When is the cost of living payment and who can claim it?

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Millions of people have received the latest round of payments to help with rising bills.

Low-income households, pensioners and some disabled people will receive additional cost-of-living funds following an extension to the scheme from last year.

A committee of MPs is currently investigating the fairness of the scheme, looking at whether the design of the payments system has supported those most in need.

What cost-of-living payments will be available?

Some groups will receive payments to help with higher bills, including:

  • £900 in total in three instalments in spring, autumn and spring 2024 to households on means-tested benefits
  • £300 for pensioner households in the winter
  • £150 to people on certain disability benefits, paid in the summer

The first instalment of £301 for those on means-tested benefits, which started to be paid on 25 April, has now been received by seven million people.

Who is eligible for the £900?

The payment, in three instalments, is available to households who receive the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • working tax credit
  • child tax credit
  • pension credit

The payment reference on a recipient’s bank account was their national insurance number, followed by DWP COL.

The 1.1 million people who receive only tax credits, rather than any of the other benefits, are being paid slightly later than others, having started on 2 May.

People are not eligible for these payments if they receive New Style Employment and Support Allowance, contributory Employment and Support Allowance, or New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance – unless they get Universal Credit.

Anyone who thinks they should have received the help but did not should contact the office that pays their benefit or tax credits, or report it here.

To qualify for the latest instalment, people had to have claimed a benefits payment between 26 January and 25 February 2023, or received a payment for an assessment period ending between these dates. Pensioner households may be able to have a new pension credit claim backdated.

An estimated 850,000 pensioner households do not claim pension credit, which is a gateway to these extra payments.

None of these cost-of-living payments affect the tax you pay, or the benefits or tax credits you receive.

What cost-of-living payments have people already received?

Two payments totalling £650 were made last year to more than eight million low-income households.

The first instalment of £326 was paid between 14 and 31 July. The second instalment of £324 should have reached those eligible by the end of December.

Payments of £300 were also paid to pensioners during the winter just gone, and a £150 payment was also made last year to those with disabilities.

Some people would have received all of those payments, if they were eligible.

What other support has been available?

This was applied over six months, with a £66 reduction in October and November, and a £67 discount every month between December and March.

The discount was made automatically by energy suppliers in England, Scotland and Wales. However, there are no plans so far for this to be repeated next winter.

Separate arrangements were made for households in Northern Ireland, which has its own energy market. They are receiving a single payment of £600 starting in January, which is higher than the rest of the UK because a higher proportion of households use heating oil.

Direct debit customers in Northern Ireland are having the money paid into their bank accounts. Other customers will be sent a voucher.

What help are disabled people getting?

Up to six million people on the following disability benefits will receive another £150 later in the year:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Scottish Disability Payments
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

What extra help will pensioners get?

Households that receive the Winter Fuel Payment – which is worth £200-£300 and is paid to nearly all homes with at least one person of pension age – should have received an extra £300 in November or December.

That should cover nearly all pensioners across the UK. Another additional cost-of-living payment of £300 will be made next winter.

Lower-income pensioners who claim pension credit receive the money in addition to the support provided for those on benefits.

This means a small group of pensioners with disabilities have already received a total of £1,500, with more to come.

What is the inquiry by MPs all about?

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee is studying whether cost-of-living payments have been received by everyone in need of help.

They are studying whether some have missed out on hundreds of pounds because they are just outside the qualifying criteria, and whether the package as a whole is sufficient for low-income families.

The evidence being considered by the committee includes the views of the public.

What other payments have been made?

A £150 rebate, often through people’s council tax bill, was made last year.

The payment method depended on whether you pay your council tax by direct debit and where you live in the UK.

Some people were given fuel vouchers through the Household Support Fund, which is distributed by local councils.

What else is the government doing to tackle energy prices?

The government launched an Energy Price Guarantee in October 2022, which limits a typical dual-fuel household’s annual energy bill to £2,500.

It is not a cap on how much customers actually pay – your bill depends on how much energy you actually use.

The scheme was initially designed to last for two years, but was then reduced to six months.

However, the government has confirmed the guarantee will continue until July.

The plan applies to all households in England, Scotland and Wales, but in Northern Ireland a typical bill is lower.

What about help for businesses?

The government also announced a scheme to cut energy bills for businesses, which ended at the end of March.

Under a new scheme that began in April, firms get a discount on wholesale prices rather than costs being capped as under the previous deal.

Heavy energy-using sectors, like glass, ceramics and steelmakers, get a larger discount than others.

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