I am really struggling to afford to pay my bills. Everything has become so expensive, and my benefits payments were already being stretched to capacity. What can I do?

I am really struggling to afford to pay my bills. Everything has become so expensive, and my benefits payments were already being stretched to capacity. What can I do?

The cost of living has increased for everyone over the last few months, with budgets being stretched to breaking point for many. There are practical things we can do to try and improve our situation when faced with increasing costs.

Many Scottish citizens are not claiming the full benefits that they are entitled to. You can check your entitlement to support, including Scottish devolved benefits using the benefits calculator available at www.advice.scot.

Most of us are already pulling in our belts when it comes to our monthly expenditure. Energy-saving advice such as reducing the temperature on washing machines, switching off lights when not in use, and not over-filling kettles can help in making small reductions to our outgoings.

There are other options available to us when we need to make larger-scale cost-reducing decisions.

Reduced Price Internet

Several internet service providers are offering ‘Essential’ packages to customers who are in receipt of Universal Credit or other benefits. These packages offer consumers the option to pay a reduced amount each month, with providers offering guaranteed average speeds and flexible 30-day rolling contracts. Many of these offers are also available to existing customers and reaching out to broadband providers to make them aware of your situation can be a good first step.

Energy Costs

The same applies to our energy bills, with many energy companies offering help to their customers who are struggling.

The Scottish Government have announced several measures as part of the annual budget that could help those who need it most.

  • The first is to offer £150 to every household in receipt of council tax reduction in all bands.
  • Secondly, funding will be provided to local authorities to pass on £150 to other occupied households in council tax bands A to D.
  • Lastly, additional funds will be supplied to continue the Government’s fuel insecurity fund to help households most at risk of self-disconnection or who are self-rationing of their energy usage due to unaffordable fuel costs.

It was also previously announced by the UK Government that households will receive a £200 discount on their energy bills this autumn, which will need to be paid back at a rate of £40 per year over 5 years.

Support is available!

This is a very worrying time for households, but if you require support with your energy bills, help is available.

Advice Direct Scotland are working in partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver the second iteration of the Home Heating Support Fund for Scottish households struggling with energy costs. Nobody should have to make a choice between heating their homes and eating.

It is now possible for individuals to apply to the fund, so long as they have received energy and / or money advice from an accredited agency. Alternatively, you can apply to the fund through trusted referral partners, details of which can be found on the website.

You can visit www.homeheatingadvice.scot for more information on the support available, including how to apply.

Further sources of support

There are sources of support out there that can help in other areas, and Advice Direct Scotland can also help by referring on where appropriate.

For free, practical, and impartial advice and information, Scottish citizens can call 0808 800 9060 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or visit www.advicedirect.scot to see the full range of support available.

You can access free, impartial advice on any topic from advice.scot by contacting 0808 800 9060 or by visiting www.advice.scot. Advice is available to everyone in Scotland, at no cost, regardless of personal circumstance.