Which? expert encourages people to check energy benefits eligibility
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Ian Browne, retirement planning expert at Quilter said: “Today’s budget will have left many pensioner’s feeling forgotten about at a time when their finances continue to be squeezed. The government’s refusal to increase any of the social security payments for pensioners such as the winter fuel payment, cold weather payment, or the warm homes discount will come as a huge blow to millions across the UK. This will further add to pensioner’s anger at the government after it downgraded the triple lock causing them to miss out on a potential eight percent increase in state pension payments.”
Age UK estimates £2.2billion of Pension Credit and housing benefits goes unclaimed by older people but these benefits are a lifeline for many and against a backdrop of increasing energy bills, rising inflation and winter looming it would have been high time to increase these payments.
These winter social security payments are designed to help the most vulnerable pensioners in society get through the cold months. Unlike the state pension, they are not increased annually, however against a backdrop of jumps in fuel prices, the time is ripe for them to be raised.
Mr Browne continued: “We are in a fiscally difficult time and it’s clear the government needs to tighten its belt in some areas, but these social security payments continue to help the elderly keep warm and get through the winter months.”
Currently, Britons who are eligible can receive £25 cash for every week of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31, however with the rise in energy bills, many families are having to pay hundreds more each year just to keep the heating on. The Chancellor has stated there is ‘no magic wand’ to make inflation problems disappear but The Treasury has said support is offered through existing schemes such as the Cold Weather Payment and the Warm Home Discount and urges families to check their eligibility.
The Cold Weather Payment is worth £25 for each seven days of sub-zero temperatures in people’s areas between November and end of March. Temperatures are recorded separately for every single constituency in the UK through local weather stations.
Energy bills could rise by as much as 30 percent next year if gas and electricity prices continue to soar and more suppliers go bust, according to reports, so a rise in these payments could offer support for struggling families.
The research firm Cornwall Insight is forecasting that the energy price cap is going to have to be significantly boosted in spring 2022 as the energy crisis continues.
More than 700,000 households saw their bills rise by at least £139 at the beginning of October, according to Uswitch.com.
This is because their energy provider would have automatically moved them onto a Standard Variable Tariff.
Those on standard tariffs, with typical household levels of energy use, will see bills go up by £139 to £1,277 a year, but the more energy a household uses, the higher their bill will be.
Prepayment meter customers with average energy use will see a £153 increase.
It represents a 12 percent rise in energy prices at a time of the year when, as charities point out, people are about to use more heating and lighting during colder, darker days.
Those on a low income are being urged to check whether they could benefit from an extra £25 to help heat their homes this winter.
Recipients of Pension Credit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit are eligible to receive payments.
Baroness Stedman-Scott said: “Winter can be a difficult time for people, and our Cold Weather Payment will help you keep your home warm as temperatures drop.
“Payments are made automatically but if you think you might be eligible, you can check online to see if your area is due a payment and plan accordingly.”
Next week will mark the start of the Cold Weather Payment scheme, which could provide thousands of households across the UK with financial support during the winter season.
From November 1, many families and households will become eligible for the scheme, meaning a weekly reduction on their energy bills.
After each period of very cold weather in someone’s area, they should get a payment within 14 working days, paid into the same bank or building society account as their benefit payments.
Cold Weather Payments do not affect people’s other benefits, so people don’t need to worry about losing those if they want to claim it.
Government ministers are saying that many households are facing a “tough winter”.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “When we pay our gas and electricity bills, five percent of that money goes automatically to the taxman.
“There’s something very simple the government could do. It would be immediate, and it would be felt automatically on people’s bills next month – and that is to cut that rate of VAT from five percent to zero percent.”
She said VAT receipts had come in more than £2billion higher than forecast because of rising prices, giving the chancellor some wriggle room to act.
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