Cost of living: Shopper on using £2 vegetable boxes
This is the first of up to three payments for those eligible on means-tested benefits, including Pension Credit, Universal Credit and tax credits.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is sending the latest payment automatically and directly to recipients’ bank accounts.
It won’t be contacting people to say whether they will get the money or when. Many won’t know for sure until the cash hits their account.
Some may be checking their accounts every day to see whether the cash has landed.
Payments started on Tuesday, April 25, so those who haven’t got it yet may be starting to worry.
That’s understandable. Many desperately need more support to cover their food and heating bills as prices rocket.
Yet they shouldn’t panic, experts say. While payments began on Tuesday, they aren’t all going out on the same day.
In fact they will be spread out over three weeks, between now and Wednesday 17 May.
Those checking their bank account can confirm they have the right payment by looking for a reference to their National Insurance number followed by ‘DWP COL’.
This isn’t the only cost of living payment that the DWP is going to send during the current financial year.
There are three payments in total which will add up to £900 throughout the 2023/24 tax year, and that’s not all.
Those on eligible disability benefits will get another £150 this summer.
This will go to the six million people in receipt of either Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Scottish Disability Benefits, Armed Forces Independence Payment, Constant Attendance Allowance or War Pension Mobility Supplement.
Pensioners will also get a further £300 payment which comes on top of Winter Fuel Payments at the end of the year.
The money will come as “a shot in the arm” for millions wrestling with rising prices yet there are pitfalls for the unwary, warned Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown.
The first is that you may not know you’re eligible for it. “You’ll get it automatically if you qualify, the trouble is that an awful lot of people don’t realise they’re able to claim the benefits that open the door to these payments.”
You can check eligibility using the online calculator on Gov.uk. “This is particularly vital for state pensioners on a low income who could be entitled to Pension Credit,” Coles said.
Age UK estimates that a third of eligible pensioners are still not claiming Pension Credit. “It also helps you qualify you for other benefits, including cost-of-living payments.”
You can make a backdated application any time before May 19 and still receive the cost-of-living payments, Coles added.
Those below state pension age claiming the following seven benefits will also qualify: Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, or Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit.
The catch is that you needed to be eligible between January 26 and February 25, Coles said. “If your award was reduced to zero for this period, say, because your wages or savings increased briefly, you won’t get anything.”
Other benefits are excluded altogether, Coles warned. “If you only get new-style ESA, contributory ESA, new-style JSA or Carer’s Allowance, you won’t qualify.”
Coles also warned that benefit recipients could fall prey to scammers who pretend to be from DWP and request your bank details to make payments.
“The government won’t be contacting people so anything you get along these lines is a scam.”
Check if you qualify for other support, too, such as a social tariff offering cheap broadband, and non-repayable grants offered by energy companies.
The major companies tend to offer them to their own customers – including EDF, E.on Next, Shell and Scottish Power.
British Gas Energy Trust offers grants to non-customers who are struggling, but you need to actively apply.
Coles said: “Ask for help from charities like StepChange and Citizens Advice, who will let you know about more support available locally.”
The Household Support Fund in England, run by your local council, can help those in really desperate circumstances so apply if you’re in that position.
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