Help with the Cost of Living Crisis

Useful information to help you through the current cost of living crisis:

Universal Credit

Due to a recent change to the rules around claiming Universal Credit, if your household income is less than £30,000 a year, you may now qualify for support. You can use this benefits calculator to see if you are eligible (it will take about 10 minutes). If you need advice about claiming Universal Credit go here, or contact the local Citizens Advice.  

Help with energy costs

Most suppliers offer a hardship fund, so, if you're struggling with your energy bills, your first action should be to talk to your supplier. For example, Octopus is giving out grants of up to £500 and Scottish Power offers customers £750 worth of help.

If your supplier doesn't have its own fund, then the British Gas Energy Trust can also write off energy debts, even if you're not a British Gas customer. To receive a grant you must not have already received a pay-out in the last two years, you must be seeking to clear an outstanding debt on your energy account and you must not have savings of more than £1,000. You will also need evidence that you've already recieved help from a money advice agency such as Citizens Advice or National Debt line, and you must be facing fuel poverty (where your energy costs are above average and, after paying those bills, your income is below the poverty line). The maximum grant given is usually £750, although it is possible to receive up to £1,500 in exceptional circumstances.

If you meet the eligibility criteria you can apply for a grant online.

There is also a separate fund just for British Gas customers, which has less tough qualification requirements, and even if your supplier doesn't have a specific support scheme, you should still get in touch with them if you're struggling to pay your bills.

Energy saving tips

Money Saving Expert have put together this useful guide, busting myths about how to save money by using gas and electric. 

Water

Another guide from Money Saving Expert is how you can save money on water bills

Council tax rebate

The Government is currently giving a £150 council tax rebate if your home is in council tax band A-D. You can Check your council tax band here and if you think it's wrong, it is possible to appeal.

Information on the council tax rebate, as well as how you can spread your council tax cost over 12 rather than 10 months, and information on applying for a council tax reduction due to you being a sole occupant or due to your income, can all be found on the West Berkshire Council website.

Prescription charges

If you're on regular medication you can save money on prescriptions. Find out how here.

Broadband 

Many broadband companies offer social tariffs for those who receive certain benefits, there is a guide on the Money Saving Expert website here, but it is also worth making contact with your broadband supplier.

Working from home tax relief

You can claim tax relief for working from home (worth £312 a year) and on any milage you do for work on the Government website.

Food

Two apps worth downloading if you have a smartphone are Olio and CheckoutSmart. Olio allows retailers (including the likes of Tesco) and the local community to offer food for free that people no longer want, while on CheckoutSmart, not all food will be free, but there are plenty of items on offer.

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