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March 2024 dates for benefits and pensions after cost of living payments

Jeremy Hunt gave his spring Budget this month, delivering a 2p National Insurance tax cut, changes to Child Benefit, and a new “British Isa”.

However, some experts have expressed concerns that the chancellor’s new measures unfairly benefit higher earners. The Resolution Foundation economic think tank who point out that those earning £50,000 or more will gain the most from the NI cut.

Earlier in the month, it was confirmed that the UK officially entered a recession at the end of 2023. The news came shortly after figures put inflation steady at 4 per cent, beating the odds of another rise – but still far away from the government’s target of 2 per cent.

Against this challenging economic backdrop, the cost of living crisis persists. Bills, food prices and rents all remain stubbornly high as millions struggle to afford the essentials.

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows that towards the end of last year, 73 per cent of low-income families on Universal Credit experienced food insecurity. One in six reported turning off their fridge or freezer at some point to save money.

DWP payment dates and key money information for March 2024 (PA Archive)
DWP payment dates and key money information for March 2024 (PA Archive)

Here is a brief overview of the state financial support available to low-income families this March and the dates on which benefits recipients can expect their money to be paid out:

Benefits going out as usual

The usual benefits and pensions payments will be going out mostly as normal in March. These are:

  • Universal Credit

  • State pension

  • Pension credit

  • Disability living allowance

  • Personal independence payment

  • Attendance allowance

  • Carer’s allowance

  • Employment support allowance

  • Income support

  • Jobseeker’s allowance

However, if your payment date falls on Good Friday (29 March), you should receive your expected payment the day before (28 March).

For more information on how and when state benefits are paid, please visit the government’s website.

Cost of living payment

Despite ongoing financial pressures, the government has not announced any plans to extend its cost of living payment scheme beyond Febuary 2024.

Peter Matejic, Chief Analyst at the JRF, said: “The Government’s cost of living payments gave families a short-term reprieve. Without them, they face an income safety net that offers no safety and the ever-rising cost of essentials like food and energy.”

If eligible, the final cost of living payment of £299 should be paid to you between February 6, 2024 and February 22, 2024. People receiving certain benefits or tax credits were eligible for the cost of living payment. These include: Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Pension cCedit, Child Tax Credit, and Working Tax Credit.

This payment follows several others made throughout 2023:

  • £301 – First cost of living payment – issued between 25 April and 17 May (or 2 to 9 May for people on tax credits but no other low-income benefits)

  • £150 – Disability payment – issued between 20 June and 4 July

  • £300 – Second cost of living payment – issued between 31 October and 19 November for most people

  • £300 – Pensioner payment – issued November 2023

If you believe you were eligible for these payments but did not receive them, you should contact the DWP.

Other help available as cost of living payments end

Local council assistance

In the spring Budget, Jeremy Hunt confirmed the Household Support Fund (HSF) would be extended for 6 months beyond the original 31 March deadline.

The HSF is funding given to all local councils to support vulnerable households in their area. Councils are free to allocate the funds however they feel is best.

For instance, some have provided cash grants, supermarket vouchers, or energy bill assistance. You will need to visit your local council’s website to find out what help may still be available.

To find out what support is available to you, the End Furniture Poverty charity offer a helpful assistance finder tool.

Budgeting advance loans

The government offers a ‘budgeting advance loan’ for people on Universal Credit who face an emergency lack of money. Prior to the budget, the repayment period for these loans was 12 months. It has now been doubled to 2 years.

These loans are interest-free, and automatically deducted from Universal Credit payments. You can borrow an ‘advance’ of up to:

  • £348 if you’re single

  • £464 if you’re part of a couple

  • £812 if you have children

Charitable grants

If you are struggling financially, you may be eligible for certain charitable grants. There are a wide range of grants available depending on your circumstances.

However, these grants will typically require you to meet specific criteria and only be able to offer limited funds.

Charitable grants are available for people who are disabled or ill, carers, bereaved, unemployed, students – and many more. The charity Turn2us has an online tool to search for grants which may be available to you.

Energy provider help

A number of energy suppliers offer help for those struggling with their energy bills. These include Scottish Power, EDF, E.ON and Octopus. It is worth contacting your energy provider to find out if you are eligible.

British Gas also offer a grant of up to £2,000 to customers of any energy provider. You will need to meet specific criteria to be eligible, and can apply on the British Gas Energy Trust website.

Energy Price Cap: Will it go up or down in 2024?

The energy price cap is set to drop to £1,690 from 1 April, down £238 from the January cap of £1,928.

Analysts at the trusted Cornwall Insight predict this figure will fall in July to £1,462.86, but rise again slightly in October to £1,590.

The energy price cap is the maximum amount energy suppliers can charge you for each unit of energy if you’re on a standard variable tariff. That includes most households. It is expressed as an annual bill for an average home.

The recent decline in prices is reflective of recent drops in wholesale energy costs – the amount energy firms pay for their electricity and gas before supplying it to households.

Although it is a significant slide from the record-high rates of the last two years, the figure remains almost £1,000 a year above pre-pandemic levels.

Are benefits and pensions going up in 2024?

Benefits and state pension are set to increase in April 2024.

In his autumn statement, Jeremy Hunt that benefits are going to be increased by the September rate of inflation of 6.7 per cent. He also announced that state pensions will be increased by 8.5 per cent around the same time.

However, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has warned that failure to raise the benefits cap will push more people beyond its threshold, meaning a real-terms cut for many.

Have you been affected by the inflation increase or have a story to share about your experience during the cost of living crisis? Get in touch via email: albert.toth@independent.co.uk