AS a cost of living crisis pummels millions of households’ budgets, here’s all the ways to get help now if you’re struggling with bills.
Energy, food, fuel and transport costs are all soaring as the rate of inflation rockets, and millions face falling behind on their bills.
It comes as inflation hit 9% earlier this month, and could rise further to 10%, the Bank of England has warned.
With households left struggling to stretch their cash to cover costs, six million now owe their energy supplier, while some are having to skip meals to pay for bills.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, there are ways you can get help.
From the Household Support Fund to energy bill grants, we explain all the extra support you can get to pay your way.
Welfare Assistance scheme
Many local councils has Welfare Assistance schemes to help struggling families.
Help available varies, but you could get free cash, food vouchers, and help for bills like rent and energy.
For example, East Riding of Yorkshire is handing out up to £1,000 in free cash for families to put towards bills.
However, the help you can get under the scheme is a postcode lottery – some local councils don’t even have a scheme in place, leaving thousands of renters unable to access the help.
There was a spike in grants dished out over the Covid crisis, with the number of councils handing out grants soaring by 210% in some places, a Sun investigation found.
Household Support Fund
Another scheme you could tap into via your local council is the Household Support Fund.
The total amount of money invested into this pot of cash is £1.5billion since the scheme launched in October last year.
Councils get a slice of the funding to dish out to hard-up families in their catchment area.
Reading Council for example, is giving pensioners energy vouchers worth £98, and families a sum of £49 to help cover similar costs.
Meanwhile, eligible residents in Norfolk can get £120 in food vouchers to cover meals for kids, with the council’s latest hand-out.
It’s best to check in with your own local authority to find out what may be up for grabs as well as how you can apply.
Check your benefit entitlement
You can find free-to-use online benefits calculators to work out what you’re entitled to.
Entitledto’s free calculator works out whether you qualify for various benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit.
Make sure you have key financial information to hand, such as bank and savings statements, and information on pensions and existing benefits.
If you live with a partner or family, get their basic financial information together too as this could affect your claim.
Once you’ve used the tools you can use the contact information on Gov.uk to get the ball rolling and apply for what you’re owed.
Energy bill grants
Energy suppliers offer cash grants to those hardest hit by bills rises.
For instance British Gas is giving out up to £750 through its hardship fund – and you don’t even have to be a customer.
But the amount can vary according to your supplier and your circumstances.
It’s not just Universal Credit claimants who can get the help, but if you’re on the benefit and have a low income you could qualify.
Ask your supplier what’s on offer and how to apply, or check here:
Apply for council tax support
You may be eligible for Council Tax Support (sometimes called a Council Tax Reduction) if you’re on a low income or on certain benefits.
The amount you could see your bill reduced by depends on your personal circumstances – but you could end up seeing council tax slashed by 100%.
This will depend on:
- Where you live
- Your circumstances (eg income, number of children, benefits, residency status)
- Your household income – this includes savings, pensions and your partner’s income
- If your children live with you
- If other adults live with you
You may also be able to get your council tax bill backdated, but again, this depends on your personal circumstances and where you live.
As each council offers different support, you’ll need to contact your local authority for more information.
The Council Tax Reduction scheme is not available for residents in Northern Ireland.
Households in Northern Ireland should check out this scheme instead.
Support for water bills
There are a number of schemes you can apply to in order to slash your water bills.
Lower income families can apply to the WarerSure scheme to save hundreds of pounds on their bill each year.
You could be eligible if you claim Universal Credit or a number of other benefits – and you can cap your bill.
The Consumer Council for Water estimates you’ll save £270 on average.
But depending on who your supplier is, you could save much more – Yorkshire Water said its customers can save £534 a year.
You have to hit certain criteria to qualify which you can check out here.
As well as offering the WaterSure scheme to struggling households, suppliers offer their own help schemes too.
Many water companies offer help to customers who cannot afford to pay their bills.
Exactly what help you can get and who is eligible will depend on who your supplier is.
But Yorkshire Water for example says customers can get make an average saving of £212 from its WaterSupport scheme.
Check in with your supplier to find out exactly how much you could get.
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