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DWP announces £500 million support package to assist individuals with rising cost of living

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has unveiled a significant £500 million aid package aimed at easing the burden of living expenses over the next year. This initiative follows Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget announcement, where additional assistance was pledged for households facing the greatest need, alongside regular benefit provisions.

Commencing in April, various benefit boosts will come into effect, alongside an extension of the Household Support Fund, which was initially introduced in October 2021. With a hefty budget allocation of £500 million, this extension aims to provide critical aid to the most vulnerable households, particularly those with low incomes or reliant on benefits.

The nature of assistance available will vary depending on your location and the allocation of funds by your local council. In many cases, beneficiaries can expect either direct cash disbursements or vouchers, intended for essentials such as food or energy bills.

Questions have arisen regarding the potential return of the £900 cost-of-living payments. These payments were disbursed to benefit recipients in three instalments last year in response to significant spikes in the costs of utilities and food. However, their absence from the Spring Budget, as reported by the Daily Star, coupled with decreases in fuel and power prices and a lower inflation rate of 4% compared to last year’s over 11%, casts doubt on their reissue, especially given the prevailing economic conditions.

In response to concerns about Universal Credit loan repayments, the DWP has announced measures to improve repayment terms for claimants. Notably, the repayment period for new loans will be extended from 12 to 24 months to mitigate the risk of households falling into debt. Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, emphasised the government’s commitment to rewarding hard work through tax cuts and bolstering economic growth to address familial challenges effectively.

The government’s decision to reduce National Insurance contributions by 2p starting April is expected to save the average individual £450, complementing an earlier cut of the same magnitude, resulting in total savings of £900. Additionally, state pensions will increase by 8.5% from April, translating to an extra £900 annually for those on the new State Pension, while benefits will see a 6.7% rise. Moreover, the Local Housing Allowance is slated for an increase, potentially providing around £800 more annually for eligible individuals.

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However, amidst these measures, concerns persist among advocacy groups like Disabled People Against Cuts. Paula Peters, a representative from the organisation, criticised the government for failing to renew cost-of-living payments despite persistently high living costs, including elevated food prices, soaring energy expenses, and escalating council taxes. Peters argues that the six-month extension of the Household Support Fund falls short, particularly as local authorities impose stringent criteria, resulting in many individuals being denied much-needed assistance.

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