One-off £500 payment: Who could get a Government cash grant as calls grow for cost of living support

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One-off £500 payment: Who could get a Government cash grant as calls grow for cost of living support

The cost of living has gone up, but some are urging the Government to give households £500 to ease the pressure.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed this week that the rate of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation shot up to 5.4 per cent from 5.1 per cent in November.

Furthermore, energy prices are set to rise when the energy price cap is reassessed next month.

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Here’s everything you need to know.

What has been suggested?

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) believes that the Government could support millions of low- and middle-income households by offering a one-off payment of £500 to support them through the cost-of-living crisis.

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It could help alleviate the pressures that may arise if the energy price cap is increased by the £500 projected next month, the Guardian has reported.

In a blog Dr Aveek Bhattacharya, the SMF chief economist, said £300 should be sent to households with no higher-tax rate payers, and an additional £200 could be given to people on universal credit or other benefits.

He said: “An emergency cash payment would also have the benefit of being a clear one-off intervention, whereas other proposals would risk committing the government to costly ongoing subsidies, that it would find politically difficult to end.”

The payment would be similar to the one President Trump gave Americans on lower incomes at the onset of the pandemic.

The anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has also called for an “immediate emergency payment for people on the lowest incomes”.

What has the Government said?

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, did not rule out the initiative, telling LBC: “We are always looking at ways in which we can try and soften price rises, undue hikes in bills.

“I’m sure there will be more information about that in the next few weeks.

“There are lots of measures that have been talked about and ultimately it’s a matter for Rishi Sunak and his team at the Treasury. “We are trying to get to some common solution.

“We’ve got the warm home discount, which gives very vulnerable people, people on low incomes, support for bills. There’s also winter fuel payment as well.

“We are having conversations across government to see what more can be done.”

Why has inflation gone up?

We now have now the highest rate of inflation since March 1992, when it stood at 7.1 per cent.

Price rises in food and non-alcoholic drinks pushed up inflation last month, the ONS said, while costs also rose for restaurants and hotels, furniture, household goods, clothing and footwear.

Grant Fitzner, chief economist at the ONS, said: “The inflation rate rose again at the end of the year and has not been higher for almost 30 years.

“These large rises were slightly offset by petrol prices, which despite being at record levels were stable this month, but rose this time last year.

“The closures in the economy last year have impacted some items but, overall, this effect on the headline rate of inflation is negligible.”

What is going to happen to the energy price cap?

The energy price cap is the maximum amount a utility company can charge an average customer in the UK per year for the amount of electricity and gas they use.

This stops supplies simply passing hikes in wholesale prices on to the consumer. It was introduced in January 2019.

There are 11 million Britons on standard or variable tariffs that the price cap affects.

The current cap is £1,277, which was set last August – a 12 per cent rise on the previous price.

The cap is set by the energy regulator, Ofgem, and is reviewed every six months. The next review is in February, with any changes set to be introduced from 1 April. However, there are fears the February increase could be by as much as half.

According to Cornwall Insights, an energy sector specialist, bills could rise under the current price cap to £1,925 a year when the next revision is announced, an increase of 51per cent.

They also predict it could spike even more at the following quarterly revaluation in August 2022 unless there is a significant fall in energy prices globally.

Energy prices rose throughout 2021 due to a combination of factors, and the problems are international rather than solely affecting the UK.

Firstly, last winter was particularly cold in Europe, which both drove up demand and used up stored gas supplies.

Demand also increased in China, as well as other parts of Asia, while Russian pipeline gas supplies were lower than expected.

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