'More help needed': Shropshire debt expert’s view following Autumn Statement
A money advice expert from Shropshire has welcomed the Government’s decision to increase Universal Credit and other working-age-benefits – but believes more needs to be done to help people impacted by the cost of living crisis.
Daniel Bebbington, debt and energy advice manager with The Wrekin Housing Group was speaking after Wednesday's Autumn Statement, after the Government outlined a number of key support measures to help people during the cost-of-living crisis.
Daniel said: “There is some welcome news for people who are struggling with their finances.
“The rise in benefits and unfreezing of housing benefits is a step in the right direction. I am still real advocate for bringing back the £20 Universal Credit uplift. It made such a huge difference to the people we’ve supported here at Wrekin – and I’ve seen the devastating impact it had on people since it was scrapped.”
“In theory, the rise in benefits will mean an increase of £470 per year for five and half million households. These measures won’t come into play until April 2024 – we needed more to help the most vulnerable people during the winter months.
“It’s also disappointing to see that there is no further support being made available to help with energy bills. The price cap is expected to rise in January which is going to put a further squeeze on household finances.”
The Government also announced that the national living wage – which is the minimum wage for adults aged 23 and over – will rise by £1.02-an-hour in April, from £10.42 to £11.44 an hour.
Eligibility for the National Living Wage will also be extended by reducing the age threshold to 21-year-olds for the first time.
“This increase might not seem like a lot, but it could be a potential lifeline for a lot of people that we are supporting here at the Money Matters," Daniel added.
"The national minimum wage for those aged between 18 and 20 will increase by £1.11 to £8.60 per hour, which is also positive news.”
Daniel is part of The Wrekin Housing Group’s Money Matters Team, which offers a wealth of support to the housing association’s 28,000 tenants. During 2022/23 the Money Matters Team successfully secured £4.4m in extra income for Wrekin tenants – by securing Discretionary Housing Payments, writing off debt, reducing people’s utility bills and securing charitable grants.
During the last year, the team has received 2,315 requests for support. It also handled 172 referrals for energy advice, helping customers save an additional £43,000.
Daniel added: “We are seeing a real increase in people needing our help. We are also seeing people with modest or salaries who were struggling to pay their bills.
“It’s our aim to help people early, before their financial situation gets too bad. For Wrekin tenants facing money struggles it’s important they know we are by their side to help them through – not just now, but for the many months to come.”