Money habits

How the government is helping with the cost of living

We’re all feeling the pressure of rising prices, but some government support is available for most households.

In October 2022, inflation reached a 41-year high, but while economists now agree that prices have peaked, bills aren’t getting any lower and lots of us are still struggling. But there is some good news, as government support is available for many people.

Get the lowdown on what’s on offer, when that’s happening – and whether you’re eligible – with our guide.

The Cost of Living Payment

If you claim certain benefits, tax credits or are a pensioner, you could be eligible for a Cost of Living Payment. This is intended to support individuals and families with rising costs, and can be spent as you wish.

Find out if you’ve received all that you’re entitled to at the government’s Help for Households hub. Exact dates for the 2023/24 payments have yet to be published.

Help with energy bills

This winter, everyone in England, Scotland and Wales was given a £400 discount on their energy bill as part of the Energy Support Scheme. The discount was applied automatically via suppliers – be wary of any messages relating to submitting a claim, as it could be a scam.

Those on prepayment meters also got the £400 discount either credited directly to their smart prepayment meter or via vouchers.

The Energy Price Guarantee has also capped the amount suppliers can charge for gas and electricity. This has limited typical household energy bills to £2,500 a year – and the government has extended it for a further three months, until the end of June 2023, which it says will save the average family an additional £160.

This support will continue until April 2024, but at a lower level. The typical bill for households will be reduced to around £3,000 and offer a saving of around £500.

People on low incomes with high energy bills may also qualify for a £150 discount to their electricity costs through the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Contact your supplier to find out if you’re eligible.

Cutting the cost of transport

Until June 2023, 130 bus companies have capped the cost of a single fare to just £2 in England, following £60 million in government funding. Without the discount, the typical single journey costs £2.80 outside London but can be as much as £5 in rural areas. Find out about £2 routes near you.

If you’re unemployed, you may also be able to claim the Job Centre Plus Travel Card, which gives you 50% off certain rail journeys.

You could also be able to save on rail fares with one of a range of railcards.

Increases to the State Pension and other benefits

In April 2023, the State Pension will go up by 10.1%. This will see the full state pension rise to £203.85 a week. This is the biggest ever increase, and is the result of the ‘triple lock’. The agreement guarantees the state pension will go up by the greater of inflation, wage growth or 2.5%. In September – the month that matters – the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation reached 10.1%.

Other inflation-linked benefits and tax credits will also go up by the same amount.

Many people across the UK are losing income they’re entitled to because they don’t understand what support is available. Find out if you’re missing out on benefits with the Inbest calculator.

Get help with childcare

The tax-free childcare scheme isn’t new, but there are still many families that don’t claim it; either because they think it’s too complicated or because they’re simply not aware of it.

The scheme offers parents up to £2,000 a year towards childcare bills for each child that they have. For each £8 parents pay into their online childcare account, the government tops it up by £2. Find out if you are eligible for the tax-free childcare scheme.

Jeremy Hunt announced a raft of childcare reforms in the Spring Budget, including an extension to the 30 free hours per week of childcare.

Rachel Lacey

Rachel is a freelance journalist specialising in consumer finance.

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