Inflation rates rose to 4.0 per cent last month, shocking economists who had forecast a fall and still far from the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target.
Paired with a freezing cold start to 2024, bills, food prices and rents all remain high. Food and energy bills remain above pre-pandemic levels, according to the Resolution Foundation, but forecasts show that we may see both hold steady or even begin to fall later into 2024.
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that more than 56 per cent of low-income households reported not having enough money for either food or heating their home last year. Nearly half have been forced to cut back on gifts for loved ones, as 73 per cent remain without a secure income to afford to eat.
Here is a brief overview of the state financial support available to low-income families this February and the dates on which benefits recipients can expect their money to be paid out:
Benefits going out as usual
The usual benefits and pensions payments will be going out as normal in February, with no bank holidays scheduled to confuse delivery dates. These are:
Disability living allowance
Personal independence payment
Employment support allowance
For more information on how and when state benefits are paid, please visit the government’s website.
Next cost of living payment
The final cost of living payment of £299 will be paid between February 6, 2024 and February 22, 2024. People receiving certain benefits or tax credits are eligible for the cost of living payment. These include: Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Pension cCedit, Child Tax Credit, and Working Tax Credit.
This payment follows several others made throughout 2023:
£301 – First cost of living payment – issued between 25 April and 17 May (or 2 to 9 May for people on tax credits but no other low-income benefits)
£150 – Disability payment – issued between 20 June and 4 July
£300 – Second cost of living payment – issued between 31 October and 19 November for most people
£300 – Pensioner payment – issued November 2023
If you believe you are eligible for these payments but have not received them, you should contact the DWP.
Winter and cold weather benefits
There are three key support schemes available to people as cold weather hits in the winter months:
Cold Weather Payments
A cold snap at the start of the year saw many postcodes qualify for the Cold Weather Payment. If you live in an area that has experience seven or more days of temperatures at or below zero, you are eligible for £25 for every seven days of cold. In Scotland, this scheme was recently replaced with the Winter Heating Payment.
Warm Home Discount
If you are on a low-income and have high energy costs, you could get a one-off £150 payment to help with your bills. You will also qualify if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit. The discount should be applied to yoru energy bills between October 2023 and March 2024. The scheme works slightly differently for Scottish applicants.
You should receive a letter in January 2024 if you might be eligible. If you do not, you should contact the DWPbefore 29 February 2024.
Winter Fuel Payment
You will automatically qualify for this if you are over the state pension age (66 years old) and live in the UK. The discount grants you between £250 and £600 to help pay your heating bills. You do not need to apply if you currently receive a state pension, or most other benefits. If you do not, you may need to apply.
The discount money should have automatically entered your account in October or November. If you believe you are eligible but have not received a payment, contact the DWP for further guidance.
Energy Price Cap: Will it go up or down in 2024?
As of January 1, the Energy Price Cap is set at £1928, up from £1834 at the end of 2023. Analysts at the trusted Cornwall Insight predict this figure will fall in April to £1,660, and again in July to £1,590, before rising again to £1,639.97 in the final months of 2024.
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.
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.
JRF senior economist Rachelle Earwaker says: “Anyone who needs to use their heating to stave off freezing temperatures this week [January 17] can expect to pay over 80% more than what they did three years ago.
“Price rises have outstripped increases in benefits which won’t increase again until April, and, even then, won’t make up the difference.”
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.
Have you been affected by the inflation increase or have a story to share about your experience during the cost of living crisis? Get in touch via email: email@example.com