Help with the cost of living
You've probably noticed many of your bills going up, in particular the cost of energy. This page contains information on various assistance that may be available to help you stay on top of increasing costs.
The various one-off payments and other schemes listed on this page are in addition to standard welfare benefits, some of which are means-tested, whilst others are based on different types of eligibility criteria, such as if you have a disability.
If you want to know more, see the benefits and entitlements section of our website, or use our online benefits calculator. A benefit check can help you find out if you're likely to qualify. We have a number of guides covering benefit topics, including our More money in your pocket information guide.
If you're not currently claiming any benefits, it could be worth putting in a claim as soon as possible – for example, claiming Pension Credit (even if you’re only entitled to a small amount) can help you qualify for other benefits, entitlements and government help.
There are also some benefits specifically to help with bills in the winter, such as the Winter Fuel Payment and Warm Home Discount.
The Welsh Government's DAF scheme has been in operation for a number of years already and pre-dates the current cost of living pressures; however, the scheme may be able to help in regard to some of these issues. Our 'How to get help with urgent or one-off expenses' page has further information on the DAF.
You may be entitled to one or more lump-sum payments. These are:
- a £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment for households that receive the Winter Fuel Payment. This is expected to be a top-up to your Winter Fuel Payment in November/December 2023;
- a £900 Cost of Living Payment for households on means-tested benefits, such as Pension Credit and Universal Credit;
- a £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment for those receiving disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance.
If individuals are eligible, they should be paid automatically and there'll be no need to apply. None of the above payments are taxable and they won't count towards the benefit cap or affect your benefit entitlement.
The payments are being spread across different periods to ensure consistent support throughout the year. They will broadly be as follows:
- £301 – First Cost of Living Payment – between 25th April and 17th May 2023.
- £150 – Disability Cost of Living Payment – during Summer 2023
- £300 – Second Cost of Living Payment – during Autumn 2023 (also see below for some important information on this instalment)
- £300 – Pensioner Cost of Living Payment – during Winter 2023/4
- £299 – Third Cost of Living Payment – during Spring 2024
Important: deadline related to recieving Pension Credit and the Second Cost of Living (CoL) Payment
In order to qualify for the second CoL payment, you must have been entitled to a qualifying benefit – such as Pension Credit – between 18 August 2023 and 17 September 2023. It should be noted that due to backdating rules with Pension Credit, whereby you can ask for a claim to be backdated for up to three months, you may still be able to qualify for the second CoL payment, even if you're not getting Pension Credit yet. 10th December 2023 is the cut off point for this, so as long as you start a claim for Pension Credit by then and are found to be eligible – including that this eligibility would also have applied on the CoL qualifying date of 17 September – then you should still get the second CoL payment of £300.
Bear in mind, however, that 10th December is a Sunday and the Pension Credit claim line only operates Monday to Friday (8am-6pm). Therefore, if you want to claim by phone, you will actually need to do this by Friday 8th December.
The price cap applies to most households in Britain. It is a maximum amount that suppliers can charge per unit of energy.
From 1 October 2023, for 'typical' dual-fuel households paying by direct debit, Ofgem has set the annual price cap level at £1,923 (this is a reduction from the previous cap of £2,074, which was in place from July to September 2023). The cap is reviewed every 3 months, so it may change again in January 2024 – you can check the current price cap level on the Ofgem website using the link below.
It's important to note that bills are still based on your actual usage, so you may pay more or less than the price cap level.
If you don't have a smart meter, it's a good idea to provide your supplier with meter readings for gas and electric on a regular basis and particularly so when changes in prices are announced (for example, if Ofgem have announced a price cap increase or decrease). This will ensure that the supplier knows exactly how much you used when the price changes, so that you're not charged too much for certain units used.
If you have not already done so, you may wish to send meter readings to your supplier as soon as possible, given that the Ofgem Price Cap was reduced on 1 October 2023.
The Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) provided support with energy bills from October 2022 to June 2023, by placing a limit on what energy suppliers could charge households for their energy while prices were particularly high.
Since July 2023, the government policy is for households to pay the lower of the Ofgem Price Cap or the EPG. At the time of writing (October 2023) this is the Ofgem Price Cap – see the section above (i.e. this is on the basis that the price cap level for a 'typical' dual-fuel household is currently set at £1,923, whereas from July 2023 until the end of March 2024 the EPG had been set at £3,000).
The government has announced that the EPG will continue until March 2024, as it will act as a safety net, applying if energy prices rise again and thus the Ofgem cap goes above £3,000.
The Trussell Trust supports a network of food banks and provides emergency food. People need to be referred to a food bank with a voucher, which can be issued by a number of local community organisations.
When an energy supplier goes bust, Ofgem assigns a new supplier to take over your account. You don't need to worry, your gas and electricity supply will continue regardless of what happens to your supplier. Your new supplier should provide you with information about what is happening with your account, though this process can take a few weeks. It's worth keeping hold of or downloading copies of your latest energy bills and take photos of your latest meter readings for reference. Any customers that were in debt with their previous supplier will still have to repay this and any customers who had been in credit with their supplier should receive a refund. You should seek advice if you're looking to switch because your supplier has gone bust, as there are considerations if your account was in credit, or if you usually receive the Warm Home Discount.
If you're finding it difficult to keep up with energy bills or you owe money to your energy supplier, your supplier has a duty to help. You can ask them for:
- a review of your payments or debt repayments
- payment breaks or reductions
- more time to pay your bills
- access to hardship funds / charitable funds of the energy supplier
- Priority Service registration.
If you're over State Pension age or live with a disability or health condition you can ask to be placed on the Priority Service Register. This gives you access to a range of support, including priority assistance in an emergency, advance notice of planned power cuts and help with prepayment meter access.
As indicated above, some energy suppliers have their own special funding schemes (hardship or charitable funds) or provide support through national schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation. These provide a range of financial support, debt relief, energy advice, and the installation of energy efficiency improvements which can help lower your bills. Check with your supplier to see what support you might be entitled to.
Switching energy supplier or tariff has previously been an easy way to save money on bills. However, the current rise in energy prices means there are fewer deals on offer than usual. It might be difficult to find a cheaper deal than your current tariff, or one you can easily switch to. Opting for a fixed-price tariff gives more certainty over bills but, depending on the market, may increase your costs overall.
You should always seek impartial advice before switching, for example from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline. Further details can also be found in our factsheet on getting the best energy deal (you can access this in the 'further information' section below).
Our following factsheets and guides may be helpful to you on some of the subjects covered on this page: