Cost of living help hub

The rising cost of living is a real worry for hard working and struggling households here in Dover & Deal and across the country as a whole.

Natalie and her team have created this online cost of living advice hub to make it as easy as possible to find help with rising bills and costs of living following the pandemic.

This online hub signposts where to find support – from welfare benefits like universal credit to where to go to get help with gas and electricity bills. The hub also includes information on help with council tax, housing costs, how to access food banks and Government support schemes as well as how to contact voluntary organisations working across the area.

It also includes specialist financial advisory organisations, because Natalie and the team cannot provide individual financial or legal advice.

Natalie and her team are always happy to help you as best we can. It’s really easy to get in touch:
Telephone: 01304 379669      Post: Natalie Elphicke MP,  54 The Strand, Walmer, Deal, Kent CT14 7DP         Email: office.natalie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk

Citizens Advice offer support both over the phone and in person to find out more please visit their local website or national website

You can call Citizens Advice Consumer helpline directly for help on 0808 223 1133.

Citizens Advice operates across Dover and Deal and can provide advice through their trained benefits and financial advisors. They provide general and specialist advice in the field of debt, benefits, employment, housing, family and consumer law and can carry out benefits checks to ensure you are receiving everything you are entitled to.

In addition to Income Support, there are a range of benefits available for individuals not in work, on low incomes and/or with a health or disability need. Information about benefits which can be applied for, including their eligibility criteria are available at the Gov.UK website here.

The simplest way to check eligibility is by using an independent benefits calculator which asks for details about your financial situation to determine whether you might be eligible. Once completed, the calculator will give you an indication of what you might be entitled to apply for.

The Gov.UK website also provides information and links to the three of the most commonly used Benefits Calculators. These are ‘entitled to’, ‘Policy in Practice’ and ‘Turn2Us’. Links to these benefits calculators can be found here. These are free to use and anonymous.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. You may be able to receive it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work.

For more information about Universal Credit please visit: Universal Credit

Universal Credit applications can now be made online using the following link: Apply for Universal Credit

Help to Claim

If you struggle with understanding complex information or need some help with completing forms the Citizens Advice provide a Help to Claim service for Universal Credit. For more information about the Help to Claim service please visit:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/help-to-claim/

To speak with the Help to Claim service please call 0800 144 8 444 Monday to Friday. This service is free to use.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

You can apply for ESA if you have a disability of health condition that affects how much you can work.

You may also be able to get ESA if you were unable to work whilst self-isolating because of Coronavirus.

You can apply if you are employed, self-employed or unemployed.

You could get Universal Credit at the same time or instead of ‘new style ESA’ to check if you are eligible use one of the benefits calculators and make a claim by applying online for ESA using the following link;
https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/how-to-claim

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Personal Independence Payments (PIP) can help with extra living costs if you have both:

  • A long term physical or mental health condition or disability
  • Difficulty doing certain everyday tasks or getting around because of your condition

You can get PIP if you are working, have savings, or are in receipt of other benefits.

You can find out more about how to apply for PIP here https://www.gov.uk/pip/how-to-claim

If you need help understanding or applying for PIP you can get help from the Citizens Advice.

For more information about the support they provide please visit the following link: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/help-with-your-claim/fill-in-form/

Carer’s allowance

If you are a carer you might be eligible for Carer’s Allowance. For more information about Carer’s Allowance please visit: https://www.gov.uk/carers-allowance

Tax Credits

Tax Credits have now been replaced by Universal Credit. They were provided to those on low incomes for help with living and childcare costs. You can only make a claim for Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit if you already get Tax Credits.

If you cannot apply for Tax Credits you can apply for Universal Credit instead using the previous details provided for the Universal Credit Helpline.

You cannot claim Tax Credits and Universal Credit at the same time. Your Tax Credits will stop if you or your partner apply for Universal Credit. To check how Universal Credits and Tax Credits affect each other please visit: How tax credits and other benefits affect each other

For those in receipt of Tax Credits you can now manage your tax credit claim online using the following link: Manage your tax credits 

Natalie Elphicke MP said:

“My team and I are regularly asked by residents to help signpost them to support about how they can manage their household bills or reduce debts they may have incurred with their utility providers. The Cost of Living Help Hub provides information, advice and contact details which can help reduce your household bills, and manage worrying debts.”

