Financial Help in Scotland is available for a variety of people facing financial struggles.
Low Income Cost of Living Payments
You may be eligible for three cost-of-living payments (£301, £300, and £299) if you receive any of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income Support
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
If you are eligible you’ll receive:
- £301 during Spring 2023
- £300 during autumn 2023
- £299 during spring 2024
You do not need to apply. If you qualify, you will receive the funds automatically.
The Energy Price Guarantee has been extended for a further three months until June, which means that the average household energy bills will remain at £2,500 per year instead of rising to the estimated £3,000.
However, the energy bills support scheme, which saw each household receive £400 towards energy bills, will end at the end of March.
Politicians are calling for further action to be taken to give people financial help with energy bill prices as energy companies report their biggest ever profits. However, no such actions have yet been announced.
It has been revealed that an estimated that more than half of Scots are spending time in cold and dark rooms in fear of their expensive household bills.
For those fearing the incoming energy bill hike, here is some information the limited help that is available: –
- Winter Heating Payment: Receive £50 per year towards energy bills. Automatic qualification if receiving certain benefits.
- Alternative Fuels Payment: £200 one-time payment if your household is not connected to the main gas grid or uses alternative fuels as the main form of heating.
- Warm Home Discount: This provides up to a £150 reduction in energy bills for those on a low-income or those who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.
If you find that you are unable to make payments, contact your energy supplier and they will help to work out a solution for late payments. This will prevent them from disconnecting you.
For further help on ways to reduce energy bills, please visit Citizens Advice
If you fall into debt, there are solutions available.
A rise in Council Tax has been approved across the country.
Each council has announced a different percentage increase, with an average of a 5% rise.
The average council tax bill for the last year was £1,347.
The approved increase could see that number rise to £1,414 a year.
There are Council Tax discounts and exemptions available.
Those eligible for reductions include: –
- Part-time students
- Low-income households
- Those in receipt of certain benefits
- Single adult homes
- For households that include someone living with a disability
- Carers for someone with a disability
Those eligible for complete exemptions include: –
- Full-time students
- Those suffering from a severe disability
To apply for Council Tax reductions and exemptions see here.
More people are beginning to fall into Council Tax arrears.
If this is the case for you, there is financial help in Scotland available.
Benefits and Income Support
There are multiple forms of benefits that a large percentage of the population is entitled to.
The most common benefit payments for both those in and out of work include: –
- Universal Credit: A payment which attempts to aid with everyday living costs. It is available to those who world full-time as long as certain household and income criteria are met. It is often overlooked by those with a regular income.
- Scottish Child Payment: A weekly payment of £25 is awarded for every child in the household under the age of 16.
- Job Seekers Allowance: If you are currently out of work and seeking employment, you are eligible for between £61 and £77 per week.
- Child Benefit: Child Benefit is not means tested, but for high-income families the amount you receive will be reduced. The amount received is around £21.80 per week for the oldest child, and £14.45 per week for subsequent children.
- Housing Benefit: For those out of work or on low-income, support can be given to help pay rent. Each council has different eligibility criteria and levels of support available.
- Adult Disability Payment: The Adult Disability Payment supports disabled adults with the added costs of living and mobility.
- Child Disability Payment: This payment provides added income each week to support households with the added costs of caring for a disabled child.
- Tenant Grant Fund: This aims to mitigate the short-term financial challenges faced by private tenants and help them to avoid falling into arrears or facing eviction. Each council has different criteria.
There are tools available which can determine if you are eligible for any benefits that you were not aware of.
For those struggling with debt in Scotland, there are a number of solutions and ways to access financial help available.
All or most debt solutions will affect your credit rating.
A Trust Deed is a legally binding agreement between you and your creditors where you agree to pay back an affordable portion of what you owe, whilst protecting assets such as your house and car.
There is usually a fixed time rate of four years and on completion of this term, all remaining unaffordable debt will be written off.
While in a Trust Deed, creditor contact will reduce and then eventually stop. You will typically still receive annual statements or notifications on whether your account has been passed onto another debt collection agency or debt purchaser. This is normal, and the original agreement still stands.
After the Trust Deed term has ended, your creditors cannot pursue you for the remaining balance, this will be written off.
To qualify, you must be able to make an affordable repayment amount towards your debt and owe more than £5,000.
The Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) allows you to repay your debt at a manageable level for you, freezing all interest and fees.
To qualify you can have any amount of debt but must not be in any other form of debt repayment.
A DAS is also legally binding and the people you owe money to are not able to contact you or take action against you.
Payment breaks of up to six months due to unemployment or illness are also available while in the Debt Arrangement Scheme.
The DAS will last until the debt is cleared but it will protect assets such as your home and cars.
The Minimal Asset Process route to Sequestration (Scottish bankruptcy) is a formal debt solution which allows you to write off unsecured debt if you are on a low-income and with no disposable income left after covering essential living costs and do not possess any valuable assets such as a house, or a car worth more than £3,000.
Sequestration is the Scottish equivalent of bankruptcy. It allows individuals to clear their debt. However, if you have any valuable assets, they may be sold to raise money towards the debts. After Sequestration is approved, the people you owe money to can no longer pursue you.
For those who do not want to enter into formal arrangements, there are alternatives available to a formal debt solution.
A Statutory Moratorium allows a period of breathing space while you review your longer term options. For those struggling to repay debts, this option stops creditors from taking action against you for six months. It is not a permanent debt solution and does not write off any debt or stop interest and charges from accruing.
Alternatives including the Debt Management Plan
An informal Debt Management Plan is similar to a DAS but is not legally binding, meaning that those you owe money to can revoke it at any point, can re-apply interest and charges and continue to take action against you.
Other Helpful Services
Free Dry Cleaning – Timpsons are offering free dry cleaning for unemployed individuals who are heading off for a job interview.
Travel Costs – The Jobcentre Plus Travel discount card is a free card for those who are unemployed, and gives a 50% discount to countless bus and rail tickets.
Employment help – The job market is incredibly tough at the moment. If you’re struggling to find employment, something that could help you to stand out is free, government funded courses. For a change in career, with no experience, courses like these could help you to get your foot in the door and create a new career path for yourself.