From paying for festivities to keeping warm in the cold weather, the Christmas season can see many people feel the pinch. With the extra expenses to cope with, making ends meet during this time can prove to be a challenge, particularly for those who are on a low income or who are out of work. It may be that Universal Credit and other benefits claimants can get extra financial support during this time.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
A person may be able to get £140 off their electricity bill for winter 2019 to 2020 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme – and if a person’s supplier provides them with both gas and electricity, the discount could be applied on the gas bill instead.
There are two ways to qualify, and this is if a person gets the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, or if someone is on a low income and they meet their energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme.
This latter situation is known as being in the “broader group”, and this is if a person gets certain means-tested benefits.
In this circumstance, a person’s electricity supplier decides who can get the discount, and gov.uk instructs people to check with their supplier to see if they’re eligible and how to apply.
The number of discounts suppliers can give are limited, and the discount will be applied to the bill by March 31, 2020.
It can take up to five weeks for the first Universal Credit payment to be made, gov.uk states.
If a person needs help to pay their bills or cover other costs during this time, it is possible to apply to get an advance.
The advance must be paid back, starting out of the first payment.
Universal Credit claimants can choose how many months the advance is paid back over, with this currently being up to within 12 months.
It may be that Universal Credit claimants can get a Budgeting Advance to help with emergency household costs, getting a job or staying in work, or funeral costs.
This is a loan, and ends to be repaid through the regular Universal credit payments – meaning payments will be lower until it’s paid back.
The smallest amount a person can borrow is £100, but the maximum varies, with this being £348 if a person is single, £464 for those who are part of a couple, and £812 for people who have children.
Hardship payments are reduced-rate payments of certain benefits which are made in limited circumstances.
If a person has been sanctioned, then hardship payments may be available to Universal credit claimants if they can’t pay for rent, heating, food, or for hygiene needs.
Hardship payments of Universal Credit do need to be repaid, through deductions from Universal Credit payments.
It may be that a person is able to claim certain benefits.
The government website directs members of the public to use an independent benefits calculator in order to see what forms of state help they could get.
Discretionary Housing Payment
Anyone who needs more help with housing costs and who is currently claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with housing costs towards rental liability
The way in which a person makes a claim depends on their local council.
Health costs, dental costs, and free NHS prescriptions
People who are on Universal Credit can get help with health costs in some circumstances.
For instance, they may be eligible for free prescriptions, free eye tests, and free dental treatments.
Travel expenses together to specialist appoints may also be covered, and claimants could get a voucher towards the cost of new glasses or contact lenses.
This depends on an individual’s earnings, whether their Universal Credit payment includes an element for a child, and whether they’re classed as having limited capability for work.
The NHS website details the eligibility criteria for Universal Credit claims to get help with health costs.
Capped water bills
The WaterSure scheme is available for certain customers with a water meter, allowing them to have their bills capped.
This includes those who claim Universal Credit. In addition, they need to either be responsible, and receive Child Benefit, for three or more children under the age of 19 living in the property, or have (or someone living in the property must have) a medical condition which requires significant additional use of water.
Examples of this include weeping skin diseases (such as psoriasis), Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
A person may be able to get help with energy-saving improvements to their home if they live in social housing, or in private housing and get certain benefits.
The grants can be paid in order to help with the cost of home insulation, replacing or repairing their boiler, or other upgrades to their heating.
Low-cost phone bills
BT Basic is a low-cost phone service that is available to people on specific low income Government benefits.
Universal Credit claimants can get BT Basic if they get the benefit and are on zero earnings. They must be the named account holder to apply.
BT Basic costs £5.10 per month for line metal, and it comes with a call allowance of £1.50.
They also get free weekend calls of 0845 and 0870 numbers for up to 60minutes, and there is a monthly price cap of £10 for calls to numbers starting 01, 02, 03, and UK mobiles starting with 07 and 08.
Council Tax discounts
Those who get Universal Credit can apply to their local council for a Council Tax Reduction, which could mean their council tax is reduced.
It depends on a person’s circumstances and where they live, due to each council running its own scheme.
Funeral and bereavement benefits
In order to help to cover the costs of funerals, a person may be eligible for Funeral Support Payment.
This could help to pay for burial or cremation, travel to the funeral service, any cost of transport of the body that’s required, death certificates, and other expenses such as fees, flowers and the coffin.
If a person’s husband, wife or civil partner died on or after April 6, 2017, then they may be able to get Bereavement Support Payment.
A person may be eligible if their partner either paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks or died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by work, and when they died the surviving person must have been under state pension age and living in the UK or a country that pays bereavement benefits.
There are two different rates, with an eligible person getting a first payment and then up to 18 monthly payments.
The higher rate sees a first payment of £3,500 and monthly payments of £250, while the lower rate is £2,500 and the monthly payment is £100.