Requests for advice and support to help with the cost of living is something that is raised with me regularly by constituents. I want to help as much as I can however, as your MP I am unable to provide specific financial or legal advice and it is sometimes better to talk through your options with another advisory organisation first.
There are a wide range of services and organisations available that can assist you in relation to the cost of living. This online hub also includes information on help with council tax, housing costs, childcare costs, travel, and more. My team and I are always here to provide support so please do not hesitate to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citizens Advice Sutton:
Citizens Advice and more specifically Citizens Advice Sutton are a registered charity that provides information and advice to the residents of the London Borough of Sutton. They offer knowledge and provide confidence to people who need to find their way forward - whoever they are, and whatever their problem.
You can contact CA Sutton on 0208 405 3552 for information or to arrange an appointment or complete their online contact form here. You can also call Advice Link Partnership Sutton on 0208 254 2616 for access to a range of local and national services.
Income Support and Benefits/ Universal Credit
Many constituents are not always aware of their entitlement to Income Support and other benefits. There are a range of benefits available to support individuals not in work, on low incomes, or with a health or disability need. You can check out your eligibility on the Gov.uk website here.
You can also use a benefits calculator to determine whether you are eligible, the most common calculators being Gov.uk, entitled to, and Turn2Us. You can browse these calculators here. If you are still unsure on what you are eligible for, it's always a good idea to talk to Citizens Advice Sutton, the contact details of which you can find above.
Universal Credit (UC)
Alternatively, you can call DWP on 0800 328 5644.
If you struggle with understanding complex information or struggle to complete forms, Citizens Advice provide a Help to Claim service for Universal Credit. For more information, please visit here.
UC has replaced Tax Credits meaning you cannot claim Tax Credit and UC at the same time. You can only make a claim for Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit if you already get Tax Credits. For those in receipt of Tax Credits, you can manage your claim online here.
Employment and Support Allowance
You can apply for ESA if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work. You can apply if you are employed, self-employed or unemployed. You could get UC at the same time. Check if you are eligible and make a claim online here.
If you cannot make an application online you can call the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 and select Option 3.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
PIP can help with extra living costs if you have either:
- a long term physical or mental health condition or disability
- difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around because of your condition
Household Bills, Utilities, Winter Fuel and Council Tax
The following information provides advice and contact details to help reduce your household bills. You can also discuss all of the below with Citizens Advice Sutton.
I am pleased that the Government has been clear that protecting consumers, particularly vulnerable or low-income households, is their main priority, and have introduced support such as:
- Increased the National Living Wage by 6.6%, meaning an extra £1000 a year for a full-time worker;
- Announced a non-repayable £150 cash rebate for homes in Council Tax bands A-D – equivalent to 80 per cent of all households, helping both lower and middle-income families
- Froze the licence fee at £159, halting an increase to £180
- Continued to freeze fuel duty
- Allocated £500 million for helping those in need on bills and other essentials
- Continued the Holiday Activity and Food Program for children on Free School Meals with £200 million
- Extended the Warm Home Discount and continued the Winter Fuel Payments scheme
- Announced £144 million of discretionary funding for local authorities to support households not eligible for the council tax rebate
- Delivered Cold Weather Payments of an extra £25 per week to vulnerable households in exceptionally cold weather
- Pledged £3 billion over this Parliament to help more than half a million lower income homes become more energy efficient, saving households on average £290 per year
Below is more detailed information about the support you can receive to help with the cost of living.
Gas, Electricity and Water
Since 2015 Energy companies have been required to put customers onto the cheapest available tariff suitable to their needs. If you are unsure whether you are on the cheapest tariff or you would like to compare the costs of your energy bills please contact your energy provider direct or visit the Money Saving Expert website here. You can also search for a price comparison tool to check your usage. If you are on a low income, you might be able to receive help via either:
Additionally, for those struggling to pay energy debts, grants are available to help. Contact your energy supplier directly to find out more. If your energy supplier does not provide a grant scheme you can apply to the British Gas Energy Trust for help. These grants are available to everyone whether you are a British Gas Customer or not. To check if you are eligible here.
SES Water supplies water for the Carshalton and Wallington area and provides several ways to help reduce and manage your water bills. To explore the options please visit here. You might be able to reduce your water bills by transferring to a water meter. If this is something you are considering doing please visit the following link which provides helpful information on transferring to a water meter.
Help with Council Tax
Sutton Council provides several ways to reduce your Council Tax. The amount of support you can get will depend on your income and personal circumstances. To view these benefits, visit here.
Broadband, TV, and Mobile Phones
For those on low incomes or in receipt of certain benefits there are low income broadband packages available which provide a basic broadband connection with some packages offering to waive connection fees. For more information about the packages available and to check eligibility please visit Uswitch here. Further advice and information on how to reduce broadband and TV costs is also provided at the Money Saving Expert website.
For mobile phone payments, most advisory organisations recommend contacting your provider directly for help if you're struggling with your bill. Your provider may be able to help by sorting a payment plan, reducing your bill, giving you more time to pay, increasing your data or download limit or moving you to a contract which suits your needs better. You can find out more information on the Citizens Advice website.
I have been an ardent supporter of Independent Age's campaign to increase the uptake of Pension Credit. From speaking with local organisations like Age UK Sutton, Sutton Volunteer Centre, and Community Action Sutton, I learnt that more than 1,276 households in Carshalton and Wallington who are entitled to Pension Credit do not receive the benefit, which is designed to provide additional support for the least well-off pensioners.
There is much more to do to reach 100% uptake and raise awareness that you could be up to £7,000 per year better off on Pension Credit compared to UC. If you or your partner is over pension age, and the other is working age, check now to see if you are entitled to Pension Credit or Housing Benefit, before the rules change on 15 May. Check your eligibility online. From 15 May, mixed age couples who are not already claiming Pension Credit or Housing Benefit will only be able to make a claim for Universal Credit.
Help with Childcare Costs
There is a range of support
available from Government to either help with the cost of child care or to reduce your existing child care costs. The schemes available vary and depend on your personal circumstances and family income but broadly fall into the following:
Tax Free Childcare
- Free Childcare provision amounting to either 15 or 30 hours per week (dependant upon circumstances)
- Tax Credits to help with childcare
- Universal Credit to help with childcare
To check what help and support you might be able to receive please visit Child Care Choices here.
Help with Travel and Transport
For rail travel and the range of railcards on offer which can reduce costs by up to a third following a small payment for the card; please visit the National Rail website at www.railcard.co.uk/.
For those eligible, there is also a Disabled Persons Rail Card. More information on this railcard, and how to apply are included at the following link: www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk/.
Travel for free or get discounts on TfL transport and most National Rail services with a Freedom Pass. This includes travel on bus, tram, Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail. You can travel free on TfL services with your Older Person's Freedom Pass from 09:00am weekdays and anytime at weekends and on bank holidays. If you have a Disabled Person's Freedom Pass, you can still travel at any time on TfL services. You can find more information here.