I know the rise in the cost of living is a worry for hard working households across Meon Valley and across the whole country so this page is going to be filled with any helpful information to help with rising bills and costs of living following the pandemic.
This page 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.
If you ever have any issues, please do not hesitate to contact myself and my team who are always pleased to help: https://www.flickdrummond.com/contact
Citizens Advice across Meon Valley
Citizens Advice offer support both over the phone and in person to find out more please visit their local website here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/local/east-hampshire/ or their national website here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
You can call Citizens Advice Consumer helpline directly for help on 0808 223 1133.
Citizens Advice operates across Meon Valley 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.
Citizens Advice does amazing work locally across Meon Valley.
You can find how you can visit and how your local citizens advice can help you here:
Winchester Citizens Advice: https://citizensadvicewinchester.org.uk/
Havant Citizens Advice: https://www.citizensadvicehavant.org/
Income Support, Universal Credit, Benefits
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 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:
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;
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/
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 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
Household Bills, Utilities, Winter Fuel and Council Tax
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:
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 of up to £140 for winter 2021 to 2022
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.
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
On 25th August 2022 British Gas also announced further support for customers with Centrica announcing they will donate 10% of British Gas Energy profits to help our customers struggling with domestic bills. You can find more info here on the help British Gas is giving customers: bit.ly/BGET_grant
Find out what you may be eligible for with the help of this useful article: How to find out if you’re eligible for an energy help scheme, grant or benefit (uswitch.com)
Ofgem increases level of price cap
On 26th August Ofgem announced the energy price cap will increase to £3,549 per year for dual fuel for an average household from 1 October 2022.
This comes as Ofgem’s CEO warns of the hardship energy prices will cause this winter and urges the incoming Prime Minister and new cabinet to provide an additional and urgent response to continued surging energy prices.
The new price cap level is based on a transparent methodology and calculations by Ofgem. The data is published on the Default tariff cap level: 1 October 2022 to 31 December 2022 publication.
The increase reflects the continued rise in global wholesale gas prices, which began to surge as the world unlocked from the Covid pandemic and have been driven still higher to record levels by Russia slowly switching off gas supplies to Europe.
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.
With help on saving energy bills you can visit the energy saving trust here: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/
Age UK also provide a helpful Guide on how to help with Energy Bills: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/debt-savings/en…
Southern Water provide drinking water in Meon Valley 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.
Apply for a meter (southernwater.co.uk)
Southern Water operates 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. You can access links to their sites below:
What if I can’t pay my bill? (southernwater.co.uk)
Alternatively, you can call Southern Water for free on 0800 027 0363
You can also find a helpful guide here on how to reduce water wastage: Environmental damage of global water waste (utilitybidder.co.uk)
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.
You can find more information on local council websites:
As part of its response to the rising cost of energy, the Government has announced:
- A £150 non-repayable rebate in Council Tax bills for all households 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
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
They also have a helpful guide on broadband deals for low income families which you can read here; https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/guides/broadband-deals-for-low-income…
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
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
East Hampshire District Council provides a Housing Support Fund. The Household Support Fund is there to support those in exceptional cases of genuine emergency where existing support from Housing Benefit, Universal Credit (housing element) and Discretionary Housing Payments do not meet the exceptional need.
To find out more please visit the website: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/exceptional-household-support-fund
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. The Trussell Trust explains how to obtain a food voucher here
The Meon Valley Food Pantry in Wickham do amazing work helping people. You can find more information on the food bank here: https://www.meonvalleyfoodbank.co.uk/
Helping with Housing Costs
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 East Hampshire District Council website where you can find more information: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/discretionary-housing-payments
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
Problems paying your mortgage
The Building Societies Association has produced a joint guidance document with the Money Advice Trust which you can download here
Help with Childcare Costs
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.
Help with Transport
There are several schemes available across England which can help to reduce the cost of travel on rail and buses.
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 Hampshire County Council website here: https://www.hants.gov.uk/transport/publictransport/buspasses/olderperso…
Companion passes are now provided by Hampshire 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 Hampshire County Council website at: https://www.hants.gov.uk/transport/publictransport/buspasses/disabledcompanionpass
Healthcare and Disability Support
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:
If you are eligible you may be entitled to help with costs for:
- Dental care
- Wigs and fabric supports
Debt and Advice Support
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.
- Money Helper – Free and impartial help with money, backed by the government | MoneyHelper
- Debt Advice Foundation – Debt Advice Foundation
– Call Debt Advisers free on 0800 043 40 50
- Step Change at – StepChange Debt Charity – Free Expert Debt Advice
- Citizens Advice – Debt and money – Citizens Advice
If you have problems with money – get advice as soon as possible.