We have detailed below some ways that you might be able to either reduce the amount of money you have to pay out for things such as bills or some ways that you might increase your income.
The Big Difference Scheme
Seven Trent's 'The Big Difference Scheme' can reduce your liability to pay water charges by up to 90% depending on your total household gross income. It also helps in dealing with your water debt as well as your ongoing charges because if you are given the biggest discount then you may have to pay the arrears back at low levels such as £1 per month You need to be aware that an application can show on your credit report so you may wish to consider this before you apply to make an application.
You can apply yourself or with the help of an advisor. Details can be found on the Severn Trent website.
Consider switching to a water meter
You may save money by switching to a water meter. You might want to consider this if your water usage is low, for example if you live alone and the rateable value of your property is high. You will want to be sure that this will benefit you as if you live in a water shortage area you may not be allowed to change back by your supplier. If you want to calculate if this is going to help you there is a calculator available from the Consumer Council for water here: Water Meter Calculator | CCW (ccwater.org.uk)
Already have a water meter?
If you are already on a water meter then you may be able to get a reduction if you are in receipt of some benefits and have certain medical conditions that mean you have a high water usage. This is provided by the WaterSure scheme. The details for the Seven Trent scheme can be found on their website.
How to reduce these bills
You may be able to reduce your energy costs by changing supplier or looking at different tariffs with your existing supplier. If you are coming to the end of the fixed term contract then often your prices may increase so make sure you are aware of when you contract ends. Try to arrange a new deal for your energy before this is due to end.
Advice on reducing energy bills can be found locally from Healthy Housing Nottingham. They provide a lot of useful advice on switching supplier, help with insulation, boiler replacement schemes and all aspects of energy supply.
There is also some useful information supplied by the Energy Savings Trust.
If you want advice and further information about changing supplier, please visit the Citizens Advice website.
Warm Home discount
This is a discount that can be applied in the winter of each year. This is paid as a one off credit and can be claimed when you are on certain eligible benefits. This is due to open on October the 18th October 2021 The details of how the scheme works on the GOV.UK website.
Trust funds for help with Gas, Electric and Water arrears
Most energy suppliers have Trust Funds that you can apply to. They make one off grants to clear arrears and sometimes to support ongoing usage. The fund will usually want further details of your circumstances that led to being in debt and will require a financial statement detailing your circumstances. Contact your supplier or check their website. The below page from Citizens Advice has links to a number of these schemes:
There are a number of Council Tax discounts that can reduce bills for disability adaptions, those with severe mental impairment and/or if you are treated as a single person household.
Claim Council Tax Support
If you are on a low income then you may be able to apply for Council Tax support. This is means tested and the amount of support that you will get will depend on your income. If you want advice on this the best approach will be to call our duty advice line on 0115 9153155, and we can check your eligibility.
It is important to note that Universal Credit does not include help with your council tax. Universal Credit can pay your housing costs, but a separate application is needed to the City Council for Council Tax Support. If this is the only benefit that you wish to apply for and want an online check there are several online benefit calculators that you can use on the GOV.UK website.
You may be eligible for free school meals, help with uniform costs or support with transport costs. The details of how to apply are on the Nottingham City Council’s Pupil Benefits page.
If you are claiming Universal Credit then you may be able to claim up to 85 per cent of your childcare costs. The amounts you can receive are a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child or maximum of £1108.04 per month for 2 or more children. A detailed guide can be found on the LITRG/ LASA revenue benefits web page.
Universal credit childcare costs are usually made in arrears but if you are struggling to make your payments you may be able to access support from the flexible support fund. This is a discretionary fund and you should be able to get further advice from your Universal Credit Work Coach on how to access this.
If you are not claiming your childcare costs through Universal Credit there are various government schemes that can help you with the costs of your childcare. A good guide to the types of help available is from LITRG or locally at via the Families’ Information Service.
If you are claiming Tax Credits via HMRC you can claim childcare costs of up to 70% of eligible childcare costs up to a maximum of £175 for one child and £300 for two or more children. A comprehensive guide is available on the LITRG/LASA revenue benefits web page.
Reducing phone and mobile charges
There are some useful links on the Ofcom website to sites that are approved by them and can help consumers make comparisons for their supply of phone, broadband or television services.
Help with Health costs
The NHS scheme is for those on a low income who do not automatically qualify for free prescriptions by virtue of the benefits that they are on. This can be applied for by completing the HC1 form.
Check your Tax Code, Tax rebates and tax debts
Make sure that you are paying the correct tax. If you are paying emergency tax or your tax code is wrong for some other reason this will have a big impact on your income. You may be also able to claim tax back for previous years if this was incorrect. There is a useful tool on the Money Saving Expert website.
If you are having problems with a tax debt that you believe is not correct then you can get guidance and advice on how to dispute this from the charity TaxAid.
Adult children who live with you
You may wish to consider asking your adult children who live with you to contribute if they can. This can be a difficult conversation but by living with you, they will be paying much less than if they were renting their own property and paying their own bills. They may be happy to contribute and it is certainly something that you should think about if you are struggling to pay your Priority debts/expenses.
If you have responsibility for dependent children and you are separated from your former partner then you may wish to consider the issue of maintenance. Many former couples prefer to have informal arrangements and this can often be the best approach. However, if you are unable to reach an agreement then you can apply to child maintenance service.
National Minimum Wage
Some employers still do not pay the national minimum wage which is against the law. Check what the national minimum wage rates are here.
There may be grants or other charitable help that you can apply for. A useful website on this is provided by Turn2Us.
If you call our duty advice line on 0115 9151355 our advisors will be able to complete a full benefit check for you to see if there is an entitlement to benefits that you haven’t made a claim for. Our advisors can check your full circumstances to see if you or any other members of your household might be able to claim any additional benefits. They can also check if you would be better off on Universal Credit or remaining on the existing benefit system.
If you are already in receipt of Welfare Benefits and are considering making a new claim for Universal Credit it is important for you to understand the following:
- When you make a new claim for Universal Credit this removes your right to claim benefits under the existing system. This means that any Tax Credits or Housing Benefit that you receive will be replaced by Universal Credit.
- Once the change has been made you cannot return to these benefits even if the change to Universal credits makes you worse off.
- However, there are circumstances where you can amend your existing benefits rather than making a new claim for Universal Credit.
Therefore, if you are considering a claim for Universal Credit we would strongly suggest that you speak to one of our Advisors before making your claim on 0115 9151355. There may be long-term impacts with transferring to Universal Credit and our advisors will be able to explain this to you so you can make an informed decision.
If you are not on existing benefits and want only to know the amounts of Universal Credit you may receive then you may wish to use one of the online benefits' calculator.