Social Justice

Cost of living payments: Anxiety and confusion as millions left waiting for support

Cost of living payments should be hitting the bank accounts of millions today but a lack of clarity means many don't know whether they'll make it through the month.

Image: Ken Teegardin/Flickr

The first cost of living payments from government to struggling families will hit bank accounts today but millions may have to wait more than two weeks for the payment.

More than 7 million households – one in four in the UK – are entitled to a £650 pound cost of living support payment in 2022 as food and fuel prices continue to outpace wages. The first £326 instalment will be paid to all eligible recipients by the end of July but the lack of clarity around who will receive payments and when is adding to the anxiety for many households.

“Since cost of living has risen me and my partner have been struggling more than ever,” said universal credit claimant Charlie, speaking to The Big Issue.

“If the payment didn’t come through until the end of the month that would impact our mental health massively, as we already struggle to make it to the end of the month to start with. 

“There isn’t a day where we aren’t anxious or worried about money.”

The hashtag #costoflivingpayment trended on Twitter as users shared their fears about the delay.

“Was hoping this cost of living payment would pop in… literally on zero money, feel like breaking down honestly,” one user tweeted.

“Really struggling here, my anxiety is through the roof, zero money, constantly check my bank account.”

As millions struggle to cope with rising bills and extortionate food prices, the payment could not be more urgent. 

Tracey, – a universal credit recipient who did not want her last name used, – is one of the majority who are still waiting for the first instalment.

The payment would give people “breathing room,” she told The Big Issue – but is only a short term solution.

“I’m better off than a lot I think, I have a great family, I wouldn’t cope without them,” she said.

“I only just manage to pay all my bills at the moment so this [energy price] rise in October is so scary. It really is worrying what’s going to happen this winter.”

A combination of years of austerity measures, Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, tax rises and higher energy costs pushed millions of household budgets to the brink at the start of 2022. Ofgem, the energy regulator, is expected to raise the energy price cap again in October.

People on benefits won’t be the only ones to suffer from rising prices, Tracey added, urging the government to do something to tackle an impending surge in energy costs. 

To James, the payment will mean essentials like “nappies and toilet paper.” He expected that it would arrive today, but is still waiting.

“My mum is currently in end of life care at hospital so we need all the money we can get really at the moment!” the father of two said. 

“We are watching the bank balance at the moment closely as we do not know what we are going to have to pay out in the next 3 weeks or so when my mum passes.”

To Twitter user Polly, the payment will mean the difference between eating and going hungry.

“I was told two days ago by a universal credit agent I would receive the payment today but was told yesterday it could be any time up to the 31st,” wrote user Polly.

“Desperately needed it as haven’t eaten for a few days so my kids can.”

Low income households on means-tested benefits like universal credit are eligible for the payment, which will be crebited automatically.

The  order in which recipients are alloted payments is random but they cannot all be processed on a single day, the Department of Work and Pensions confirmed.

Many people have budgeted with the expectation of the payment arriving today. 

 “I was really hoping I’d get my #costoflivingpayment today, I’ve got 24p to last me a week,” one Twitter user warned.

Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey said that the cost of living payments would reach struggling families by the end of the month. 

“Our help for households will begin landing in bank accounts today as we make sure those on the lowest incomes get the support they need in the face of rising costs,” she said.

The second instalment of £324 will land in bank accounts in autumn. An exact date hasn’t yet been confirmed.

The Big Issue is committed to helping readers make it through the cost of living crisis. If you are struggling and are happy to talk to a Big Issue journalist to raise awareness about the problems you and millions of others are facing, email editorial@bigissue.com.

Here’s where to turn for some real solutions:

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