Money roundup video: Isas; energy-efficiency handout and minimum wage rise

The Independent’s Personal Finance Editor Simon Read talks over the latest Money news

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Isa changes

Major changes introduced to individual savings accounts last year means they have become much more flexible and attractive to savers and investors, according to consumer finance expert Julie Hutchison of Standard Life.

“Isas got a huge makeover last year, the biggest change in their 16 year history,” she explains in a new video interview with The Independent. “They became much more flexible and got a big step up to allow you to stash up to £15,000 in the current tax year, and another £15,240 in the next tax year, which starts on 6 April.”

Watch the video at for advice on which Isas to choose - whether cash or stocks and shares Isas -as well as more detail on other changes, including the new ability to pass on your tax-free Isa allowance to your spouse.

Energy-efficiency handout

Since noon yesterday you can apply for a share of a £70m government handout to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Under the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund you can apply for up to vouchers worth up to £5,600 to help with the cost of installing energy-saving measures.

You’ll also be able to claim back up to £1,250 towards the cost of installing two home improvement measures from an approved list of 11. For more information, call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 or Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282.

Heating help for the vulnerable

Meanwhile you may be able to claim for financial assistance with your energy bill. The Government reckons 12 per cent of all UK households are eligible, although those who qualify are likely to be vulnerable, such as low-income families, disabled customers and the elderly. For instance, the Government’s Warm Home Discount scheme offers rebates of £140 on bills while other support includes trust funds provided by energy suppliers. Call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99. The deadline for claiming is 27 March.

Minimum wage to rise from October

The national minimum wage is to increase by 20p an hour to £6.70, the biggest real-terms rise in seven years, the Government has announced. More than 1.4 million low paid workers will benefit from the 3% hike, while rates for younger workers and apprentices will also go up - all from October.

The hourly rate for 18 to 20-year-olds will go up from £5.13 to £5.30 (3 per cent) and by 8p to £3.87 for 16 and 17-year-olds (2%). The statutory minimum for apprentices will jump by 57p to £3.30, an increase of 20 per cent - the biggest ever rise.

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