Gas and Electricity

Since 2015 Energy companies have been required to put customers onto the cheapest available tariff suitable to their needs. If you are unsure whether you are on the cheapest tariff or you would like to compare the costs of your energy bills please contact your energy provider direct or visit the Money Saving Expert website at the following link:

Gas, Electric & Water Guides

You can also use price comparison tools to check your usage and costs for energy providers which are readily available on the internet by searching price comparison tools.

If you are on a low income or over a certain age you might also be able to receive help.

Extra Government support is provided for people who are older and those on particular benefits. This includes the:

Warm Home Discount Scheme – This is a one-off discount on your electricity bill and has now increased to up to £150 for winter.

Winter Fuel Payment  – This is a payment for older people of between £100 and £300 to help you pay your heating bills.

Cold Weather Payment – This is an extra payment where there is a spell of very cold weather. Cold Weather Payments has now increased to an extra £25 a week. 

Additionally, for those struggling to pay energy debts, grants are available to help. Contact your energy supplier directly to find out more or read the Citizens Advice information on grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills. If your energy supplier does not provide a grant scheme you can apply to the British Gas Energy Trust for help. These grants are available to everyone whether you are a British Gas Customer or not. To check if you are eligible use the following link: Grants Available – British Gas Energy Trust

Ofgem increases level of price cap

The energy price cap increased on 1 April 2022 for approximately 22 million customers. Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £693 from £1,277 to £1,971 per year (difference due to rounding). Prepayment customers will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to £2,017. The increase is driven by a record rise in global gas prices over the last six months, with wholesale prices increasing by five times compared to last winter.

Ofgem information regarding help can be found here

The government has announced a package of support to help households with rising energy bills, worth £9.1 billion in 2022-23. This includes a £200 discount on their energy bill this Autumn for domestic electricity customers in Great Britain. This will be paid back automatically over the next 5 years.

Water

Both Affinity Water and Southern Water provide drinking water in the Dover and Deal area with Southern Water providing all the wastewater services. You can check here the area of operation.

You might be able to reduce your water bills by transferring to a water meter. If this is something you are considering doing please visit the following links which provides helpful information on transferring to a water meter.

Affinity Water – Switching to metered bills   |   Southern Water – Water meters

Both water companies operate a WaterSure Tariff for those on a water meter, in receipt of certain benefits, who live with children or where a member of the household has a medical condition that requires the use of a significant amount of water.  In addition, both water companies have in place a number of ways they can assist people who are struggling to pay. To find out how you can pay less for your water you can ring Southern Water on 0800 027 0800, or email payless@southernwater.co.uk.

You can access links to their sites below:

Affinity Water – Help with paying my bill    |     Southern Water – What if I can’t pay my bill

Alternatively, you can call Southern Water for free on 0800 027 0363 if you think you are eligible for one of their schemes and Affinity Water on 0800 697 982.

Help with paying Council Tax

The Council Tax Support Scheme helps some people with paying Council Tax. The amount of support you can get will depend on your income and personal circumstances.

To check your eligibility and make a claim contact Dover District Council at

Dover District Council – Council Tax Support

Alternatively you can call the team on 01304 872199.

The direct link to the form is:

DDC – Apply for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support

In addition to the Council Tax Support Scheme some people and properties might be eligible for a discount or exemption from Council Tax.

As part of its response to the rising cost of energy, the Government announced:

  • A £150 non-repayable rebate in Council Tax bills for all households in April 2022  that are liable for council tax in Bands A-D in England.
  • £144 million of discretionary funding for Local Authorities to support households who need support but are not eligible for the Council Tax rebate
  • Where council tax is not paid by direct debit, councils are required to contact households as early as possible. 

