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Coping with the rising cost of living

Important costs like energy, food and rent are rising steeply. If you're worried about being able to afford to live, you're not alone. We can help you.

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Millions of people across the UK are struggling to cover their essential household costs nowadays. The 'cost of living crisis' means we’re all paying a lot more for energy and food, and things like rent and fuel.

Some people are cutting back on how much they spend on food, or eating less, so they can pay for heating. Many people are falling into arrears, or using credit to pay for essentials, making the problem worse.

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Sadly, the situation isn’t going to get easier, even as temporary support measures are announced, further challenges are ahead.

Energy bills have increased by an average of £700 a year and council tax payments are on the rise. If you have a job, what you pay in National Insurance contributions has gone up.

A lot of people are finding that wages and benefit payment increases aren’t keeping track with these price rises.

One-off payments to support people with the rising cost of energy bills

As part of the Energy Bill Support Scheme, £400 is available for all households to help with rising energy bills, regardless of income or size of house.

The discount will be made automatically by your energy supplier. There is no need to apply.

Households receive the £400 in 6 instalments:

  • £66 in October and November
  • £67 a month from December to March 2023

These payments apply to all households in England, Scotland and Wales.

How the payment is made in Northern Ireland is still being decided.

How will I receive the support?

I pay by direct debit

If you pay by direct debit you'll get an automatic deduction on your bill.

I have a prepayment meter

If you have a “smart” prepayment meter you’ll get a monthly top-up on your account.

If you have a “non-smart” prepayment meter you’ll receive a discount voucher. This will be in the first week of each month, via text, email or in the post.

The voucher can be redeemed in person at your usual top-up point.

The Department of Work & Pensions will make two lump sum payments in July and later in the autumn to people on a range of benefits.

This tax-free payment will not affect any existing benefits. It applies to households who already get, or have begun a successful claim for, the following benefits by 25 May 2022:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Pension Credit

Households that receive the Winter Fuel Payment will get this on top of any other support they’re entitled to. This tax-free payment won’t affect any other entitlements.

For most people this will be paid by direct debit.

A one-off, tax-free payment will be made in September to people who receive the following benefits:

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

It will be paid directly through benefits.

For more information visit Gov.UK.

The Household Support Fund, provided by local authorities, has been increased by £500 million and extended until March 2023.

The fund helps households most in need to pay for essentials such as food and utilities.

To find out more and apply, contact your local council

These one off payments won't affect your debt solution. You should use the money to help pay priority debts and bills.

Are you struggling to pay your energy bills? If you're on a low income, find out if you're entitled to:

How can I reduce the impact of this crisis on my finances

  1. Put together a budget and understand what bills are the most important
  2. See if you can increase the amount of money you’ve got coming in
  3. Look at ways to reduce your spending
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We're here to help with your money worries
You don't have to do this on your own. When you use our online debt advice tool or contact us for help, we'll help you understand your finances. At the end of your debt advice session, you'll get a copy of your monthly budget and personalised recommendations on how to deal with your finances.

Find out how we can help you

The best way to understand your current financial situation is to put together a budget. Put simply, a budget is a list of everything you spend and earn in a month.

It’s important to understand that some bills are more important than others. You must always pay these priority bills first, before your other debts.

Each month, thousands of people find they can claim £100s more each month. Use our free benefits calculator.

Read our guides to saving money on insurance, transport and more. Find out how to make money selling unwanted items.

Check you’re paying the right council tax and if you can get a reduction, and find out how to deal with arrears.

Whether you're struggling to keep up with payments on your energy bills, or you're already in arrears, read our guide.

Find out what to do if you’re really struggling to afford to eat, or heat your home.

If you don’t deal with your arrears, you're at risk of eviction, but you do have the chance to avoid this happening.

Who else can I ask for help?

If you’re struggling with energy bill costs National Energy Action (NEA) can help. They offer a free support to people in England and Wales to help with their energy bills and keeping warm and safe in their home.

If you find it difficult to pay your energy bills, whether you pay monthly or have a pre-payment meter, visit the Fuelbank Foundation. They have a wealth of information to help you.

If you can’t afford to pay for food, find your local foodbank. The largest foodbank organisation in the UK is the Trussell Trust. It has over 1,200 foodbanks across the country. You can use their website to find your local foodbank. There are also smaller organisations running foodbanks too.

If you’re finding it too much to cope with, please contact Samaritans or another mental health organisation. They’re here to listen.

Not sure what help you need?

