Help with utility bills and the reduction in Universal Credit
With energy prices rising at this time we understand just how much pressure this can put on your household budget.
We know that the rising cost of gas and electricity accounts for a significant amount of your outgoings and we would like to give you some advice to assist at this time. We understand you may be struggling to make ends meet especially given the recent reductions in Universal Credit.
To assist the Department for Work and Pensions have announced a Household Support Fund to assist with your budget.
The £500million Household Support Fund will be distributed by councils, this will assist by offering small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing and utility bills.
If you are in need of support you should contact your local council, who will help you access the fund. In Walsall you can contact via Housingandwelfaresupport@walsall.gov.uk or by calling 01922 652250. In Lambeth you can apply by emailing: ESSteam@lambeth.gov.uk
You may also be entitled for the following support schemes:
Warm Home Discount Scheme
This gives you £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022.
The money comes in the form of a one-off discount on your electricity bill between October and March.
You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. Contact your energy company to find out.
The scheme is available if you are on a low income and also if you receive Pension Credit.
The number of discounts given out is limited so check with your supplier as early as possible to see if you’re eligible and how to apply.
If you are on Pension Credit should receive a letter between October and December telling you how to get the discount, if you qualify. The electricity company will apply the discount to your bill by March 31 next year.
If you're on Pension Credit and don't receive a letter by December 31 but think you’re eligible, call the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214.
You can still qualify for the discount if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter. This usually comes in the form of a voucher.
Cold Weather Payment
This is a payment given if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, 0C or below over seven consecutive days.
You will receive £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.
To qualify for Cold Weather Payments, you should be on one of the following:
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Support for Mortgage Interest
Those on Universal Credit are only eligible for Cold Weather Payments if they are NOT employed or self-employed. One of the following must also apply:
- you have a health condition or disability and have limited capability for work (with or without work-related activity)
- you have a child under five living with you
If you think you have missed out on a Cold Weather Payment, tell the Pension Service or Jobcentre Plus.
If you claim Universal Credit you should sign into your account and add a note to your journal. Or if you don't have an online account, call the Universal Credit helpline instead on 0800 328 5644.
Winter Fuel Payment
Under this scheme, you could get between £100 and £300 to help pay your heating bills.
You qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment if both the following apply:
- you were born on or before September 26, 1955
- you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of September 20 to 26, 2021
You will get the Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you're eligible under those two criteria and get either the State Pension or are in receipt of Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support.
If you don't get State Pension or are on Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit you need to put in a claim for Winter Fuel Payment. The deadline for claiming is March 31, 2022.
Most payments are made automatically in November or December. You should get your money by January 14, 2022.
If you do not get your payment, contact the Winter Fuel Payment centre on https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/report-change-circumstances
You may be able to claim for a budgeting loan if you have been on certain benefits for 6 months. A Budgeting Loan can help pay for:
- furniture or household items (for example, washing machines or other ‘white goods’)
- clothes or footwear
- rent in advance
- costs linked to moving house
- costs linked to getting a new job
- maternity costs
- funeral costs
- repaying hire purchase loans
Universal credit changes - what support is available if you are worried about your income?
You can seek advice from Citizens Advice or Walsall Money Advice Project.
Some helpful tips would be to:
- A benefits check. This will help you check you are getting all the support you’re entitled to. You can use an online calculator or contact your local Citizens Advice.
- Help with debt. Some bills can cause you more problems than others if you don’t pay them. Rent or mortgage arrears, energy bills and council tax are your priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Citizens Advice can provide guidance if you’re struggling with bills.
- Free school meals. If you have children and you get certain benefits, you might be able to get free school meals for your children.
- Food bank vouchers. If you can’t afford food you can ask for a referral from Citizens Advice or contact your Tenancy Services Officer for a food bank voucher.
If you are affected by the latest changes please contact us so we can support you or signpost you to local or national agencies.
You can access the Online Money manager Tool for Universal Credit recipients: https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/benefits/universal-credit/money-manager. This service will help you if you’ve recently had a change to your benefit payment, including the ending of the COVID-19 increase to your Universal Credit payment. If you are worried about how you’ll manage your household budget there is free debt advice available.
If you live in Lambeth - drop in surgeries are in place in you are in financial difficulty or who are struggling to pay debts or need money management advice you can get advice at:
- Brixton Advice Centre – Tel: 020 7733 7554 or email: http://www.brixtonadvice.org.uk
- Citizens Advice Merton & Lambeth – Tel: Lambeth: 0800 254 0298 (Freephone) or Merton: 0344 243 8430 or email: https://www.caml.org.uk
- Citizens Advice national consumer helpline Tel: 0808 223 1133
- Age UK Lambeth – Tel:0333 360 3700 or email email@example.com
- Step Change – Tel: 0800 138 1111
- Christian Against Poverty – Tel: 0800 328 0006 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you live in Walsall you can contact:
- Walsall Money Advice Project - http://www.wmap.org.uk/
- Citizens Advice – Tel:01922 700 600 or 0300 3301159 or email email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ablewell Advice Centre, Ablewell Street, Walsall, WS1 2EQ Tel: 01922 639700
or email: email@example.com