Help if you're struggling with living costs
Many residents are currently struggling with rising food, energy, fuel and other 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.
On 26 May 2022, the Government announced additional financial support and this guidance explains how and when people in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits will receive an extra payment to help with living costs.
A number of community venues across Swindon, known as Warm and Welcome Spaces, are available to residents to spend time, stay warm and feel safe over winter. Check the list and opening times.
Here are 19 practical actions that could help you or someone you know.
- 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 between 10.00am and 4.00pm, Monday to Friday
- Citizens Advice Swindon also run a drop-in service for residents at Cavendish Square, SN3 2LZ on Tuesday’s from 10.00am to 1.00pm) and at Sanford House, SN1 1HE on Thursday’s from 10.00am to 1.00pm
- 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:
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (for adults under state retirement age), Attendance Allowance (for those over state retirement age), and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) (for children under 16, for new claims) are not means-tested. The assessment considers the way that your health conditions affect your daily living and mobility needs.
- Receiving these benefits may increase entitlement to other benefits such as Pension Credit and Council Tax Support
- Seek advice if you are already claiming a disability benefit such as DLA for adults, as your award will stop if you claim PIP instead
- If you’re too unwell to work, you may be entitled to New Style Employment and Support Allowance and/or Universal Credit with Limited Capability for Work or Work Related Activity
- If you or any member of your household is disabled, you may qualify for a reduction in your Council Tax
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.
- Contact your energy supplier as soon as you can if you’re worried about paying your energy bills, are in debt to your supplier or can’t afford to top up your prepayment meter
- Your supplier must work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford under Ofgem rules. This includes reviewing a plan you have agreed before.
- Get free and impartial energy saving advice from Warm & Safe Wiltshire (0800 038 5722) to help manage energy costs and keep your home warm. This includes free home visits to eligible residents to help lower your bills and keep your home warm.
- Lowering your combi boiler’s flow temperature could save up to 8% of your gas use and turning off your boiler’s preheat setting could save another 5-10%. Check which of these energy saving tips provided by Octopus Energy, Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis) or Simple Energy Advice (Government endorsed) could help you reduce your bills.
- Check if you’re eligible for the Priority Services Register - a free support service to help people in vulnerable situations. Energy suppliers and network operators offer it. Each keeps their own register. You need to contact your energy supplier or network operator to get on it.
- Between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023, a new Energy Price Guarantee introduced by the Government, reduced the unit cost of electricity and gas. The amount you pay will vary depending on how much energy you use, where you live, how you pay for your energy and your metering arrangement. A household with typical energy use in Great Britain will pay, on average, around £2,500 a year on their energy bill over this period.
- All domestic electricity customers in Great Britain will receive a £400 reduction in their electricity costs from October 2022. This automatic, non-repayable discount will be applied in six instalments between October 2022 and March 2023 to help households through winter.
- A number of community venues across Swindon, called Warm and Welcome Spaces, are available to residents to spend time, stay warm and feel safe over winter. Check the list and opening times.
- If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you might be able to apply to them for a non-repayable hardship grant to help pay it off
- Find out whether you qualify and how to apply in this supplier-by-supplier analysis (provided by Money Saving Expert)
- If you can’t get a grant from your supplier, you might be able to get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust Individuals and Families Fund (0121 348 7797) which offers grants of up to £1,500. These grants are available to anyone - you don’t have to be a British Gas customer.
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com
If you or your child receive certain benefits, you can apply for free school meals from Year 3 and above.
- Check if your child is eligible for free holiday provision through the Holiday Activities and Food Programme running in the summer and Christmas holidays
- 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
- The council's Emergency Assistance Fund provides emergency assistance to Swindon residents who most need it
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.
Social tariffs are cheaper broadband and phone packages for people claiming Universal Credit, Pension Credit and some other benefits. Some providers call them ‘essential’ or ‘basic’ broadband. They’re delivered in the same way as normal packages, just at a lower price.
- Current prices range from £10 to £25 per month
- Check if your current provider offers a social tariff. This list published by energy regulator Ofgem shows all of the social tariffs available now.
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.
The rising cost of living may be worrying for some people. The services below are available to support your mental health. They won’t judge you and are free, anonymous and always open:
- NHS. Get general advice and support
- Samaritans. Visit their website or call 116 123
- Shout. If you would prefer not to talk but want some mental health support, you can text SHOUT to 85258 for 24/7 confidential support if you are in crisis and need immediate help
- MIND. Visit their website for a list of crisis helplines or call 0300 123 3393