Take a couple of minutes to answer a few simple questions so we can find out how to help you.

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If you’ve received a recommendation from us recently but haven’t selected or set up a solution, you can change details on income, spending and debts. Log in to your account and update your details to check it’s still right.

If you’re a current client

We hope you find it reassuring to know we’re helping our clients through this difficult situation. We have information to help if you’re finding it difficult to keep to your current budget or debt solution.

Importantly, we understand if you’re worried about the situation. However, if you don’t yet know what impact these price rises will have on your finances, it may be better to wait until you know more before you contact us.

tick icon DMP clients: If you’re struggling due to increased living costs, we’ll work with you to ensure this continues to be the best solution for your circumstances, and that your payments are affordable. You can complete a review of your budget through OnlineDMP

tick icon DPP clients: If you’ve found you have much less money available, or you have no money left over, contact us to review. A crisis break or payment break may help in the short-term until we can understand how the changes in April have impacted you

tick icon IVA clients: If you’re struggling due to the rising increased prices and costs, contact us. We’ll work with you to ensure an IVA continues to be the best solution for your circumstances

tick icon Clients on other solutions: Take time to review your situation using the helpful links further up this page. Contact us if you need support or a review of your debt solution

Campaigning for support for those hit by the rising living costs

We’re not just helping people deal with their finances during this difficult time. We’re also demanding that the Government and Ofgem, the energy regulator, do more to help.

  1. Deliver a one-off energy rebate / grant targeted on means tested benefit and tax credit recipients to help meet the increased cost of energy. (Other people have called for this to be £200-£300). Note client analysis may extend scope of this call beyond means tested benefits
  2. Temporarily extend automatic eligibility to the Warm Home Discount scheme to working age people on means tested benefits. The value of the discount should also be increased to reflect the increase in bills. The temporary increase should be funded from general taxation, rather than increasing the levy on bills
  3. Extend Winter Fuel Payments to working age households that meet the cold weather payment eligibility criteria
  4. Revise benefit uprating from the proposed 3.1% to reflect the level of inflation predicted at April (predicted 6%), and reiterate our call for the uprating to be brought forward before April
  5. Extend the £500 million Household Support Fund for a further 6 months from April 2022
  6. Extend the £65 million exception top up to the Homelessness Prevention Grant for the 2022/23 year
  7. Review the rate of benefit deductions for third party debts to ensure these are affordable and do not cause hardship
  8. Re-introduce full Council Tax Support to low income working age families. The reduction in CTS has created unaffordable council tax bills that leave vulnerable households vulnerable to a knock at the door from bailiffs
  1. Ensure energy firms are dealing with fuel debts appropriately and review payment arrangements to ensure these do not cause hardship as household surpluses become squeezed
  2. Introduce a debt repayment matching scheme to help people clear energy arrears, similar to schemes already used by some water companies
  3. Prohibit energy companies from using High Court Enforcement Officers to recover domestic energy debt. This expensive and intrusive method of recovery is inappropriate for financially and otherwise vulnerable customers


Julia and her son

How we helped Julia

Julia, Devonshire: "I wished I had asked for help before. I got in to so much debt, and was ill with stress. StepChange made me feel so comfortable."

Get debt help now

At StepChange, we've been providing expert debt advice over the phone since 1993. We saw the potential for online debt advice early on and developed the first fully-online debt advice service over 15 years ago. Since then, it's helped over 1.6 million people clear their debts.

But what's next? Well, we know that the pandemic has supercharged digital adoption and that your customers expect responsive, professional, and caring support. So, let us introduce StepChange Your Way. StepChange Your Way is flexible, free debt advice that allows your customers to seamlessly switch between our online and telephone advice channels while only having to provide their information once.

So, how does it work? We'll start by asking your customers some quick questions to understand how best we can support them. If debt advice is right for them, we'll capture the details of their debts and help them create a realistic, sustainable budget by understanding how much they may be able to afford to repay towards their debts.

At any time during the debt advice journey, customers can easily switch between channels, take a break, and continue once they're ready. And our online service is available 24/7 too, so they can use it at a time that suits them. When the debt advice process is complete, we'll give them an advice recommendation, tailored to their personal needs.

We'll guide them through the solution setup process. Whether it's a supported solution, such as a Debt management plan, or an insolvency option, such as a Debt relief order, we're here to meet the needs of your customers. And during peak times, our systems can flex to cope with increased demand.

So, start referring today. StepChange, Your Way.