“I’m really worried about making ends meet after the chancellor’s spring statement didn’t offer much support. But what is the Budget Support Fund and how can I apply for it?’
That’s the question many of us have been asking on the back cover this week Spring statement by Rishi Sunak.
In the spring declaration, the Federal Chancellor explains how the economy is doing and, if necessary, gives suggestions and initiatives for action.
As the UK faces the biggest cost of living crisis in living memory this year, many were hoping some measures would be put in place to help people cope with rising bills, taxes and the cost of living relative to inflation. They were largely disappointed.
The Chancellor announced the Household Support Fund would be doubled from £500m to £1bn. But what is it and what does it mean to you? Here is an overview.
What is the Home Help Fund?
The Budget Support Fund was created last year to help people who are struggling with their bills or who may fall into a “vulnerable” category.
You can apply for a subsidy from the fund at your municipal administration. The money is provided on a ‘discretionary basis’, meaning councils decide who gets what (and how) depending on your circumstances. That means quite a bit of variance in the UK over who gets what.
You may be offered vouchers instead of cash – presumably because municipalities can get a better deal block by buying them from participating retailers.
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Will the fund help me pay my bills?
Not necessarily. The way the funds are distributed means your council calls the shots as to how the money is distributed – and the payments are unlikely to be huge.
Many of the communities I’ve spoken to talk about payments of up to £200, with a mix of cash and vouchers being offered in many cases.
The payments are designed to help those in need cut essential bills like food and energy.
Who is entitled to a payment?
Since individual councils set the criteria based on needs in their own catchment areas, there is some variation here, but you start the process by going through your local government website.
Just type “Household Support Fund” into the search engine.
Who comes into question can only be said very generally because of all the differences. But as a starting point, if you’re struggling to pay your bills now, are classified as ‘at risk’ or have children and are tight on money, you may be able to make a claim.
Some councils only allow people over the age of 18 to apply, although I’ve been told others allow people over the age of 16 to apply. So in short, don’t expect to be left out, try it.
Get free help with all your bills at www.resolver.co.uk.
What about my energy bill?
The scheme is above that energy discount already announced by the government.
This will save you £200 off your bill in October. However, you cannot refuse this, and you cannot give the money away to someone who needs it more. Oh, and it’s a loan, so we’re all paying it back for five years starting April 2023.
There is also a £150 off your council tax bill this applies from April. This is a discount and non-refundable.
What about Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?
Most of the funding will be distributed to English councils, although of the first £500m just under £80m was earmarked for the devolved nations.
What other help can I get if I need money?
Of course, for many people, this just won’t be enough. Remember that all regulated companies in the UK are obliged to help you if you are struggling financially and should develop plans to help you avoid debt or get some breathing room.
Ask if they have an ombudsman or dispute resolution body if they are not helping you enough.
There are many great free organizations out there that can help you – just be careful with general searches on the internet as many companies that charge you money pretend to be ‘official’ free services to lure you in.
Money Helper is a new free service created to make finding the right help faster and easier.
It brings together three long-standing government-backed financial advice providers: the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. There are tons of tips, help and yes, you can talk to people too.
StepChange is the UK’s most comprehensive free debt advice service. They help you take control of your finances and your life. Don’t pay for debt services when StepChange is free and for you.
What energy concepts are there?
Fuel payment in winter
The winter fuel payment could save you between £100 and £300 in winter to help cover the cost of your heating bills.
To qualify, your date of birth must be on or before 26 September 1955 and you must also have lived in the UK for at least one day of ‘qualification week’ – between 20 and 26 September 2021 this year.
If you meet the eligibility criteria above, you will automatically receive the winter fuel payment if either:
- You get another Social Security benefit (but no housing benefit, council tax break, child benefit, or Universal Credit).
- You receive the statutory pension; or
- If you do not receive any of these, you must make a claim for payment. For winter 2021/2022 you must have done this by the end of March 2022.
Payment in cold weather
If you receive certain benefits, including Pension Benefit, Income Support, Earned Unemployment Assistance, or Employment and Assistance Allowance, universal credit or mortgage rate support, then you may be eligible for a cold weather Payment.
This is a payment of £25 for every seven consecutive days of very cold weather – defined as zero degrees Celsius or below or forecast – between 1 November 2021 and 31 March 2022.
You shouldn’t need to request a cold-weather payment; if you are eligible as it should be paid automatically and you can check the government website to see if your postcode is eligible.
Discount for warm home
The Warm Home rebate, if eligible, could get you £140 off your electricity bill this winter – or potentially your gas bill instead if your supplier is your supplier for both. The discount is a one-time reduction on your bill between October 2021 and March 2022.
You must be part of either the ‘core group’ or the ‘broader group’ to be potentially eligible and there are a number of ways you can apply.
The “Core Group”: This is for those who have all of the following as of July 4, 2021:
Your energy supplier is part of the system Your name (or that of your partner) is on the electricity bill
- You or your partner will receive the guarantee credit component of the annuity loan
- This year, the Warm Home Discount program opened on October 18, 2021, and if you qualify, you should have received a letter from its supplier. Your discount will be applied to your invoice by March 31, 2022.
If you do not receive this by December 31, 2021 and believe you are eligible based on all of the above criteria, contact the Warm Home Discount Program Helpline.
The “broader group” applies to those who do not receive the guarantee credit element of retirement savings but have low incomes or receive certain means-tested benefits.
However, your energy supplier must be part of the scheme and you must remain with your supplier until the discount has been applied.
In these cases, you must contact your energy supplier directly. There is a limit to the number of discounts your supplier can give, but if you think you are eligible, contact us as soon as possible to confirm and find out how to apply.
Your energy supplier can also help you
Rules from regulator Ofgem require energy suppliers to work with you to agree on a payment plan that you can afford if you’re worried about paying your energy bills.
As part of this, you can request a review of your payments or repayments, payment pauses or reductions, more payment deadlines, or access to hardship funds.
Your energy supplier may be one of those that offer a program or grants to help with energy costs – contact your supplier directly to inquire and see if you can apply. Some of these programs are actually open to everyone, which means you don’t have to be a customer to get them.
Finally, there are a number of little things you can do to reduce your energy use and lower your bills – our helpful guide gives you the tips to try.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/what-500m-household-support-fund-26554965 What is the £500m Household Support Fund and how do I apply? Explained