Time running out for older people to qualify for Government payment as survey reveals extent of cost of living challenges in Swindon

Older people on a low income have until Thursday, 18 August to put in a claim for Pension Credit in order to qualify for the Government’s £650 Cost of Living Payment.

Announced as part of a support package in May, the Government’s Cost of Living Payment will be paid to those in receipt of Pension Credit (and other qualifying benefits) in two lump sums of £326 and £324 – the first is currently being paid while the second will be paid in the autumn.

To be eligible for the first lump sum, older people must have been entitled to a Pension Credit payment (or later found to be entitled to a payment) in the period 26 April – 25 May 2022, but because a successful application for Pension Credit can be backdated by three months, those who begin the claiming process before 18 August are guaranteed to meet the eligibility criteria.

Back in May this year, Citizens Advice Swindon and Swindon Borough Council joined forces to make sure families most struggling with living cost increases are aware of the help and support available. An ongoing joint campaign signposts the national and local help and support available, bringing information together in one place at www.swindon.gov.uk/costofliving.

A recent survey of Swindon residents conducted by Citizens Advice Swindon has found that more than 7 in 10 have already had to reduce their energy usage to save money, while 1 in 2 are buying less food for themselves or their family.

It comes ahead of energy regulator Ofgem announcing on 26 August what is expected to be an unprecedented rise in the energy price cap from October.

A total of 1,175 residents responded to Citizens Advice Swindon’s online survey conducted between 16 May and June, with over 95% of respondents said they are worried about the rising cost of living. A third said they could not cut back any further to save costs, while 29 per cent said they have turned to a form of borrowing to meet rising costs.

An award of Pension Credit can help with the rising cost of living, and also provide access to a range of other benefits such as help with housing costs, council tax support, heating bills and, for those aged 75 or over, a free TV licence. Applications can be made at www.gov.uk/pension-credit or by calling 0800 99 1234.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health Inequalities and Housing, said: “Having spent a morning recently with the team at Citizens Advice Swindon, I saw first-hand how their dedicated staff and volunteers are helping residents amongst the hardest hit by rising living costs. These survey results confirm that making ends meet is a growing challenge for many families across Swindon.

“I’d urge residents to make sure they’re aware of the help and financial assistance available. Contact Citizens Advice Swindon or visit the Council’s website to check what help you could be missing out on. Through the Government’s Household Support Fund, the Council is administering £1.5 million of support including food and energy vouchers to residents across Swindon.”

Claire Newport, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Swindon, said: “Our survey showed that the cost of living crisis is hitting hard in Swindon. We are seeing record demand for advice around energy bills, foodbank referrals and benefits entitlement.

“Worryingly, a third of respondents have already had to borrow money to meet rising costs.

“The Government did the right thing by introducing the measures to help with the cost of living, but now families are facing higher bills again this autumn. This is far from over and we want people to know they are not alone and there is help available.”

Citizens Advice Swindon can be contacted on 0808 2787813 or by visiting www.citizensadviceswindon.org.uk.

More information is available on the Council’s website at www.swindon.gov.uk/costofliving.