How to Claim DWP cash to help soften £20 Universal Credit cut blow
Households have been urged to seek help as they struggle to make ends meet in the face of benefit cuts, soaring energy costs and higher shopping bills pushed up by shortages.
The Department for Work and Pensions’ £500million Household Support Fund, launched this week, has already come under attack for failing to plug the gaps in vulnerable families’ and individuals’ budgets.
Critics say the fund falls short of the £6 billion that will be collectively lost when the Universal Credit pandemic top-up is removed this month, lowering the allowance by more than £80 a month, equivalent to £20 a week.
But the DWP says the new fund is just part of a package of measures that families on benefits and low incomes should make sure they are accessing as they confront the hardships of the coming winter.
So exactly what help is available and how can you get it? Birmingham Live came up with these helpful pointers.
1. Household Support Fund
The £500million Household Support Fund will be distributed by councils to assist the community through small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing and utilities.
The funding will be made available to local authorities this month.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Our targeted Household Support Fund is here to help those vulnerable households with essential costs as we push through the last stages of our recovery from the pandemic.”
Those in need of support should contact their local council, who will help them access the fund.
2. Warm Home Discount Scheme
This gives you £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022.
The money comes in the form of a one-off discount on your electricity bill between October and March.
You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. Contact your energy company to find out.
The scheme is available to those on a low income and also to those in receipt of Pension Credit.
Your supplier decides who can get the discount. The number of discounts given out is limited so check with your supplier as early as possible to see if you’re eligible and how to apply.
Those on Pension Credit should receive a letter between October and December telling them how to get the discount, if they qualify. The electricity company will apply the discount to your bill by March 31 next year.
If you’re on Pension Credit and don’t receive a letter by December 31 but think you’re eligible, call the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214.
You can still qualify for the discount if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter. In that case, it usually comes in the form of a voucher.
3. Cold Weather Payment
This is a payment given if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, 0C or below over seven consecutive days.
You will receive £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.
To qualify for Cold Weather Payments, you should be on one of the following:
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Support for Mortgage Interest
Those on Universal Credit are only eligible for Cold Weather Payments if they are NOT employed or self-employed. One of the following must also apply:
- you have a health condition or disability and have limited capability for work (with or without work-related activity)
- you have a child under five living with you
As an exception to the rule, all UC claimants qualify for this payment if they get extra money for looking after a disabled child, regardless of whether they are employed or not.
Tell the Pension Service or Jobcentre Plus if you think you missed out on a Cold Weather Payment.
Those on Universal Credit should sign in to their account and add a note to their journal.
If you don’t have an online account, call the Universal Credit helpline instead on 0800 328 5644.
4. Winter Fuel Payment
Under this scheme, you could get between £100 and £300 to help pay your heating bills.
You qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment if both the following apply:
- you were born on or before September 26, 1955
- you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of September 20 to 26, 2021; or you live in Switzerland or a European Economic Area country and have a link to the UK such having lived or worked in the UK, and having family in the UK
You will get the Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you’re eligible under those two criteria and either get the State Pension or are in receipt of Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support.
Those who don’t get State Pension or are on Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit need to actually put in a claim for Winter Fuel Payment. The deadline for claiming is March 31, 2022.
Most payments are made automatically in November or December. You should get your money by January 14, 2022.
If you do not get your payment, contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.
Families will also continue to benefit from the energy price cap, a recent rise in the local housing allowance and increases in the national living wage, the Government said.
A Government spokesman said: “We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and people with long term health conditions who are unable to work may be entitled to other benefit payments.”
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has pledged that “every penny” that comes to Scotland from the Household Support Fund will go towards helping cash-strapped households facing the looming cost-of-living crisis.
Of the £500million total, £41 million is going to Scotland, £25 million to the Welsh Government and £14 million for the NI Executive – leaving the remaining £421m available to English councils.
The First Minister said: “Every penny of consequentials we get from that will go to support low-income families, I give that absolute commitment.”
She added: “This is an announcement from the Tory Government which is taking £6billion out of the pockets of the lowest income families through the Universal Credit cut, and is expecting praise for putting £500million back. It is an absolute disgrace and an insult.”
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