This month, many in the UK will still be looking anxiously at their energy bills and thinking twice about turning on the heat.
Ofgem has announced that its cap on the amount suppliers can charge for energy for average double fuel direct debit customers will fall by 23 per cent in the three months from April 1 to £3,280, from £4,279 for the January to March quarter . But campaigners warn that impending changes to the government support measures introduced last year to tackle soaring domestic energy costs mean many could actually end up paying more.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced that the Energy Price Guarantee – introduced by Liz Truss last September to ensure households paid no more than £2,500 for their electricity and gas, with the Government subsidizing the rest allowed by the cap – would be increased to £3,000 pounds from next month.
It’s a considerably less generous offer and coincides with a £400 rebate that Rishi Sunak introduced a year ago was allowed to run. That could leave households £900 out of pocket in total.
The UK inflation rate, meanwhile, stands at 10.1 percent, keeping the price of goods on supermarket shelves high, while the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee has raised interest rates to 4 percent.
But despite the bleak context, more government aid will be paid out during the month to help with the cost of living crisis.
Here’s a guide to what to expect and who’s eligible.
State benefits and pensions
These payments are sent out directly on their usual dates in March, with no holidays to complicate the process:
- Universal credit
- public pension
- Pension credit
- Disability allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Additional compensation
- Care benefit
- Employment Support Benefit
- Income support
- Job seeker’s allowance
For more information about how and when government benefits are paid, you can visit the government’s website.
In addition, a number of cost-of-living support payments that the state announced last year are still active, at least for now.
Payment of energy rebate
One of the headline gestures Mr Sunak announced during his tenure as chancellor last spring was that every household would receive a £400 discount on their energy bill to soften the blow of rising bills as a result of the European energy crisis.
This replaced a planned £200 universal loan he announced in February 2022, doubling that figure and turning it into a non-repayable grant.
The first installment of £66 was sent in October, followed by a second in November and £67 in December, January and February.
This month sees the final £67 installment before, as explained above, it is allowed to expire with no immediate promise of renewal in sight.
Those who pay their bills by direct debit automatically receive the discount – either as a deduction from their monthly payments or as a refund to bank accounts.
Those who pay on receipt of an invoice will see the discount applied as a credit to their energy account each month.
Customers with a smart prepaid meter also receive the discount automatically each month, while prepaid customers are sent discount coupons via SMS, email or post, which they must redeem manually.
Payment scheme for cold weather
This government scheme reopened on November 1 and will run until March 31, giving £25 to people on low incomes for every seven-day period in which sub-zero temperatures occur.
The colds we experienced in the second week of December and the middle of January did not last quite long enough to trigger it, but who knows how long the widespread period that is prevalent in the middle of this month may last product?
Should a big freeze arrive and a cold weather payment be signed, the money would be paid out to anyone registered with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to receive a qualifying benefit payment such as: pension credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, Income-related employment and maintenance allowance or universal credit.
Heating housing discount scheme
The Government’s Winter Heating Support Scheme was also revived on November 14 and will also run until March 31, giving eligible recipients £150 to see them through the coldest season, the money taken from their energy bills directly by their supplier.
The money will be paid to help with high energy costs to anyone receiving the following benefits: Pension Credit, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credits.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the DWP has announced that millions of low-income households will receive additional Living Cost Support worth up to £1,350 from the spring.
The new cash grant of £900 for over eight million eligible means-tested benefits, including people on Universal Credit, Pension Credit and Tax Credit, will start in the spring and will go straight to bank accounts in three payments, the DWP said.
There will also be a separate payment of £150 for more than six million people with disabilities and £300 for over eight million pensioners on top of their winter fuel payments.
Here are the additional payment windows that have been announced:
- £301 – First living expenses payment – in spring 2023
- £150 – Disability Payment – during summer 2023
- £300 – Second living expenses payment – during Autumn 2023
- £300 – Pensioner Payment – Winter 2023/4
- £299 – Third cost of living payment – in spring 2024