HOUSEHOLDS struggling with soaring energy bills don’t have to go it alone – there’s plenty of help out there that you might not be aware of .
Millions of Brits are grappling with a brutal cost of living crisis, with petrol prices, groceries and bills all rocketing.Here are some of the ways you can get hold of financial support if you are struggling to cope[/caption]
The government has stepped in by announcing new packages of support for millions of people, and there are other schemes to be aware of too.
It comes as Boris Johnson has announced a bonanza of tax cuts, housing “revolution” and a red tape bonfire – here’s a round-up
In a major speech, the PM unveiled a home-ownership drive to get more people on the ladder.
It came just weeks after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a giant support package for households struggling amidst the cost of living crisis last month.
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In the same month, EON boss Michael Lewis said the crisis could last for more than a year and a half.
And he called for the government to intervene urgently amid the “unprecedented” hardships faced by Brits.
But there is support on offer if you are facing financial hardship.
Here are some of the ways you can save on money this year:
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Over four million homes are on prepayment meters where they pay for the energy they use at the time, rather than being billed later on.
But if you are one of these households, there are options to help you, including a one-off voucher to top up your meter.
Andy Shaw from Stepchange previously told The Sun: “Energy suppliers are able to provide people with vouchers that they can use for their meters.
“You can also get them through some food banks and other local support organisations and the eligibility criteria is usually the same – you’ll need to have been been referred by an advice provider, GP or similar.”
The fuel voucher scheme comes via the Fuel Bank Foundation charity, and is offered through a range of organisations, including food banks and Citizens Advice.
The best place to start to find somewhere which can offer you a fuel voucher is by asking your local council – you can find yours via gov.uk by searching your postcode.
You can even get help from an adviser if you’re not sure you can get a voucher.
There’s more help coming on energy bill too – more on which below.
The main source of household support you can get comes through the Household Support Fund (HSF).
It was first introduced in September 2021 and was due to run until 31 March 2022.
But chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the fund last month during his big House of Commons speech – pumping another £500million into the pot.
The money is distributed from central government to county councils and unitary authorities who then decide who is eligible for the fund, depending on their need.
How the money is distributed varies from area to area.
In Derby, families can get help during the school term break and pensioners receiving council tax support can also claim.
Successful applicants will receive a one-off payment in vouchers to the amount of:
- £120 for a household with children
- £100 for a couple
- £80 for a single person
Meanwhile, Torbay Council is offering its residents a maximum amount of £50 towards food or energy bills.
Rising childcare costs are forcing many working mothers to not go back to work, it was reported in The Times.
The average nursery place now costs an eye-watering £7,000 a year, and fees are only going up.
Which? also found that the cost childcare for children under two has increased by 2.5%, and that one in four parents are having to cut down on essentials such as food and heating just to afford it.
But there are ways parents struggling to afford childcare can get by – and some are worth thousands of pounds.
Free childcare hours
The government has a scheme for parents to access childcare if their children are two-years old or younger.
You may have to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips, but the care itself is free.
Eligibility applies, and you can check the full list of criteria on the government’s website.
If your child is three or four-years old, you could still be eligible for 30 hours’ free help from an approved provider every term time week funded by the government.
This is for 38 weeks a year, but parents can choose to take fewer hours to spread the support over more weeks.
You can start your application by going to the government’s website.
Universal Credit and Tax Credit
There are other ways you can receive help with your childcare as well, including Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, where the government gives the claimant extra money.
To qualify for Working Tax Credit, the claimant and their partner have to work at least 16 hours a week.
There are exceptions though. For more information, check out the government’s website.
Tax-free childcare is available to parents who work – and both parents must be working to be eligible.
Based on the childcare costs, the government offers a top up.
And some can claim up to £500 for each child every three months if they are cared for by an approved provider.
To get tax free childcare, you’ll need to set up an online childcare account.
You can get Child Benefit if you’re responsible for a child aged under 16, or if they are under 20 and in approved education or training.
The free money is paid every four weeks, and there’s no limit to how many children you can apply for – though only one person can claim for each child.
But do note that those who earn more than £50,000 a year may need to pay back some of their Child Benefit in tax.
While this help isn’t directly for childcare, the money can help to cut costs.
In addition, you can also use local charities.
Certain organisations, such as the YMCA and local church groups, sometimes run after school clubs for free.
So check whether there are any eligibility requirements by speaking to the organisation directly.
Mental health support
The cost of living crisis can hit our wallets hard, but there is also a knock-on effect on our mental health.
According to The Conversation, poverty can have a profound psychological impact, and even lead to a more limited attention span.
But there is help on offer for those who might be struggling.
The NHS runs local helplines for people who might be having a mental health crisis.
They offer 24-hour advice and support, access to mental health professionals and an assessment to help decide on the best way to help.
To find your local helpline, visit the NHS’ website.
Outside of the NHS, there are other services offering confidential support from trained volunteers.
You can call 116 123 or email email@example.com to speak to someone at Samaritans.
Alternatively, text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19.
If you’re under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.
Rishi Sunak announced a giant £21billion support package for hard-hit households last month.
Among some of the payments on offer were:
£650 cost of living payment for people on benefits
More than eight million households on means tested benefits will receive the payment, including households receiving Universal Credit, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance and more.
The Department of Work and Pensions will make the payment in two lump sums – the first from July and the second in the autumn.
The payments will be made to households directly.
£300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment
All pensioner households will receive an extra £300 to help them with soaring energy bills this winter.
That means eight million people will get a top-up on their Winter Fuel Payments in November/December.
The payment will be made by direct debit.
£150 Disability Cost of Living Payment
Six million people receiving Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Scottish Disability Benefits and more will get the payment.
The payments will be exempt from tax, not count towards the benefit cap, and will not have any impact on existing benefit awards.
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The government will make the payments directly to households in the UK.
There is other support on offer from the government, which can be seen on its website.
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