I absolutely recognise the very real concerns about the rising cost of living; particularly increasing energy costs. Current inflation is being driven by rising energy costs, provoked by surging demand after the pandemic as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which in turn has put pressures on living costs.
The Government has put in place a number of measures to help households with increasing costs and there is local support available too.
-Energy Price Guarantee:
The Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will reduce the unit cost of electricity and gas so that a typical household in Great Britain pays, on average, around £2,500 a year on their energy bill from 1 October 2022 until 31 March 2023. From April 2023, the price cap will rise so that a typical household will pay no more than around £3,000. The Energy Price Guarantee will then end in April 2024.
If you are not able to receive a support for your heating costs through the Energy Price Guarantee, for example because you live in an area that is not served by the gas grid and use alternative fuels, such as heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), coal or biomass, the Government is doubling its support to £200. This support will be delivered as soon as possible this winter.
-£400 Energy Bills Support Scheme:
Households will receive £400 of support with their energy bills through the Energy Bills Support Scheme. The payment will be a grant and will not be recovered through higher bills in future years. Energy suppliers will deliver this support to households with a domestic electricity meter over six months from October. Direct Debit and credit customers will have the money credited to their account, while customers with pre-payment meters will have the money applied to their meter or paid via a voucher.
-£400 Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding
The Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding will help Households who do not have a domestic energy supply and have not received support through the main Energy Bills Support Scheme. This includes residents of park homes and care homes as well as other households who either receive their energy through commercial intermediaries or are off the energy grid entirely. As there is no single register for eligible households, payment is still a complicated matter. An eligible household will be able to fill out a short form on Gov.UK with a few simple details and Local Authorities will verify the address and administer the payment. The Scheme will open for applications in Great Britain in January 2023. The exact date that an eligible household will receive support will depend on when the application is made and when the payment can be processed by the relevant Local Authority.
-Cost of Living Payments for those on means tested benefits:
More than 8 million households on means tested benefits will receive a payment of £650 this year, made in two installments. This payment will be tax-free, will not count towards the benefit cap and will not have any impact on existing benefit awards. The Government will make these payments directly to households across the UK. Households receiving the following benefits will be eligible:
- Universal Credit
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Pension Credit
The Government has announced a further payment of £900 for people on eligible low income benefit. Guidance on this additional payment will be issued once more details are announced. Further information about the Cost of Living Payments can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cost-of-living-payment
-Pensioner Cost of Living Payment:
Pensioners will receive an extra £300 this year to help with the rising cost of energy this winter. This payment will go to the over 8 million pensioner households across the UK who receive the Winter Fuel Payment and will be paid on top of any other one-off support a pensioner household is entitled. All pensioner households will get the one-off payment as a top up to their annual Winter Fuel Payment in November/ December. For most pensioner households this will be paid by direct debit. The Winter Fuel Payment (including the extra Pensioner Cost of Living Payment) is not taxable and does not affect eligibility for other benefits. The Government will make these payments directly to households across the UK.
The Government has announced a further payment of £300 for pensioner households. Guidance on this additional payment will be issued once more details are announced. Further information about the Cost of Living Payments can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cost-of-living-payment
-£150 Disability Cost of Living Payment:
Around 6 million people across the UK who receive the below benefits will receive a payment of £150 from September 2022. For the many disability benefit recipients who receive means tested benefits, this £150 will come on top of the £650 they will receive separately. These payments will be exempt from tax, will not count towards the benefit cap and will not have any impact on existing benefit awards. The Government will make these payments directly to eligible people across the UK. Eligible benefits include:
- - Disability Living Allowance
- - Personal Independence Payment
- - Attendance Allowance
- - Scottish Disability Benefits
- - Armed Forces Independence Payment
- - Constant Attendance Allowance
- - War Pension Mobility Supplement
The Government has announced a further payment of £150 for people on an eligible disability benefit. Guidance on this additional payment will be issued once more details are announced. Further information about the Cost of Living Payments can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/cost-of-living-payment
-Household Support Fund:
To support people who need additional help, the Chancellor has announced an additional £1 billion of funding to enable a further 12 month extension of the Household Support Fund, The Household Support Fund helps those in most need with payments towards the rising cost of food, energy and water bills. The Household Support Fund is administered by local councils in England. More information about the Household Support Fund locally can be found here: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire-emergencies-and-crime/coronavirus-covid-19-information/advice-and-support/community-hub/
-£150 Council Tax Rebate:
Households in Council Tax bands A-D should have by now received their £150 Council Tax rebate. If you have not yet received your rebate then please do get in touch with me.
More information about the Government support available, including for those households that cannot access support from the Energy Price Guarantee or Energy Bills Support Scheme, can be found using the following link: https://www.gov.uk/cost-of-living
West Sussex County Council Support:
-WSCC runs a Community Hub which can provide support to the most vulnerable households, including accessing the Household Support Fund. More information about the Hub and how to access help can be found here: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire-emergencies-and-crime/coronavirus-covid-19-information/advice-and-support/community-hub/
Horsham District Council Support:
-HDC have been running a number of drop-in sessions around the District to help those residents with concerns about the cost of living. The sessions can help with food or fuel concerns, money advice, carers support, community safety, isolation and emotional wellbeing. At the drop in sessions will be advisors from Family Support Work, Community Link, Health and Wellbeing, Neighbourhood Wardens, Citizens Advice, Carers Support, Age UK, Horsham Matters, West Sussex MIND, Relate and the Job Centre. The following sessions are due to take place:
- Horsham Lavinia House- 7th December- 10-12
- Ashington Scout Hut- 21st December- 10-12
- Horsham Job Centre- 4th January- 10-12
- Broadbridge Heath The Bridge Meeting Room- 18th January- 10-12
-HDC have also been successful in securing funding from the Government’s Sustainable Warmth funding competition. This allows HDC to offer fully funded measures which will improve the energy efficiency of local eligible homes. Funding under the Warmer Homes programme is available until March 2023 for the following efficiency measures:
- solar PV panels
- air source heat pumps
Homes that use gas can access up to £10,000 of funding and households off-gas can access up to £25,000 worth of funding. Funding through the programme is subject to availability, technical feasibility and the property’s EPC rating. More information about the funding and how to apply can be found here: https://www.horsham.gov.uk/news/2022/09/warmer-homes-for-residents-of-the-horsham-district
Mid Sussex District Council Support:
-MSDC have a useful webpage which details help with the cost of living for those living in the Mid Sussex District. The webpage can be found here: Cost of Living Support - Mid Sussex District Council. MSDC have put together a Winter Support Guide with further useful information: MSDC Winter Support Guide 2022 (midsussex.gov.uk)
-MSDC have also put together a Community Connections Directory of Services for Older People in Mid Sussex: Community Connections - Community Connection (community-connections.org.uk) I understand hard copies can also be requested from the Wellbeing Team.
Support from Local Charities:
- Horsham Matters:
I recently went back to see Horsham Matters who have provided brilliant local support for many years. Horsham Matters runs foodbanks as well as offering Household Budgeting Support https://www.horsham-matters.org.uk
I also paid another visit recently to the team at Citizen’s Advice who can help with a range of issues; including calculating benefit entitlement. They have received further funding from HDC to provide more help in the community: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
There are a number of warm spaces available across the Horsham constituency. More information can be found here: https://www.horshamdistrictwarmspaces.com/s-projects-basic
A number of the energy companies are providing support and advice to customers regarding their energy bills. I would encourage anyone struggling to pay their energy bill to contact their provider directly.