As the weather finally begins to turn colder, many in the UK will be looking anxiously askance at their energy bills once again.
While Ofgem’s energy price cap has been frozen at £2,500 until April and the market turmoil inspired by the recent political chaos in Westminster appears to have been soothed – for now, at least – by the swift appointment of Rishi Sunak as Britain’s new prime minister, for many this will remain a difficult season.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet again on 3 November and could further raise interest rates and the Office for National Statistics will also release its latest inflation figures on 16 November. Both could mean more misery, before Mr Sunak’s chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivers his rescheduled Autumn Budget on 17 November, a programme that many fear will mean higher taxes and austerity cuts to public services to rebalance Britain’s books.
But there is some good news amid the economic gloom as more cost of living help will be paid out over the course of the month.
Here is a guide to what you can expect and who is eligible.
Cold Weather Payment scheme opens (1 November)
This government scheme reopens from the start of the month and runs until 31 March 2023, granting £25 to people on low incomes for every seven-day period in which sub-zero temperatures occur.
The money will be paid (depending on the severity of the winter weather) to anyone registered with the Department for Work and Pensions to receive a qualifying benefits payment, such as: Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit.
National insurance increase reversed (6 November)
One of the few aspects of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous “mini-Budget” to survive the run of U-turns since its unveiling on 23 September is their decision to scrap the 1.25 per cent hike in national insurance contributions.
After a year of political turmoil in Britain’s public finances, of which the three separate changes to this particular tax testify, the employed and self-employed will end up benefiting by the current state of play, which keeps the rate at 12 per cent on salaries between £9,880 and £52,270 per annum and 2 per cent on earnings above the latter figure.
The government claims that will mean 28 million people saving an extra £330 in the 2023/24 tax year.
Second cost of living payment goes out (8 November)
The second tranche of the £650 cost of living payment Mr Sunak announced as chancellor this spring, worth £324, starts to be paid into bank accounts from the above date, following on from the £326 already shelled out in July.
Those eligible include eight million households on benefits such as Universal Credit, Tax Credits, Pension Credit and legacy benefits.
Warm Home Discount scheme opens (14 November)
The government’s winter heating support scheme reopens in the middle of the month and runs until 31 March, granting £150 to qualifying recipients to see them through the coldest season, the money taken off their energy bills directly by their supplier.
The money will be paid to help with high energy costs to anyone receiving the following benefits: Pension Credit, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits.
Second cost of living payment goes out to Tax Credit recipients (23 November)
The aforementioned £324 payout begins to go out to those on Tax Credits, a slight delay compared to those on means-tested benefits.
Two further cost of living payments will go out in November to support households, without an exact date attached.
Pensioner’s cost of living payment
Vulnerable older people who receive Winter Fuel Payments (WFP) will receive an additional £300 in November or December as part of the plans Mr Sunak announced earlier this year.
WFPs are typically worth between £200 and £300 normally, depending on your age and circumstances, but people will be eligible if they were over the state pension age – 66 years old or above – between 19 and 25 September this year.
As with other such measures, you do not need to apply for them. They will be paid out to you directly, in this case, added to your existing WFP.
Energy discount payment
Another of Mr Sunak’s provisions announced this spring was that every household would receive a £400 energy bill discount to soften the blow of rising bills.
This replaced a planned £200 universal loan that he announced in February, doubling that figure and turning it into a grant that need not be paid back.
This too is paid directly, although this time in monthly instalments. The first £66 was dispatched in October followed by another in November, with further £67 payments from December through to March.
Customers who pay their energy bills by direct debit should receive their discount automatically, either as a monthly deduction or a refund to their account.
Those who pay on receipt of a bill should see the discount applied as credit to their account each month, as should smart prepayment meter customers, although the latter may be required to manually redeem vouchers sent by text, email or post.
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