LIZ Truss has again refused to confirm a payment hike for people on Universal Credit and benefits – we explain how you can get extra help.
The Prime Minister told LBC Radio this morning that “no decision has been made yet on benefit uprating”.
1PM Liz Truss refused to confirm a payment hike for people on Universal CreditCredit: Getty
It comes after it was reported that the government was considering raising payments in line with earnings instead of the higher rate of inflation to save £5billion.
But pensions will still rise in line with prices after Kwasi Kwarteng said the government is “absolutely committed” to the triple lock.
It means retirees will see their funds rise by around 10 per cent as pensions are pegged to soaring prices.
When asked why she committed to increasing pensions but not benefits, Mrs Truss said: “What I mean is when people are on a fixed income, when they are pensioners, it is quite hard to adjust.
“I think it’s a different situation for people who are in the position to be able to work.”
She added that a decision will be made “in due course”.
Benefits are usually uprated in line with the consumer price index (CPI) rate of inflation from September, with the rise coming into effect the following April.
But millions of Universal Credit recipients face real-term cuts of as much as £1,000 as part of Mrs Truss’ plan to rein in spending.
If you’re already on a tight budget and feeling the pinch, you could be entitled to extra help to boost your finances.
Here we explain what you can get and how to apply if you’re struggling to get by in the cost of living crisis.
Energy bill grants – up to £1,500
Several suppliers offer energy bill help through hardship funds and give out grants.
These can be worth up to £1,500 and you don’t need to repay the cash.
British Gas has just opened its hardship fund – and you don’t have to be a customer to apply.
The cash can be used to pay off energy bill arrears, but you need to get debt advice first to be eligible – find out more about how to apply.
Other suppliers are also offering similar help to their own customers.
Check with yours directly to see what they offer. Eligibility and how much you get can vary between them.
Cost of living payment – £324
Eight million households on means-tested benefits will get a £650 cost of living payment.
The payments will go to those who get Universal Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income support or Pension Credit.
The first £326 instalment was dropped into people’s bank accounts in July.
Those on tax credits were paid the help from September 2.
The Department for Work and Pensions has now confirmed that people will start receiving the second payment of £324 on November 8.
Both payments are tax-free and won’t affect your benefits, or count towards the benefit cap.
It comes as a separate payment to your normal benefit amount, and then a second instalment will follow sometime in Autumn.
You will need to be on eligible benefits or have begun a successful claim which is later, as of May 25 2022 to get the first payment.
If you have a joint claim with a partner, both of you will get one payment of £650.
Anyone on working tax credit and child tax credit is also eligible, but you’ll get the cash at later dates.
More cost of living payments are coming too.
Pensioners will get an extra £300 one-off payment during the coldest months, and six million people with disabilities will receive £150 in September.
Energy bill discount – £400
From the beginning of this month, all households started to receive a £400 energy bill discount.
The payment will be dished out by your energy supplier and will be split across six discounts between October and March next year.
Households will receive a £66 energy bill discount in October and November and a discount worth £67 in December, January, February and March.
In November, a £300 one-off “Pensioner Cost of Living Payment” will be paid out to eight million households.
It will be given to those who already get the winter fuel payment – which is worth between £100 and £300 for those over state pension age.
Millions of households are in line to get the £150 Warm Home Discount between December and March 2023.
Council tax discount – £938.63
As one of the biggest bills facing households, getting some relief on council tax could be a big help.
Nearly three million households are missing out on £2.6billion a year, on average – that’s over £900 a year each.
You can apply for a council tax reduction if you’re on a low income or claim other benefits.
Depending on your circumstances, you could get your bill reduced by up to 100%, meaning you pay no council tax at all.
Exactly what discount you get depends on factors including where you live, your circumstances (like if you have kids) and your income.
For instance, if you’re the only adult in your household, you automatically get 25% off your bill, but many people get far more.
To apply, enter your postcode into the government website, and then head to your local council to see what’s available.
You’ll need to apply directly to them the get the discount.
Free school meals – up to £500 a year
If you’re claiming certain benefits including Universal Credit, JSA and Child Tax Credit, then your child might be entitled to free school meals.
You will typically need to apply through your local authority so they can apply for extra funding from the Government, while some councils ask you to contact the school directly.
Simply click here and type in your postcode to be redirected to your local council’s website and apply.
The exact amount you’ll get depends on where you are, but ranges from around £2.15 to £2.50 per day, or around £400-£500 each school year.
Over the school holidays, many councils are giving out cash to help parents during the break – check out our guide.
Free milk, fruit and veg – up to £442
The Healthy Start scheme offers thousands of parents on low incomes help to feed their kids.
You get a prepaid card and payments worth up to £442 a year for those claiming certain benefits.
You can start getting the cash from 10 weeks pregnant up to when the child turns four.
The card can be used at major supermarkets and shops to buy the following:
Fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables
Infant formula milk
Fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
Check out how to apply for the Healthy Start scheme in our guide.
Free £200 for school uniforms
It’s not just food costs that can add up quickly if you have kids.
You can get a grant of up to £200 to help cover the cost of school uniforms for the year ahead, depending on where you are.
As a general rule, those on income support, Universal Credit, JSA, child tax credit, ESA, and pension tax credit are entitled to support under Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
You may also be eligible if your annual income is less than £16,190.
To apply, enter your postcode on the Gov.uk website, which will direct you to your council’s website where you should search for “uniform grant” to find out what help is available in your area.
Water bill help – as much as £600
Some water companies offer bill help if you’re on a low income, or debt write-off schemes if you’re in arrears.
What you can get depends on your water company so you’ll need to contact them directly.
For instance, one woman on Universal Credit slashed her bill by £600 a year thanks to a fund from Severn Trent water.
Many water companies also offer free water-saving devices that shave pounds off your bills.
Contact your supplier, as freebies can include shower timers and buffalo bags, which save water with every flush.
It’s also worth checking out savewatersavemoney.co.uk.
Large families on Universal Credit or other benefits may be eligible for a cap on their bills under the WaterSure scheme.
To qualify for the scheme, you need to already have a water meter installed, and prove you need to use a lot of water.
You also need to have three or more children under the age of 19 living in the house, and receive child benefits for them.
You can find out more about the scheme in our guide.