Cost of Living Resources
The UK is currently experiencing a Cost-of-Living Crisis, which began in 2021. This means that the cost of most essentials, such as food and energy bills, has increased faster than household income. Unfortunately, the people hit hardest by this crisis are those on a low income.
Below we have complied some useful information to help you with your finances during the crisis.
- Challenge the cost of your energy direct debit payments
Everyone has the right to a fair direct debit, based on the most accurate information available to your energy suppliers. While paying bills by direct debit can save you money, suppliers base charges on an estimate of your usage – meaning you can end up overpaying. When the energy price cap is increased providers will also increase direct debits.
Provide regular meter readings so your tariff is actually based on what you use. If you ask, your supplier must clearly explain how and why they reached the figure they have set as your direct debit.
- Contact your energy supplier for help with bills
Ofgem rules mean energy suppliers have to help you if you’re struggling to pay. This could involve setting up a payment plan that you can afford or delaying a payment deadline temporarily. Contact your energy supplier directly to discuss what help they could offer you.
- If you live in East Sussex, you could be eligible for a warm home check service, or help from the Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme
East Sussex County Council provides warm home check services all year round. These offer advice and support to anyone who struggles to keep warm at home. If you are on a low income, you may also qualify for a free COVID-secure home visit which includes:
- advice on getting help to pay for heating
- an assessment of your home to identify how to keep warm
- small works such as improving insulation or repairing boilers
- emergency temporary heating
The Discretionary East Sussex Support System may be able to help with utilities and food costs. Visit the DESSS page here for more information.
- Contact an organisation offering free energy advice
EnergyWorks – Free advice and grants for Brighton & Hove residents experiencing fuel poverty, to help reduce energy costs and make homes warmer.
They can help you understand your energy bills, make sure you aren’t paying more than you should for energy, and negotiate with suppliers, reduce energy use and make homes warmer and more energy efficient, and make sure you receive all the financial support you’re eligible for and provide advice on other energy-related issues.
They have grants of up to £200 available to help with energy costs for people on prepayment meters, and those who pay their bills by direct debit. Eligibility for grants will be assessed after an advice session.
Call: 0333 090 9150 (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm)
If you can’t talk on the phone, they can offer face-to-face appointments at the Citizens Advice Brighton & Hove offices at Hove Town Hall.
Across Sussex and nationally there are organisations offering free advice on saving energy and support for paying bills – please see the relevant webpages listed below:
Brighton and Hove – Brighton & Hove Energy Services Cooperative (BHESCo)
Eastbourne and Hastings – Energise Sussex Coast
West Sussex – West Sussex Affordable Energy
National – Local Energy Advice Partnership
- You may be able to get your water bill reduced if on a low income (£21,000 a year or less) and/or on certain benefits; there are a number of hardship schemes available.
- Water companies offer various social tariffs, which lower or cap what you pay to them – contact your water company to discuss what tariffs you could be eligible for.
- The Help with my Bills page of the Consumer Council for Water website provides a full list of the tariffs available from the different water suppliers, alongside other useful advice for reducing your bills and accessing financial support.
- If you are a Southern Water customer, you may be eligible for the Southern Water Hardship Fund. This includes bill reduction, debt-write off and non-financial assistance. Read more on the Southern Water website.
- For South East Water customers, the Helping Hand Scheme may help those who are in debt by clearing arrears. Read more on the South East Water website.
- Reduce food waste
Use food waste reduction apps on your phone such as Olio (where people offer free leftover food to others in their local community) or Too Good to Go (where cafes and supermarkets offer heavily discounted ‘magic bags’ – usually priced around £4 – that contain surplus unsold food that would otherwise be wasted).
Create a meal plan and subsequently a specific shopping list to help you stick to a budget and reduce food waste, as every item you buy has a specific use. Websites such as Cooking on a Bootstrap have excellent budget recipes and meal planning tips.
- Use a foodbank or Community Fridge if you’re struggling to afford food
It is not shameful to need to use a foodbank to support yourself or your household through this crisis. The cost of food has increased, so you may now find yourself unable to buy enough to maintain a healthy diet.
Foodbanks provide at least 3 days’ worth of in-date non-perishable food to users. You usually need to be referred to a foodbank and can get a referral from Citizens Advice or your local council. The Trussell Trust runs two thirds of all foodbanks in the UK – find your nearest foodbank here.
Consider using a Community Fridge instead of or as well as a foodbank – these initiatives are designed to use up surplus food that would otherwise go to waste, and therefore offer fresher food options than a food bank. They are also not means tested, unlike Food Banks, which often require a referral to use.
The Discretionary East Sussex Support System may be able to help with food and utilities costs. Visit the DESSS page here for more information.
- Get advice
Depending on the type of money problem you may be able to get support from our Advice Centres in Brighton, Eastbourne or Hastings. Click here for more details of BHT Sussex’s Advice Centres. If you live in Brighton & Hove, you can get advice from our Moneyworks service.
National Debtline also offer free and independent debt advice over the phone and online.
Brighton & Hove City Council has advice, support and guidance to help you manage your finances and support you with the cost of living.
East Sussex County Council has emergency help and advice listed on its website.
- Evaluate your scheduled and regular payments
Check your direct debits, standing orders, and recurring payments on your bank statements. Go through each and decide if you want to keep paying for the goods or service. If you don’t need it, cancel it. If you can’t do without it, consider cheaper or better options.
- Check if you are being underpaid on minimum wage
Keep a record of all the hours that you actually work, and make sure your pay accurately reflects these hours. If not, flag this up with your employer. Also, consider if you are buying any items with your own funds to do your job, such as cleaning or office supplies, and claim this back from your employer.
