MILLIONS are feeling the pressure as bills soar – but these four relief programs could give you thousands in cash, vouchers and more.
To avoid the pressure, you can apply for financial help from your local council, energy company and more, said Andy Shaw, head of debt advice policy at Stepchange.
Families will be £1,000 worse off as the country’s worst cost of living crisis in decades hits budgets hard.
This is because wages are not keeping up with the skyrocketing rate of inflation, which is driving up prices from energy to food and fuel.
Big bill hikes are pushing thousands into debt – but struggling households can get hundreds of pounds of help from their council.
Mr Shaw has decades of experience helping struggling households slip into the red – here’s his advice for getting the support you need.
Social Assistance Scheme – up to £1,000
Most local councils run their own welfare schemes.
They are accessible to low-income people who have encountered financial difficulties – or faced a crisis.
“The specific support offered by each authority varies, but you can get grants for essential bills or one-time costs, food or fuel vouchers,” Shaw said.
The exact help you can get varies depending on your council – each runs its own program.
This means that some households may be able to claim more than others, depending on how much help your authority is willing to provide.
Research by The Sun found that households could get up to £1,000 in free cash in some areas to help pay for rent, bills, food and furniture.
While other councils do not have any welfare program in place at all.
Who can apply for the help will also vary, Mr Shaw said.
“Eligibility varies depending on your region, so you should check locally what help you may be eligible for.”
You can find out who your local authority is by using the gov.uk online tool.
Cancel your council tax debt – up to £3,200
The number of households with housing tax debt is on the rise.
The Sun has revealed that the number of people owing money to their local council has jumped 35% during the Covid crisis.
Households owed £65.5m in 2019/20, which rose to £87.2m in 2020/21.
Taxpayers are under even more pressure to pay the tax, as thousands of people have seen their municipal tax bills rise by up to 5% from last month.
But there is a way to ask your local council to erase your debt or reduce it if you are eligible.
“All counsel are bound by Section 13A of the
Local Government Finance Act 1992 to consider reducing or waiving municipal tax bills on application,” Mr Shaw said.
This means you can request, by completing a Section 13A request form, to have your bill erased if your home was damaged in a flood or fire.
“Most local authorities will only do this for households in a serious situation.
Financial difficulty; they should have a published policy that outlines the criteria for their program,” he said.
Apply cheaper rates on bills – £100 off
Low-income households could be paying hundreds of pounds more on their bills than they actually need, Mr Shaw said.
“For utilities such as gas, electricity and water, as well as telephone and
Internet services, providers offer social tariffs that provide these services at discounted rates,” he said.
“They are accessible to low-income households or those benefiting from
means-tested benefits. Check with your provider to see if you qualify.”
Broadband – save £144
Around four million households could cut their broadband bill by £144 a year by applying for special discounted broadband packages.
Currently, six broadband providers – BT, Community Fibre, G.Network, Hyperoptic, KCOM and Virgin Media O2 – offer at least one of these specially discounted offers.
These plans cost between £10 and £20 per month for broadband speeds ranging from 10Mbps to 67Mbps.
This is compared to the cost of a standard commercial broadband plan, which is £27 per month.
They are often open to people with Universal Credit or other benefits – check with your broadband provider to see if you qualify.
Water – save up to £500
Low-income households and benefit recipients may be able to reduce their water bills or cap costs under the WaterSure program.
To benefit from the program, you must already have installed a water meter and prove that you must use a lot of water.
You must also have at least three children under the age of 19 living in the house and receiving child allowance for them.
Alternatively, someone living in the house must have a medical condition that means you need lots of water, such as oozing skin conditions like psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
The Consumer Council for Water estimates that bills are reduced by an average of £270 through this scheme.
But Yorkshire Water says its low-income customers can save an average of £534 a year by using WaterSure.
Energy Diet Aid – £100
Households in difficulty can apply for subsidies and aid from their energy supplier.
Energy companies run funds that distribute money to those who are behind on their bills.
“All trust funds work the same way – if you give them details of your financial situation and your energy debt, they will decide if you qualify, and if successful, they will give you a grant to cover your energy costs, ” he said.
For example, British Gas is distributing up to £750 through its hardship fund.
But the amount may vary depending on your provider and your situation.
Ask your provider what’s on offer and how to apply, or check here:
You might also be able to claim the £150 warm house discount later this year.
Check your provider’s website over the next few months to see when applications will open for winter 2022.
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