March's Spring Statement penned a robust path forward out of the challenging economic situation we now find ourselves in. Particularly during these particularly difficult times, I thought it might be helpful to highlight a number of different places that constituents can turn should they need some extra help over the coming months.
For more information on the Spring Statement, you can also find additional detail on the Government’s new 'Cost of Living Payments 2023 to 2024' guidance page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cost-of-living-payments-2023-to-2024
Energy Advice Service
West Sussex residents and families facing financial hardship, struggling with energy payments, or need help with home grants and repairs can contact the West Sussex Energy Advice Service and speak to the Home Energy Advisors direct via telephone at 01243 974063.
Energy Price Guarantee
For domestic users, the Chancellor’s Spring Statement confirmed that a further Energy Price Guarantee will be in place from April 2023, saving the average household £500 on their annual energy spending. As before, the scheme will work by imposing a maximum on the unit price you pay for your gas and electricity usage, coming into effect automatically – there’s nothing more that you need to do.
You can read more on the new Energy Price Guarantee on the Government's website here.
For those on alternative fuels, like LPG or heating oil, the Government has also announced a doubling of the support for households to £200.
Further Cost of Living Payments
A £301 payment will automatically be sent to those eligible between 25th April and 17th May by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The payment reference for bank accounts will be "DWP COLP" along with the claimant's National Insurance number.
If you are a recipient of the following benefits, between the qualifying period of 26th January and 25 February 2023, you may be eligible for upcoming Cost of Living payment:
- Universal Credit
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Pension Credit
DWP is also encouraging low-income pensioners not already getting Pension Credit to check their eligibility, as they can still qualify for the £301 Cost of Living Payment if they make a successful backdated Pension Credit application by 19 May.
For more information on the Cost of Living payment, see here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/first-2023-24-cost-of-living-payment-dates-announced
In addition to the Cost of Living Payments, the Chancellor has also announced another wave of support:
- £900 for 8 million households on means-tested benefits
- An additional £300 for pensioners
- A further £150 for those on disability benefits
Individual energy companies often have support and advice sachems to help customer struggling with energy costs and energy debt, some are these are listed. If your supplier is not listed contact you could try contacting your supplier to ask if they have support schemes or if you need help to do this contact Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice service.
- British Gas Energy Trust provide dedicated energy debt support to individuals and families facing financial hardship and fuel poverty. You do not need to be a British Gas customer to access this support, the service is available to anyone struggling with bills regardless of energy supplier.
- Bulb Energy Fund
- EDF Energy
- EON Energy Fund
- OVO Energy debt and energy assistance
- Scottish Power Hardship Fund
Warm Homes Discount
If you are on a low income, then the Government's Warm Home Discount could save you £140 off your electric bill. Check with your electricity provider to see if you are eligible.
Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice service can help you apply. If your energy costs are high, your household income is low and your home isn't energy efficient, you may be experiencing fuel poverty. West Sussex residents can get help from Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice service. You can call the team on 01243 974063 (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm).
Winter Fuel Payments
Pensioners may be eligible to receive between £100 and £300 of additional bill support during the Winter months. This is typically made as an automatic payment each year to eligible people: https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/eligibility
Cold Weather Payment
Depending on if you’re currently receiving certain means-tested benefits, you may also be eligible for additional energy bill support when temperatures drop below zero: https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment/eligibility
Grants from Energy Providers
If you’re in need of some extra help to pay your energy bills, it may also be worth looking into support available from your specific energy provider. Citizens Advice detail a number of the grants on offer from the biggest energy providers on their website: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-help-paying-your-bills/grants-and-benefits-to-help-you-pay-your-energy-bills/#Grants_To_Help_Pay_Energy_Debts
The Energy Bill Relief Scheme (Businesses)
Effective from the 1st October 2022, the Energy Bill Relief Scheme provides eligible businesses with a significant discount on their energy bills:
- £211 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity
- £75 per MWh for gas
To learn more about eligibility requirements and how the scheme works, please take a look at the Government website, here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/energy-bill-relief-scheme-help-for-businesses-and-other-non-domestic-customers
Useful Energy Advice Videos
- Loft Insulation https://youtu.be/QRNHm9tgNYY
- Cut the cost in the Kitchen https://youtu.be/w_oCLLtVqQ0
- Gaps in your floorboards https://youtu.be/MRMtQzvRCug
- Window Cracks https://youtu.be/z5uLXUyT0Es
- Door draughts https://youtu.be/6BGMyYibNZQ
What are you Entitled To?
To find out what you might be able to claim for, please visit the Entitled to benefit calculator and enter your details. You will then receive an estimate of your entitlement to benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit.
Benefits/Universal Credit Uprating
The Government are raising benefits like Universal Credit in-line with recent inflation, helping those between jobs or unable to work to stay afloat. You can find more information on eligibility and the process for applying on the Chichester District Council website, here.
