THIS week, as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I have been overseeing the roll-out of cost of living support payments to 8 million low-income households, including 8,400 households in Central Devon, writes MP Mel Stride.
The payments of £300 are the second of three totalling £900 this year. They are tax-free, will not count towards the benefit cap, and will not have any impact on existing benefit awards.
Those who are eligible will be paid automatically and do not need to apply for the payment or do anything to receive it.
These payments are being made because of cost of living pressures that are hitting low income households the hardest. They are just one part of a package of support that also includes help with energy bills:
► Almost three million low-income households will be eligible for a £150 rebate on their winter electricity bills through the Warm Home Discount.
► Winter Fuel Payments – boosted again this year by an additional £300 per household – are providing pensioners with up to £600 to help with heating costs over the colder months.
► Cold Weather Payments will also come into effect this week with eligible households receiving £25 extra a week if the temperature in their area hits zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days.
Such extensive financial support has been necessary at least in the short-term to help the most vulnerable households until inflation – resulting from Putin’s illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine – has fallen further.
On that front we are making real progress. Government cost of living support has been worth £3,300 to the average household over the past two years and this has been targeted to help those who have the least.
Other steps the government has taken to help low-income families with the cost of living include increasing benefits by 10.1 per cent last April (worth an extra £600 on average), extending the Household Support Fund with £1 billion of extra funding, cutting fuel duty by 5p and covering up to 85 per cent of childcare costs for working households on Universal Credit. I also took the decision last April to uprate the state pensions by 10.1 per cent.
The government also increased the National Living Wage this April by 9.7% from £9.50 an hour to £10.42 and has committed to a further increase to £11 an hour in April 2024.
This boost is worth an extra £2,600 over two years and will bring the annual salary of a full-time worker on the National Living Wage to nearly £21,500.
With full-time workers on the National Minimum Wage earning just over £11,000 a year when the Conservatives came into government in 2010, this increase (which far exceeds inflation) has made a huge difference to those on the lowest incomes.
Advice and support for households struggling with the cost of living can be found at helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk.
This includes energy saving tips, support with mortgage payments, advice for people with disabilities or health conditions, and useful information about childcare costs and income support.