Help if you're struggling with living costs

Many residents are currently struggling with rising living costs. That’s why it’s important to know what help and support is available now – that could benefit you, a relative, friend or neighbour.

Here are 18 practical actions that could help you or someone you know.

The Government announced additional support (26 May) that will provide further funding for some of these measures. This Government guidance explains how and when people in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits will receive an extra payment to help with living costs.

  • An estimated £15bn of benefits are believed to go unclaimed each year
  • Use a free benefits calculator to find out what you could be entitled to
  • The benefits system can be complicated, but Citizens Advice have advisers available to help - call 0808 278 7813 (10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday) 
  • If you are turned down for a benefit, seek advice on whether to challenge the decision. Many benefit decisions are overturned, and organisations like Citizens Advice can offer advice about challenges.
  • If your benefit award is partially successful, seek advice before challenging as this can lead to awards being reduced as well as increasing or staying the same

  • Pension Credit tops up weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level of £182.60 a week for single pensioners or £278.70 for couples. It is a tax-free payment for those who have reached State Pension age, and live in Great Britain.
  • The average Pension Credit payment is over £65 per week – equating to more than an extra £3,000 per year.
  • Around a third of eligible pensioners don’t claim Pension Credit – often because they don't know they can or that they need to.
  • Find out if you’re eligible and how much you could get using the Pension Credit calculator and apply online or call 0800 99 1234
  • An award of Pension Credit can provide access to a range of other benefits such as help with housing costs, Council Tax, heating bills and, for those aged 75 or over, a free TV licence
  • People who have an income or savings may still qualify for Pension Credit
  • If you are entitled you might also be able to get additional amounts within Pension Credit. For example, if you receive other benefits for a disability or caring responsibilities

The benefits system can be complicated but Citizens Advice have advisers available to help - call 0808 278 7813 (10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday).

  • Whether you have toddlers or teens, check the Government’s Childcare Choices website to find out how you can save money on your childcare
  • Over one million families are missing out on up to £2,000 a year per child – or £4,000 if their child is disabled – to put towards the cost of childcare
  • Tax-Free Childcare is available for children aged up to 11, or 17 if the child has a disability. The money can help towards the cost of holiday clubs, before and after-school clubs, childminders and nurseries, and other approved childcare schemes.
  • The government contributes 20% of childcare costs by topping up a Tax-Free Childcare account. For every £8 you pay into an account, the government will add an extra £2, up to £2,000 per child per year.

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all your rent, check to see if you can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment.

  • Swindon residents of working age who claim means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), may be eligible to apply for Council Tax Support
  • This could pay up to 80% of your Council Tax bill or 100% if you receive certain disability benefits. If you’re on a low income and over state retirement age, you could also be eligible for 100% support.
  • If you or any member of your household is disabled, you may qualify for a reduction in your Council Tax
  • Certain people living in a property are not included when Council Tax is calculated. That includes carers who meet criteria (and are not caring for a spouse, partner or child under 18). You can ask for these people to be "disregarded", which may result in a discount being applied to your account

Check if you or your family may be entitled to benefits for those experiencing illness or disability. For example:

The benefits system can be complicated but Citizens Advice have advisers available to help - call 0808 278 7813 (10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday)

If you are turned down for a benefit, seek advice on whether to challenge the decision. Many benefit decisions are overturned, and organisations like Citizens Advice can offer advice about challenges. If your benefit award is partially successful, seek advice before challenging as this can lead to awards being reduced as well as increasing or staying the same.

  • If you are a carer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and/or an extra amount called the ‘carer element’ within Universal Credit
  • This could mean £69.70 a week in Carer's Allowance if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week and you, the person you care for and the type of care you provide meets the criteria

Carers who meet criteria (and are not caring for a spouse, partner or child) are not counted as living in a property for the purposes of calculating Council Tax. If you’re eligible, you can ask to be "disregarded" which may result in a discount being applied to your account.

Get free and impartial energy saving advice from Warm & Safe Wiltshire (0800 038 5722) to help manage energy costs and keep your home warm.

  • Contact your energy supplier if you are struggling to pay for energy or think you may get into difficulty – if you already have energy debts, some larger suppliers offer grants to help pay this off 
  • If you can’t get a grant from your supplier, check if you can get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust Individuals and Families Fund (0121 348 7797). Anyone can apply – both British Gas customers and those who aren’t its customers – and it offers grants of up to £1,500. Having been closed since spring 2022, it will re-open to new applicants on Friday, 1 July 2022. 
  • The British Gas Energy Support Fund (0121 348 7797) is for British Gas customers, and offers grants of between £250 and £750
  • Contact Citizens Advice on 0808 278 7813 for help before applying for a grant. If you get advice, this will help your chances of a successful grant application

  • Call Citizens Advice on 0808 278 7813 (10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday), if you’re struggling to afford enough food, to discuss options, based on your circumstances, which could include a referral to the food bank in Swindon

  • If you're at least ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start (0300 330 7010) vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk
  • If you are eligible, you can apply online, call 0300 330 7010 (8.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday) or email healthy.start@nhsbsa.nhs.uk

If you or your child receive certain benefits, you can apply for free school meals from Year 3 and above.

  • Households earning below £16,480 can apply for a 50% discount on their water bill through Thames Water’s WaterHelp scheme or call their Extra Care Services Team on 0800 009 3652

If you have a low income, the NHS Low Income Scheme could help you pay for:

  • NHS prescription charges
  • NHS dental treatment charges
  • the cost of sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment
  • NHS wigs and fabric supports (check with your hospital for their arrangements for supplying NHS wigs)

How much help you get depends on your weekly income and necessary outgoings, plus any savings or investments you have at the time you apply.

Check if you could get a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child. This known as a Sure Start Maternity Grant.

Find out more about council financial assistance and help to manage living costs. Citizens Advice also provides information and advice if you're struggling with living costs and the Government has produced this living costs information.

We will shortly share more details of a discretionary scheme to help households that are not eligible for the £150 payment to help Council Tax payers in Bands A to D with energy bills.

The Government announced (May 2022) that all domestic electricity customers in Great Britain will receive a £400 reduction in their electricity costs from October 2022. There will be no requirement to pay it back.

Households will not need to apply for the scheme and, in most cases, the Government expects electricity suppliers to apply the reduction automatically to bills from October 2022.

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