Broadband and TV

For those on low incomes or in receipt of certain benefits there are low income broadband packages available which provide a basic broadband connection with some packages also offering to waive connection fees. For more information about the packages available and to check eligibility please visit Uswitch at
Broadband deals for low income families

Further advice and information on how to reduce broadband and TV costs is also provided at the Money Saving Expert website at the following link
Broadband & TV Guides

Mobile Phones

Most advisory organisations recommend contacting your provider directly for help if you’re struggling with your mobile phone bill. Your provider may be able to help by sorting a payment plan, reducing your bill, giving you more time to pay, increasing your data or download limit or moving you to a contract which suits your needs better.

Detailed advice is provided by Citizens Advice  in relation to options that might be available if you are struggling to pay your mobile phone bill on their website at
If you’re struggling to pay your mobile, phone, internet or TV bill – Citizens Advice

Alternatively, you can call Citizens Advice Consumer helpline directly for help on 0808 223 1133.

Housing Support Fund

Dover District Council has received funding from Kent County Council and Government to support households who would otherwise struggle to buy food or pay essential utility bills or meet other essential living costs of housing costs this winter as the economy recovers.

Eligible support could include:

  • Food
  • Energy and water (including sewerage)
  • Essentials linked to energy and water
  • Wider essentials subject to discussion
  • Housing costs in exceptional cases of genuine emergency

To find out more please visit the DDC website

A range of social enterprises across the constituency offer help and support to those in crisis, or with an interest in reducing their food budgets by reducing waste. For more information about the organisations operating in the area please see the following information.

Food Banks

The Trussell Trust seeded both the Dover and Deal Foodbanks.

Food Banks provide three days of emergency food on a referral basis through a voucher scheme. Referrals can be made via the Citizens Advice  or through a healthcare professional such as a Doctor, Health Visitor or Social Worker. There are also a number of agencies listed on their sites.

Further information about the food banks including their contact details and opening times can be found at the following link:


Deal Area Foodbank
 |   01304 361084 / 01304 728428         |          Dover Foodbank   |   07870 361180

The Trussell Trust explains how to obtain a food voucher here

Food Pantries

Food pantries are a scheme that requires a membership (anyone can join) and for a small weekly subscription, allows members of the public to carry out a weekly shop with dignity. The scheme uses food that would otherwise be going to waste.

Dover Pantry – £5/weekly subscription

Unit 16, Charlton Centre
High Street
Dover
CT16 1TT

Monday: 12pm – 4pm   |   Tuesday: 11am – 2pm   |   Wednesday: 10am – 12pm

Tel: 07898 045384     |     Web: Dover Pantry

Other social enterprises – The Sunrise Café

Professionally run as a social enterprise for the benefit of the whole Dover community, the Sunrise Café offers affordable food in a warm environment where everyone matters, where everyone is valued and where everyone is included. It operates a ‘pay what you can afford’ model so that no one goes hungry and customers are asked to pay what they can afford.

They are open Monday to Saturday 08:00 – 14:00 at Sunrise Cafe, Victory House, 168-172 Snargate Street, Dover, CT17 9BZ

For more information about the Trash Café Real Junk Food Project please visit their website at  Sunrise Cafe – Dover

You can get help with your housing costs if you are eligible for Universal Credit. Your housing payment can help with the payment of:

Rent to a private landlord

  • Your rent and some service charges if you rent from a housing association or council
  • Interest payments on your mortgage and some service charges. 
  • If your housing payment does not cover all your housing costs you might be eligible to apply to the Local Authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment. For more information on Discretionary Housing Payment’s please visit the Dover District Council website at Discretionary housing payments  – Dover District Council where you can apply online. 
  • Phone: 01304 872199 if you want to talk to someone

In addition to the above you might also be eligible for a Council Tax Reduction or other financial help through Universal Credit. You can claim for housing costs if you already have a Universal Credit claim

Help with a deposit or guarantee when moving into the private sector

Dover District Council may be able to help you with its own rent deposit, bond, or guarantee scheme. These are usually provided to individuals at risk of homelessness who have an urgent need to move and would find it difficult to afford the costs associated with such a move.

