Back in 2022, the cost of living was firmly in the spotlight. Fuel prices were soaring. Energy bills hit unprecedented levels. High inflation had made an unwelcome return. As a result, the government introduced a number of cost of living support measures. These included payments to help with gas and electric, along with one-off payments to pensioners, the disabled and those on benefits. Since then, cost of living support schemes have gradually dropped away.
While the amount of government support has dwindled, many households are still struggling to cope with the cost of living. In this article we look at what sources of support remain, plus give you some tips for saving money.
Household Support Fund
The Household Support Fund began in September 2021. Originally billed to run until March 2022, it was designed to help the most vulnerable households pay for daily essentials such as food, clothing and utilities. A £500 million pot of money was given to local councils, which then distributed it.
The scheme has been extended twice. First between October 2022 and March 2023. Secondly between April 2023 and March 2024. In England, councils have been given a share of £842 million. For more information on how to apply, see your local council’s website.
Benefits and cost of living support payments
Many people don’t claim benefits that they’re entitled to. If you think you may be eligible for certain benefits, it’s worth using the government’s benefit checker tool.
If you receive certain benefits or tax credits, you may qualify for cost of living payments between 2023 and 2024. You don’t need to apply as, if you qualify, you’ll be paid automatically. You can find out more about this cost of living support here.
Additionally, if you receive certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest, you may get Cold Weather Payments. These give you £25 for each seven-day period that the temperature in your area is zero degrees celsius or lower.
Reducing your tax bill
If you have to submit a Self-Assessment Tax Return, it makes sense to legitimately reduce your tax bill where possible.
One simple tip is to check you’re making use of your Marriage Allowance. This allows people below the income tax threshold to transfer some of their income tax personal allowance to their partner, thus reducing their tax bill.
Many people also fail to claim back all their work expenses. It’s worth checking this page to find out what you can claim, or you could talk to your THP accountant who may have other tax saving ideas for you.
Help to Save
Some people who claim the Working Tax Credit or Universal Tax Credit can open a Help to Save account. This allows you to save between £1 and £50 per month and, in return, government will add 50p for every pound in savings. You can use the account for four years and you’ll get bonuses at the end of the second and fourth years.
If you’re a pensioner needing cost of living support, you may be eligible for a Pension Credit if you’re on a low income. You may also qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme, which in 2022/3 gave people a discount of £150 on their fuel bills. The discount is applied directly to energy bills. Check this page for eligibility criteria and details of the latest scheme.
If you were born between 25th September 1943 and 24th September 1957, you will automatically get a Winter Fuel Payment of up to £500. If you were born before 25th September 1943, you could get up to £600. You can find out how much you’ll get here.
If you’re a parent or you’re responsible for a child, there are various kinds of support available to you. Apart from the obvious Child Benefit, you may qualify for tax-free childcare or free childcare.
Summary of cost of living support
As you can see, the days of generous cost of living support schemes are behind us. While everyone in the country benefited from things like the Energy Bill Support Scheme, most current support consists of benefits and schemes that were already available in some form.
This means that, for most people, the best way to deal with the cost of living is to review their income and expenditure and – where relevant and possible – reduce the amount of tax they pay. If you are a THP client and you’d like advice on tax planning or business expenditure, please get in touch.
About Jon Pryse-Jones
Since joining THP in 1978, Jon Pryse-Jones has been hands on with every area of the business. Now specialising in strategy, business planning, and marketing, Jon remains at the forefront of the growth and development at THP.
An ideas man, Jon enjoys getting the most out of all situations, “I act as a catalyst for creative people and encourage them to think outside the box,” he says, “and I’m not afraid of being confrontational. It often leads to a better result for THP and its clients.”
Jon’s appreciation for THP extends to his fellow team members and the board. “They really know how to run a successful business,” he says. He’s keen on IT and systems development as critical to success, and he continues to guide THP to be at the cutting edge and effective.