Coronavirus has left many households struggling to make ends meet, including those who were previously financially secure. Back in March the Chancellor Rishi Sunak vowed to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help businesses and individuals withstand with the impact of the pandemic, but whilst the furlough scheme has been well publicised, many people aren’t aware of what other help is on offer. Jaye Munro, debt advisor at the Law Centre, outlines the different schemes and explains how to access the help you need.
Are there any new discounts available as a result of coronavirus?
There are no new discounts available; however, many people aren’t aware of the help that is on offer and due to the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever that people take advantage of the various schemes that are currently available. These include:
- Council tax support/reduction – if you’re receiving benefits, you can apply for additional support with your council tax bill and some councils may also increase the amount you get with money from the Covid hardship fund.
- Single person discount (SPD) – if you live alone, you can apply for 25% off your council tax bill if you’re not already receiving this
- Warm home discount – £140 off your energy bill if you are on qualifying benefits and a low income
- Water Discount (Thames Water) – 50% off your water discount if your household income is less than £19,201 if you live in London (£16,105 outside of London)
- Travel discounts – if you’re a jobseeker, you can get 50% off travel if you are on certain benefits
How do I go about accessing these?
Council tax support/reduction and single person discount (SPD) – this can be found on your council’s website. The council will write back to you and ask you for supporting evidence.
Warm home discount – you should call your energy supplier or look on their website to check if they are offering this. You can apply on their website and sometimes over the phone. You may need to show them proof of benefits.
Water Discount – if you’re a Thames Water customer, you should call them on 0800 980 8800 and ask them to send you a WaterHelp application in the post. If you have three children or a health condition that requires you to use more water and are receiving the qualifying benefits, you should ask for a WaterSure application. You can find more information and the application forms online here.
Travel Discount – your work coach will be able to tell you how to apply for this.
Can I get any help applying?
Council tax support and single person discount (SPD) – you can get help with your council tax through your local Citizens Advice. Some local councils have a welfare benefits team who also be able to help you.
Water Discount – you can ask Thames Water to send you the form and a free envelope to send it back in.
How long will these discounts last for?
Council tax support and single person discount (SPD) last until you update the council of a change of circumstances. Failure to do so can lead to benefit overpayments so it’s important that you update them as soon as possible.
Warm home discount – you will need to check with your energy supplier. Most suppliers advise that you need to apply each year.
Water Discounts – this is for 12 months.
Travel Discount – for jobseekers, this is for as long as you are unemployed, providing you follow the terms of your job centre agreement.
I’m still struggling to make ends meet – is there any other help on offer?
It’s a really difficult time for many people, but help is on offer so it’s important to ask for help if you’re struggling financially.
Firstly, you should contact your local Citizens Advice to check that you are receiving all your benefit entitlements.
You should also look at any expenses that you can cut down or reduce such as TV packages, phone bills and insurance etc. Are there any subscriptions you can cancel? We run a series of webinars to give you more information about how to do this.
The Turn2us website allows you to check to see what grants you may be eligible to apply for. It’s important to provide as much information as you can – the more you put in the search box, the more grants you will find available.
Energy Trust Funds – If you’re not able to pay your energy bills, you should check to see if your energy supplier has a Trust Fund for people in your situation. You can also apply to the British Gas Energy Trust Fund even if you’re not a British Gas customer. If your application is successful, then your energy debts would be written off.
Energy Switching – You can use comparison websites, or sign up to one of our free webinars, to check this and you will quickly see how much you can save.