The Household Support Fund
West Sussex has been allocated £9,740,724.21, by the Department for Work and Pensions, for the Household Support Fund to help the most vulnerable households deal with rising costs of essentials. If you successfully apply for the fund, you will receive a voucher based on the size of your household, or support with paying essential household bills. You will need to provide evidence to support your application when completing the application form. The West Sussex County Council team will assess your circumstances against their eligibility criteria.
For more information about the fund CLICK HERE
To complete the online support form CLICK HERE
National Living Wage
From the 1st April 2023, the National Living Wage will be rising by 9.7% to £10.42, the largest ever single increase. This will benefit all workers 23 and over.
The maintaining of the Triple Lock means that almost 12 million pensioners in Great Britain will see their State Pension rise in-line with recent inflation.
In practice, this means that you will see the full basic State Pension rise from the current rate of £141.85 to £156.20 per week (£748.75 per year), to between £185.15 and £203.85 per week (£975.75 per year).
You could get extra money to help with your living costs if you’re over State Pension age and on a low income: even if you have savings or own your own home. Just like the State Pension, these will also see a 10.1% rise in-line with inflation.
Help with food, water and other essentials
If your support need is urgent (for example, you are going to run out of food, medicine or essential supplies within three days), you should call West Sussex Community Hub on 033 022 27980.
Community Hub at West Sussex County Council is where you can apply for support with food and other essential items
Free school meals in all West Sussex County Council maintained, and free schools and academies, are available to pupils in receipt of, or whose parents are in receipt of a qualifying benefit. It is important to register for free school meals if you are eligible, even if your child is reception or years one and two who get a free school meal regardless of income. This is because free school meal eligibility may automatically mean that you get other support.
Pop-Up Pantries offer affordable food and advice locally to those who may need a little support. Bring a bag, choose the food you need and donate what you can.
Southern Water offer support to financially vulnerable customers to assist with water bills, including reduced tariffs and other hardship schemes. They also have a priority register so that vulnerable customers can access support in the event of a disruption to supply. You can check your water supplier using the postcode checker.
Social tariffs for broadband and phone services If you are having difficulty paying for phone or broadband you should speak to your provider, some have offer cheaper packages to some customers depending on their circumstances.
Debt and Loans
Help with your Mortgage
The Government may be able to offer help towards the interest payments on your mortgage and some other loans through the Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) programme, Alternatively, you could speak to your mortgage or loan provider and ask them about payment holidays.
Missed Payments or Debt
If you are worried about debts or missed payments, there is free and independent debt advice available. The government sponsored Money Helper can help you find support, including a money navigator tool.
Citizens Advice Bureau
Arun and Chichester Citizens Advice can help with budgeting, debt, accessing grants, increasing your income and more. They offer advice over the phone and online, or you can drop into their Chichester office Mondays and Wednesdays. Home visits are available for disabled people and carers.
- General advice on debt, benefits, housing, employment, and more - call 0808 278 7969 (Mon-Fri 10am-4.30pm, freephone), book a video appointment or start a Citizens Advice Bureau web chat (Opens in a new window) . Drop into East Pallant House Mondays and Wednesdays 10am-4pm.
- Energy advice - their dedicated team can help you save money on your energy bills and access emergency fuel support, as well as improve your energy efficiency. Call the team on 01243 974063 (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm).
- Citizens Advice - Getting extra support from your energy supplier (Opens in a new window) - If you find it hard to deal with your energy supply company or want to find out about getting priority services because you are vulnerable.
- Getting online - if you'd like to learn how to shop safely and save money online, 'Technology Doesn't Byte' may be able to help you. The Digital Money Coach can help you find and fund a device for getting online, as well as looking at ways to pay for your Internet connection. Call 01243 776528 (Mon-Fri 9am-4.30pm) and ask for an appointment with the Digital Money Coach.
- Universal Credit - if you're new to claiming benefits or unsure if you're eligible, speak to the Help to Claim team on 0800 144 8 444 (Mon-Fri 8am-6pm).
Christians Against Poverty CAP
Christians Against Poverty (Opens in a new window) offer a free debt counselling service for anyone struggling with unmanageable debt. The service is completely free, always providing a solution and route out of debt, working with creditors and providing support throughout the journey to debt freedom. Book an appointment by calling 0800 328 0006 or by visiting the CAP website.
The Government also provide a range of support measures to help families with childcare costs, including free childcare for a variety of age ranges and payment of Child Benefit for those with under 16s (and eligible under 20s).
Consider taking a look at the Government’s dedicated Family Support page for a more comprehensive list of some of the help available: https://helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/
Chichester District Council:
Chichester District Council may also be able to offer some additional assistance. Their new ‘Supporting You’ team has been established to provide helpful advice on a wide range of matters, and you can get in touch with them via their email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 01243 534860.
More information can be found on Chichester District Council’s website at: https://www.chichester.gov.uk/helpwithfinances