With spring finally arriving in the UK after a long, difficult winter, the strain on family finances from exorbitant energy bills should begin to ease in the coming weeks.
The cost of living crisis remains acute but there was some good news for consumers in Jeremy Hunt’s budget on 15 March, as the chancellor announced the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) – introduced by Liz Truss last September to ensure households pay no more than £1. 2,500 for electricity and gas, with the remainder allowed under Ofgem’s energy price cap being subsidized by the Government – to be extended for a further three months.
Mr. Hunt was inclined to increase the EPG to £3,000 from 1 April, a vastly less generous offer which would relieve the burden on the state, but in the end he thought it better than that.
“High energy bills are one of families’ biggest concerns, which is why we are keeping the energy price guarantee at its current level,” the chancellor told Parliament.
“With energy bills falling from July onwards, this temporary change will bridge the gap and ease pressure on families, while also helping to lower inflation as well.”
Without this assistance, the average household would have paid an annual bill of £4,279 between January and April, but due to EPG this has been reduced to £2,500 with the remaining £1,779 being collected by the government.
Ofgem has since cut the cap by 23 per cent to £3,280 for the second quarter of the year, with Mr Hunt’s decision meaning the public will continue to be protected rather than pay that full amount while the state will pay much less, such as £780 per household. .
While this may sound like a positive development, the energy bill support scheme introduced by Rishi Sunak a year ago during his time at No 11 Downing Street expires at the end of March when the last payment of £67 out of a total of £400 hits the accounts banking.
Activists such as Citizens Advice CEO Dame Clare Moriarty have warned that the change means many families may end up paying more despite improving national fortunes.
“Withdrawal of the Energy Bill Support Scheme would mean the average monthly bill rises by £67 from April,” it said. “With millions already unable to afford their bills and energy prices set to remain high in the coming years, the government must now look at long-term solutions to this problem.
“Many people, especially those on low incomes, will need ongoing support not only to pay their bills but to make their homes safer and warmer by improving energy efficiency.”
Sarah Coles, Head of Personal Finance at Hargreaves Lansdown, agreed, saying: “Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. The loss of the April monthly discount is still being hit hard as we’ll need to find an extra £67 each month from somewhere.
“Forty-eight percent of people are already having difficulty paying their energy bills – rising to 54 percent among those in their 30s and 40s. Meanwhile, more than one in 20 has fallen behind on their bills (6 percent). This rises to One in seven of the lowest income earners.
“For these people, scrapping the £67-a-month discount would mean bigger bills nightmares.”
In addition, two other programs that provided financial assistance to low-income families this winter also expire at the end of March: Both the Warm Home Rebate and the Cold Weather Payment System will stop applying.
Moreover, the UK’s inflation rate remains in double digits at 10.1 per cent, keeping the cost of goods on supermarket shelves high, while the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee raised interest rates to 4 per cent.
Despite this bleak context, the usual state support in the form of benefits and pensions will go out as usual in April, although it is worth bearing in mind that the arrival of the Easter holiday complicates matters somewhat.
Since Good Friday (April 7) and Easter Monday (April 10) are public holidays, anyone who expects to receive any of the following payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on either of those dates will instead receive their money early Thursday April 6 instead:
- Universal credit
- state pension
- Trust retirement
- Disability living allowance
- Pay personal independence
- attendance allowance
- sponsor allowance
- Employment support allowance
- income support
- Instead of looking for a job
If you do not expect to be paid on either of these dates, you should be paid as normal and you will not be affected by the slight disruption.
For more information about how and when state benefits are paid, please visit Government website.
It is also worth noting that the Doha Work Program has announced that millions of low-income families will receive an additional cost of living support of up to £1,350 this year.
The DWP said eight million eligible claimants tested for financial means, including people on universal credit, pension credit and tax credits, would receive £900 in installments from this spring, with money being transferred directly to bank accounts online. Three batches.
There will also be a separate payment of £150 for more than six million people with disabilities and an additional £300 for more than eight million pensioners.
Here are the payment windows that have been announced:
- £301 – first cost of living payment – through Spring 2023
- £150 – Disability Payment – during summer 2023
- £300 – second cost of living payment – through Autumn 2023
- £300 – Pension Pay – Over Winter 2023/4
- £299 – third cost of living payment – through Spring 2024
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