April 2024 dates for benefits and pensions after cost of living payments

As the cost of living crisis persists, millions continue to struggle to pay their bills, afford the essentials or even keep a roof over their heads.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s spring Budget brought some changes aimed to increase household incomes, including a 2p National Insurance tax cut, changes to the Child Benefit, and an extension to the Household Support Fund.

However, some experts have expressed concerns that the chancellor’s new measures unfairly benefit higher earners. The NI cut will benefit those earning £50,000 or more the most, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The government’s latest annual figures on low-income households also paint a bleak picture of the UK’s economic situation. They show absolute poverty has increased for two years in a row, with nearly a million more people poverty in 2022/23 than in 21/22.

The economy took a positive turn when inflation dropped to 3.4 per cent in March – the lowest level since the end of 2021. However, this does not mean prices are going back to what they were two and a half years ago, just that they are rising less fast.

Against these difficult economic circumstances, here is an overview of the financial support available to low-income families this April and key dates for benefits recipients to look out for:

Benefits going out as usual

The usual benefits and pensions payments will be going out mostly as normal in March. These are:

  • Universal Credit

  • State pension

  • Pension credit

  • Child benefit

  • Disability living allowance

  • Personal independence payment

  • Attendance allowance

  • Carer’s allowance

  • Employment support allowance

  • Income support

  • Jobseeker’s allowance

However, if your payment date falls on Good Friday (29 March) or Easter Monday (1 April) you should receive your expected payment the on the last Thursday of March (28 March).

For more information on how and when state benefits are paid, please visit the government’s website.

A report from Policy in Practice last year shows that nearly £19bn in benefits goes unclaimed a year – they offer a helpful calculator to work out what you might be entitled to.

Have you been affected by the issues in this story? Get in touch via email: albert.toth@independent.co.uk

Household support fund

In the spring Budget, Jeremy Hunt confirmed the Household Support Fund (HSF) would be extended for 6 months beyond the original 31 March deadline.

The HSF is funding given to all local councils to support vulnerable households in their area. Councils are free to allocate the funds however they feel is best.

For instance, some have provided cash grants, supermarket vouchers, or energy bill assistance. You will need to visit your local council’s website to find out what help may still be available.

To find out what support is available to you, the End Furniture Poverty charity offer a helpful assistance finder tool.

Other help available

Budgeting advance loans

The government offers a ‘budgeting advance loan’ for people on Universal Credit who face an emergency lack of money. Prior to the budget, the repayment period for these loans was 12 months. It has now been doubled to 2 years.

These loans are interest-free, and automatically deducted from Universal Credit payments. You can borrow an ‘advance’ of up to:

  • £348 if you’re single

  • £464 if you’re part of a couple

  • £812 if you have children

Charitable grants

If you are struggling financially, you may be eligible for certain charitable grants. There are a wide range of grants available depending on your circumstances.

However, these grants will typically require you to meet specific criteria and only be able to offer limited funds.

Charitable grants are available for people who are disabled or ill, carers, bereaved, unemployed, students – and many more. The charity Turn2us has an online tool to search for grants which may be available to you.

Energy provider help

A number of energy suppliers offer help for those struggling with their energy bills. These include Scottish Power, EDF, E.ON and Octopus. It is worth contacting your energy provider to find out if you are eligible.

British Gas also offer a grant of up to £2,000 to customers of any energy provider. You will need to meet specific criteria to be eligible, and can apply on the British Gas Energy Trust website.

Council tax reduction

If you meet certain criteria or are on certain benefits, you may be able to apply for a discount on your council tax discount of up to 100 per cent.

Your local council may still be able to offer you a discretionary reduction if you are able to demonstrate you are facing severe hardship and can’t afford to pay your council tax.

To apply for a council tax reduction, you can contact your local council via the government’s website.

Up to 30 hours free childcare

All working parents in the UK are currently entitled to 30 hours of free childcare for children aged 3 to 4. From April 1, this entitlement will expand to include 15 hours of free childcare for 2-year-olds.

You must apply online and reconfirm your eligibility every three months, in time for each school term. Working parents can also apply for tax-free childcare, giving back 20p for every 80p you put towards childcare, up to a maximum of £500 a year.

There are two more expansions to free childcare planned in the coming years:

  • September 2024: All children from the age of nine months can receive 15 hours of free childcare.

  • September 2025: All children under five can receive 30 hours of free childcare.

Energy Price Cap: Will it go up or down in 2024?

The energy price cap is set to drop to £1,690 from 1 April, down £238 from the January cap of £1,928.

Analysts at the trusted Cornwall Insight predict this figure will fall in July to £1,462.86, but rise again slightly in October to £1,590.

The energy price cap is the maximum amount energy suppliers can charge you for each unit of energy if you’re on a standard variable tariff. That includes most households. It is expressed as an annual bill for an average home.

The recent decline in prices is reflective of recent drops in wholesale energy costs – the amount energy firms pay for their electricity and gas before supplying it to households.

Although it is a significant slide from the record-high rates of the last two years, the figure remains almost £1,000 a year above pre-pandemic levels.

Are benefits and pensions going up in 2024?

Benefits and state pension are set to increase in April 2024.

In his autumn statement, Jeremy Hunt that benefits are going to be increased by the September rate of inflation of 6.7 per cent. He also announced that state pensions will be increased by 8.5 per cent around the same time.

However, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has warned that failure to raise the benefits cap will push more people beyond its threshold, meaning a real-terms cut for many.