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Help with the cost of living

If youre struggling with your finances and find you don’t have enough to live on, theres support available to help you with the cost of living

Winter Fuel Payments for older people

The Winter Fuel Payment is a government payment for older people to help pay for the cost of heating during the cold winter months.

You could be paid between £250 and £600 if you were born before 25 September 1957. The money will not affect any other benefits you receive and is tax-free. The amount you’ll get depends on your age and whether anyone else in your household qualifies. It also includes a Pensioner Cost of Living Payment which is between £150 and £300.

Most people who are eligible will receive the payment automatically. To be eligible you must:

  • Be born on or before 25 September 1957
  • Live in the UK (although you may still be eligible if you live abroad

More detailed information on the Winter Fuel Payment.

Get help with the essentials

Your local council may be able to help you pay for essentials such as your energy and water bills, food and items such as a stove or fridge. This is called welfare assistance or the Household Support Fund.

Getting money through the Household Support Fund or welfare assistance will not affect any of your existing benefits. You can also ask for support if you do not claim any benefits.

Contact your local council to find out if they can support you with the cost of essentials.

Help with your energy bills

If you’re struggling or unable to pay your energy bills or add money to your prepayment meter, you may be able to get help in the form of a fuel voucher or a grant from your energy provider. Your local council may also be able to help you get a fuel voucher.

Talk to an energy adviser at Citizens Advice to see if you’re eligible for a fuel voucher. Call their consumer helpline on 0800 223 1133. They are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

You can also check what other support you may be able to get to help pay your energy bills on the Citizens Advice website.

Major energy providers have set up grants to help households who are struggling financially and have energy debts. These include British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON Next and Octopus Energy.

Each energy provider has their own criteria for eligibility as well as the amount you can receive. You’ll need to check directly with your supplier as to what support you may be able to receive.

Check the list of grants from major energy providers on the Citizens Advice website.

If you have a disability or a long-term health condition, you can join your supplier’s Priority Services register to access extra help. It is a free service that ensures you get priority support in urgent situations, such as unplanned power cuts, or are given advance notice of scheduled power cuts.

If you’ve been unable to pay your bills and you’ve been told that your energy supply will be disconnected between 1 October and 31 March, your energy provider cannot disconnect you if you are of State Pension age and:

  • You live alone
  • You only live with someone who is also of State Pension age
  • You only live with children under 18 years old

In some situations, your energy provider must take all reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting your supply if any of the below apply to you or someone you live with:

  • Has reached state pension age
  • Is disabled
  • Has a long-term physical or mental health condition.

If you’re unable to make your payments, it’s important that you contact your supplier to let them know.

Most of the large energy suppliers, who supply energy to 90% of UK households, have signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment to provide further protection. The agreement means they will not disconnect you at any time of year if any of the below apply:

  • if you’re disabled
  • if you have long-term health problems
  • if you have severe financial problems
  • if you have children under six years old living at home.
Support with water bills

If you’re struggling to pay your water bills and fall into debt, contact your water supplier directly to see what support they can provide. Water companies also have social tariffs, which are reduced water bills, that households on a low-income or on benefits can receive.

You may be eligible for the WaterSure scheme if you’re in receipt of benefits and need to use a lot of water for medical reasons, or if your household has three or more children of school-age.

The scheme means that your water supplier will cap your water bill based on the average water bill in your area. You will need to complete an application form, which you can request from your water supplier.

If you live in England or Wales, check the Consumer Council for Water website for details on help with paying water bills, debt support schemes, hardship funds and more.

In Scotland, all households are supplied by Scottish Water. If you receive council tax reductions, you may be entitled to a discount on your water bill.

In Northern Ireland, all households are supplied by Northern Ireland Water. If you are unable to pay your bill, contact them directly to discuss your circumstances and payment options.

Support with phone and broadband tariffs

Social tariffs are cheaper broadband and phone packages available to people on certain benefits, such as Universal Credit, Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Pension Credit.

The service you receive is the same, but the tariffs are cheaper than a regular package with low or no set up fees and shorter contracts.

Take a look at the available tariffs on Ofcom’s website.

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