HOUSEHOLDS need to start preparing for an extortionate winter as interest rates soar and inflation skyrockets.
The Bank of England this week warned that UK was heading towards a 15-month recession from this winter as it faces the highest inflation rate in 42 years.
The Bank of England this week raised interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to 1.75%.
The latest rate hike will mean more misery for millions of homeowners, and marks the biggest increase since 1995.
There are fears that family finances could be pushed to the brink as inflation is forecast to hit 13.3% later year,far outstripping wage growth.
Energy bills are also set to reach £3,500 a year in October, with some analysts predicting they will even top £4,000 next January.
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So, cash-strapped homeowners will be looking for ways to keep costs down as much as possible.
While millions of households will get £400 knocked off their energy bills to help with the cost increase – for many people, it won't be enough.
If you're struggling, here is a list of the help you might be able to get:
Household Support Fund
The Household Support Fund was launched in October last year to help Brits pay their way through winter and has now been extended.
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Councils up and down the country have been given a slice of £1.5 billion worth of funding.
But it's up to individual councils how they dish out their portion of the cash and who in their local area is eligible.
You should go to your council’s website to find out whether you are eligible for its HSF.
In some cases, payments are made automatically to residents who receive means-tested benefits, and in other areas you'll need to apply.
Home upgrade grant
Households with poor insulation and out-dated heating systems could save up to £200 thanks to a government scheme.
The government announced in February that a new £67 million Home Upgrade grant will help as many as 4,300 households become more energy efficient.
Only the worst performing low-income and off-gas grid homes, ranging from Energy Performance Certificate Bands D to G, will be eligible for the upgrades.
The funding itself will be delegated to local councils though, so you'll have to get in touch with yours to claim the help.
Energy hardship funds
Hard-up households can get extra cash to help cover the rising cost of gas and electric – a number of providers, including British Gas, are offering hardship grants.
Each scheme varies and we've rounded up some of them before.
For British Gas's scheme, for example, you don't need to be a customer to get grants of up to £1,500, which are being dished out to those most in need.
You can apply for the help through the British Gas Energy Trust website.
To be eligible you must have an energy debt you're looking to clear off and have sought help from a money service, like Citizen's Advice or Stepchange.
You also can't have received a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust within the last two years.
Boiler upgrade scheme
Households looking to upgrade their home can apply for a free cash grant worth up to £6,000.
The scheme will help people replace old gas heating with newer, greener technology.
The scheme is available in England and Wales until 2025 and you'll need to own the home you're in to be eligible.
You won't get the cash directly, you'll need to find a heat pump installer registered with the scheme who will apply for the grant on your behalf.
The amount will then be discounted from your bill for the work.
Council tax energy rebate
Millions of households have already been given a £150 council tax rebate.
If your property falls within the council tax band of A to D, you are entitled to an automatic one-off cash payment.
The £150 does not need to be repaid, but the date it will arrive varies depending on your area and how you pay your council tax bill.
There's also a chance to get the payment even if you're out with bands A to D – a separate £144million fund has also been launched which local councils can dish out to vulnerable and low income households.
This is for those in tax bands E-H who get a council tax discount through separate schemes, or live with several other people and can show they are responsible for energy bills.
Cold weather payment
The cold weather payment scheme is open between November 1 and March 31 each year to cover the winter months.
If temperatures hit zero degrees Celsius or below for at least seven days, some households are eligible for a £25 payment to help with essential costs.
To be eligible, you need to be claiming one of the following:
- Pension credit
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Universal Credit
- Support for mortgage interest
You will be able to check whether your area is due a payment by using the government's online tool.
Winter fuel discount
Low-income pensioners are eligible for an extra £300 winter payment to land in accounts between November and December.
It arrives on top of the existing Winter Fuel Payment – worth between £100 and £300 – which those over state pension age get already.
Those on the lowest incomes who get Pension Credit will also be eligible for the £650 one-off payment for those on benefits.
Water bill help
Many water companies offer free water-saving devices that can help shave pounds off your bills – contact your supplier.
Freebies include shower timers and buffalo bags, which save water with every flush. Check out savewatersavemoney.co.uk.
Grants are also available to help ease the pressure of soaring bills.
For example, Yorkshire Water has announced a a £115million bill relief package to help customers struggling to pay bills.
To be eligible, you'll need to show you're earning low income with difficulty paying your water bills.
School uniform grant
You might be able to claim financial help this summer in the lead up to kids going back to school.
That includes up to £200 to help with the cost of school uniform.
The Scotland School Clothing Grant has two cash payments available:
- £120 per child of primary school age
- £150 per child of secondary school age
You need to apply via your local council, which you can find using the government locator tool. You'll just need to put in your post code.
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If you're still worried about falling behind on bills and you're not sure what you're entitled to, there are plenty of organisations where you can get advice for free, including:
- National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
- Step Change – 0800 138 1111
- Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
Cost of living payments: what you need to know
- All the key dates for cost of living payments revealed
- Every household will get a £400 cost of living payment to help with energy bills
- See the full list of benefits eligible for £650 cost of living cash
- Here's free cash you can get if you DON’T qualify for the £650 cost of living payment
- Millions of pensioners will get a £300 cost of living payment this winter
- Disabled Brits will get £150 this September
- Parents can get up to £200 towards school uniform costs
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