- Create a realistic budget
Make sure you understand how much money you have coming in from various income streams such as employment, Universal Credit, other benefits etc. Look at how much money you have going out and where you may be able to cut down on costs.
If you find budgeting overwhelming, use a budgeting tool such as the Money Saving Expert’s Budget Planner.
- Look into the ‘Help to Save’ scheme
Help to Save is a type of savings account. It allows people entitled to certain benefits to get a bonus of 50p for every £1 they save over 4 years, and it’s secure as it’s backed by the government.
You can save between £1 and £50 each month and you don’t have to pay money in every month. You can only withdraw money from your Help to Save account into your bank account. You get bonuses at the end of the second and fourth years based on how much you’ve saved.
Your Help to Save account will close after 4 years, but you won’t be able to open another Help to Save account. You’ll be able to keep the money from your account.
You can find out more on the Government’s website.
- Look into Wave Credit Union
Wave Community Bank is a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable not-for-profit ethical co-operative open to anyone in East Sussex.
They offer savings, cost effective flexible loans and basic bank accounts to meet a wide range of needs. Amongst other things they offer:
- Money and debt advice
- Help with fuel bills
- Build a better business
More information can be found at email@example.com
- Check what additional schemes and benefits are available
There are additional schemes and benefits which may be available if you are in receipt of income-related ESA, income-based JSA, Income Support or Pension Credit (paid as guarantee credit) or certain rates of Disability Living Allowance.
These additional schemes and benefits are mainly awarded at the discretion of your local council, and can include:
- blue parking badge
- discount leisure pass
- bus pass
- free car tax
- discounted rail card
- reduced taxi fares
- Check if you are eligible for benefits or a State Pension top-up
You may be able to claim benefits if you are of working or State Pension age and on low income, sick or disabled, a carer, or responsible for children. Check what benefits you are entitled to here.
- Cost of Living Payments
Cost of Living Payments are additional cash payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (and HM Revenue and Customs and the Ministry of Defence) to recipients of certain benefits and tax credits throughout the UK.
One-off Cost of Living Payments for recipients of certain benefits were first announced in May 2022 and were paid in the second half of that year. In the November 2022 Autumn Statement, a further package of Cost-of-Living Payments was announced, to be paid over the course of the 2023/24 financial year.
The payments made in 2022 and being repeated in 2023/24 are:
Means-tested benefit Cost of Living Payments, paid to recipients of certain means-tested benefits including Universal Credit, most of the legacy benefits and tax credits it is replacing (except Housing Benefit), and Pension Credit.
£650 in 2022, payable in two instalments.
£900 in 2023/24, payable in three instalments.
£150 Disability Cost of Living Payments for recipients of certain non-means-tested disability benefits, including Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Attendance Allowance (AA).
£300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payments, paid as an addition to the Winter Fuel Payment, to households with at least one person entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment for the winters 2022/2023 and 2023/2024.
- Check if you are eligible for Eastbourne and Lewes Councils’ Household Support Fund
Support will be provided for utility bills for gas (mains and LPG), oil or electricity, water and/or sewerage bills and food. There will be one award of £200 per eligible household, paid directly to the applicant’s bank account. To read the full eligibility criteria, head to the Eastbourne and Lewes Councils’ website.
- Find out what passported benefits you are eligible for
Passported benefits are benefits or schemes which some groups of people are entitled to because of their entitlement to certain other benefits or tax credits. Benefits and tax credits which can passport you to other benefits or schemes include:
- Income Support
- Jobseekers Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Pension Credit (guarantee credit)
- Universal Credit
What can I get?
If you, or your partner, are in receipt of one of the above benefits you will be eligible for:
- Housing Benefit based on your eligible rent
- Child Tax Credit if you have dependent children you receive Child Benefit for.
You will not need to provide proof of any other income or capital while you are entitled to a passported benefit but you must advise the DWP straight away, if your claim for any of the benefits ends.
As well as the above you may also be entitled to:
- Help with health costs, including: free NHS prescriptions, dental treatment, wigs, fabric supports, eye tests, vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses and help with cost of travel for NHS treatment or referral by a doctor or dentist – see help with health costs for working age peopleor help with health costs for pension age people
- Housing Grants
- Free School Meals, Healthy Start vouchers, Best Start payment card
- Sure Start maternity grant
- Energy Efficient Grants
- Warm Home Discount
- The above schemes are also available to those claiming Child Tax Credit – though some require your household income to be under £16,190 a year if you qualify via the Child Tax Credit route. Those claiming Universal Credit may also qualify for the above schemes, again for some schemes an income limit may apply. Please look up the individual schemes to check the qualifying criteria.
- Check on your local council’s website whether you are eligible for any council tax discounts – there are a variety of reasons that you may be eligible for a discount, which range from 25% to 100% off, depending on your circumstances.
- Check your council tax bandand challenge it if you think it is wrong. Over 400,000 homes are in the wrong council tax band, so it is worth checking.
- Check your tax code is correct – if it is wrong, you could be hit with a bill for underpaid tax, or alternatively you could be owed money in overpaid tax. Your current tax code can be found on payslips, a P45, a P60, a PAYE coding notice or pension advice slips.
Additional links that may be of use:
The Big Issue also have a cost-of-living newsletter to help their readers navigate the cost-of-living crisis, bringing the latest news, money-saving tips, uplifting stories showing the strength of our communities and ways to act on the issues you care about. Sign up here.