 December 2021, as well as to deemed, variable and flexible tariffs and contracts. The rates of per-unit discount can be found here.
- Energy Bill Support Scheme: A £400 cash grant for all households to help with the cost of energy bills during the 2022-23 winter. For households on a domestic electricity contract, from October, energy bills will automatically be discounted by £66 each month (£67 from December) until March 2023, with no need for households to apply.
- Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Funding: Households that do not have a domestic electricity contract (and therefore will not receive support via the Energy Bill Support Scheme) will receive the £400 payment via a discretionary fund. Eligible households may include residential park homes, permanent Traveller sites, or homes off the main electricity or gas grid. More information on eligibility, as well as the application portal, can be found here. The payment is in addition to the Energy Price Guarantee and the Alternative Fuel Payment.
- Warm Homes Discount: Every winter the Government provides a discount on energy costs to around 3 million low-income households. In 2022 this was worth £150 for each eligible household and is applied directly to your energy bill. If you think you might be eligible but do not already receive the Warm Homes Discount, you should contact your energy supplier directly.
- Winter Fuel Payments: The Government provides payments of between £250 and £600 for households with someone of State Pension Age or over. If you are eligible the payment should be made automatically in November or December. If you were not paid by 13 January 2023, check your account before you contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.
- Cold Weather Payments: A £25 payment for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November 2022 and 31 March 2023 for those on qualifying means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit and Pension Credit. You do not need to apply, and eligible households should receive payment within 14 working days of the cold period. If you think you should’ve received a Cold Weather Payment, but you have not, contact the Pension Service or Jobcentre Plus.
- Energy Efficiency Support: Low income and vulnerable households may be eligible for free or subsidised energy efficiency improvements via their local authorities or energy suppliers, saving an average of £320 per year. All homes with council tax bands A-D in England in poorly insulated homes will be eligible for government funded energy efficiency measures via the Energy Company Obligation.
Additional support available
- Pension Credit: Across the country around 25% of people who are eligible for Pension Credit are not yet claiming it. Pension Credit is a top up for low-income pensioners that is worth an average of £3,300 per year. As well as a cash top up to the State Pension, it also entitles you to help with housing costs, council tax reduction schemes, cold weather heating payments, and a free over-75s TV licence. You can find out more and apply online here.
- Household Support Fund: The Government is providing £1.5 billion to local authorities for them to distribute to households and families who need financial support. This will include pensioners, families with children who receive free school meals, and others who are struggling with the rising cost of living. Sevenoaks District Council will be allocating the funding locally.
- Home Essentials in a Crisis: Kent County Council provide a discretionary emergency welfare scheme, and may be able to help if you have experienced an unforeseen, short-term crisis or if you are facing exceptional pressures because of an emergency. You can find out more here.
- Fuel Duty: The Government cut the main rates of fuel duty for petrol and diesel by 5p per litre for 12 months from April 2022, which has been extended until April 2024.
- Social Tariffs for broadband and mobile: People on Universal Credit and other means-tested benefits may be eligible for low-cost broadband and mobile deals on social tariffs. They start at £10 per month and can represent a saving of around £180 a year for eligible households. More information on eligibility and discounted price plans can be found here.
- National Insurance Contributions: from July 2022, the Government is raising the National Insurance Contributions threshold, meaning that employees won't have to pay NICs on their first £12,570 of earnings. and from November 2022, the rate of National Insurance paid was reduced by 1.25% points. When combined, almost 30 million people will be £500 better off on average next year.
- Universal Credit: Universal Credit is designed to help people who are on a low income, out of work, or cannot work. A wide range of people are eligible for Universal Credit, depending on their personal and/or family circumstances. You can find out more, check eligibility criteria, and apply online here.
If you are struggling, please do reach out for help. There are a number of local organisations who offer tailored advice and guidance, and will be able to help explore what support you may be entitled to.
- HERO at Sevenoaks District Council: The HERO (housing, energy and retraining options) service offers complete and personalised advice, giving information and guidance on a range of issues including housing problems, saving money on fuel bills, debt or mortgage advice, and welfare benefits. Further information including contact details can be found here.
- Citizens Advice: offer free impartial guidance and support to help people with whatever challenges they are facing, including money and debt, benefits and utilities. Information is available online, and you can also speak to someone for tailored advice. Details for our local Citizens Advice North & West Kent, including contact details, can be found here.
Resources for further information and practical guidance