Problems paying your mortgage

The Building Societies Association has produced a joint guidance document with the Money Advice Trust which you can download here 

There is a range of support available from Government to either help with the cost of child care or to reduce your existing child care costs. The schemes available vary and depend on your personal circumstances and family income but broadly fall into the following:

  • Free Childcare provision amounting to either 15 or 30 hours per week (dependant upon circumstances)
  • Tax Credits to help with childcare
  • Universal Credit to help with childcare

To check what help and support you might be able to receive please visit Child Care Choices at
Childcare Choices | 30 Hours Free Childcare, Tax-Free Childcare and More | Help with Costs | GOV.UK

The website details the eligibility criteria for each scheme and also explains how to apply.

There are several schemes available in Dover and Deal; and across England which can help to reduce the cost of travel on rail and buses.

Rail Cards

For rail travel and the range of rail cards on offer which can reduce costs by up to a third following a small payment for the card; please visit the National Rail website at
Railcards | Digital Railcard and Prices | National Rail

For those eligible, there is also a Disabled Persons Rail Card. More information on this rail card, and how to apply are included at the following link:
Benefits – Disabled Persons Railcard (disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk)

Older Person’s and Disabled Person’s Bus Pass

Bus Passes are available for individuals who have reached state pension age.

A Disabled Person’s Bus Pass entitles the bearer to travel for free throughout England at any time of day with a valid pass.

For more information about the above schemes  please visit the Kent County Council website at Older or disabled persons bus pass – Kent County Council

Companion Passes

Companion passes are now provided by Kent County Council to enable those with a disability to travel with a companion if they would struggle to do so alone. The companion bus pass enables the companion to travel free of charge in the local area when supporting a disabled person on public transport off peak. For more information about the rules for companion passes and eligibility criteria please visit the Kent County Council website at:
Companion bus passes – Kent County Council

Patients will often need to pay towards healthcare costs; however, some patients do not have to pay these costs either because they are in receipt of certain benefits or because they are on a low income. 

 For more information about the schemes available please visit: 

Help with health costs

 If you are eligible you may be entitled to help with costs for: 

  • Prescriptions
  • Dental care 
  • Eyecare 
  • Wigs and fabric supports 
  • Travel 

There are a number of charities and organisations both nationally and locally who are able to provide Debt Advice and Support. Trained advisors can review your income and expenditure and help with arranging repayment plans to your creditors.

I know from speaking with many residents in my surgeries and through my casework how difficult it can be to make the first step and speak with someone about their money worries but I would always encourage everyone to seek the specialist help they need. The advice available from the charities and organisations listed below is free and is always treated with the utmost confidence.

Some organisations can also provide further specialist advice and assess eligibility for debts to either be written off usually through a variety of different debt solutions for example a Debt Relief Order.

If you have problems with money – get advice as soon as possible.

If you need support, please seek help as soon as you think you may be at risk of losing your home. This will give Dover District Council more time to help prevent you becoming homeless or to help you to find somewhere else to live.

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness – Dover District Council

Get help and advice if you’re rough sleeping

If you are homeless you should contact Dover District Council (DDC) for help. You can do this by phoning 01304 872265. The team will talk to you to assess your circumstances, offer advice and work with you to develop your own housing plan.

In addition you can contact these services for assistance:

Porchlight

Porchlight is a Kent based charity helping vulnerable and homeless people to access housing and other support services. If you are homeless, in temporary accommodation, sofa surfing, facing eviction or know anyone who is please call the Porchlight helpline:

Dover Outreach Centre

Helping homeless people find their way back to independence. Offering a wide range of services: advice and signposting for benefits and accommodation, addiction rehabilitation, mental health therapy, CV writing, job search, family liaison, training for work.

The Dover Outreach Centre also runs the Winter Night Shelter.

To add suggestions for other schemes or assistance which could be included in this Help Hub please let us know

Telephone: 01304 379669      Post: Natalie Elphicke MP,  54 The Strand, Walmer, Deal, Kent CT14 7DP         Email: office.natalie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk

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