The cost of living in the UK has risen sharply in 2022. The price of consumer goods – which includes groceries, clothing, and other items that you need – was nearly 10% higher in August 2022 than the year before. Since wages have not increased as well, this means people’s salaries have lost value.
The cost-of-living crisis is already causing hardship and will continue to be challenging for victim-survivors of economic abuse. You may be concerned in particular about your energy bills and the cost of groceries.
On this page, you’ll find details of support that may be available and important considerations if you are experiencing economic abuse.
Abusers may take advantage of the cost-of-living crisis to force you to pay more or push you into debt.
There are many ways an abuser might take advantage of the cost-of-living crisis:
Sabotaging your economic situation, such as:
Restricting your access to and use of money and the things that you need, including:
Exploiting your economic situation, including:
An abuser might also blame you for the economic hardship. They may also try to make you feel guilty by saying you should have prepared better, saved more, switched to a lower energy tariff, or not spent money on yourself or your children when you had more disposable income.
The costs of leaving and the financial pressure of living on a single income may make it more difficult for you to leave an abuser. However, some financial support is available at this time (see below).
It’s likely you are already doing everything you can to manage your energy costs. Advice telling you to limit use further can be patronising and unhelpful. However, it can save you money to turn off appliances you are not using, if possible. This information from Loop, an app which connects to your smart meter to help reduce your energy use, may be useful. Citizens Advice also has a calculator you can use to help check how much your appliances cost to run.
The UK government has pledged support for all households to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, particularly energy bills, offering several grants and one-off payments. If you are entitled to several of these payments, you do not have to choose – you should receive them all.
How much money you receive will depend on your financial circumstances and the people in your household.
Everyone using gas and/or electricity from a UK energy supplier will receive at least £400 from the government under the Energy Bill Support Scheme. You do not need to apply for this. You also do not need to pay this back.
It will be paid directly into your account with your energy supplier. It will arrive in six instalments:
If an abuser has control over your energy accounts, they will not be able to remove this money – it can only be used for energy bills. It acts as a discount, rather than credit that can be withdrawn.
If you use a prepaid meter, you will get vouchers to redeem instead. They will arrive via SMS text, email or post, or as automatic credit when you go to your usual top-up point. You are in the best position to know if it is safer for you or your partner to receive these vouchers – for example, an abuser could refuse to use them, or say they never received them. If possible and if safe to do so, you can contact your energy supplier and ask them to add the vouchers as an automatic credit instead.
Whether you use a meter or pay monthly bills, your energy supplier should contact you via email or post to confirm how you will receive the support. If you don’t receive the first payment before the end of October, contact your energy company.
Read more about the government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme on their website.
Please note that this scheme applies to England, Wales and Scotland only. People in Northern Ireland will still receive the same support (£400) but it will be credited to accounts in November. Metered customers in Northern Ireland will receive three payments of £170, £170 and £60, paid when the account is topped up with £5.
Some people are eligible for a further discount on their energy bills under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. The scheme is currently closed but is set to reopen in November 2022.
Last year, those who were eligible received £140 off their energy bills. Eligibility usually depends on whether you are already receiving means-tested benefits, so check to see if you are claiming everything you are entitled to.
If you are already in debt with your energy bills, or if the cost-of-living crisis has put you into debt, Citizens Advice has a list of grants directly from energy suppliers.
SEA has worked with Ofgem on good practice for energy firms when supporting customers in financial difficulty. This recognises debt support for victim-survivors of economic abuse.
Each energy supplier has a Priority Services Register to help people in vulnerable situations. Ofgem states that you are eligible to be on the register if you have experienced economic abuse. You may also be able to get on the register for another reason, like being pregnant, having a mental health condition or needing support after an injury.
The support they can provide includes:
Ofgem has a full guide on how to register.
The big energy suppliers in the UK have charitable trusts that can help if you are in debt and struggling to pay your energy bills. Money Saving Expert has a full guide on these, including eligibility and how to apply.
Note that funds are limited, so apply as soon as you can, particularly as the cost-of-living crisis means there will be an increase in applications.
If your energy supplier does not have a hardship grant, you can apply for one through British Gas. Their Individual and Families Debt Write Off Fund is available even if you are not a British Gas customer.
If you live in a council tax zone from A-D, you should have received a £150 council tax rebate in April 2022. Contact your council if you did not receive the rebate.
Adjusting your council tax may be the last thing on your mind if you have recently separated from an abuser. However, if you are the only adult in the house, you can tell the council to apply a ‘single adult discount’, which will take off 25% of your usual bill.
Use this government tool to see if you are eligible and to apply.
The cost-of-living crisis has put an additional strain on housing costs, but the help available remains the same. The housing charity Shelter has a useful page on accessing grants, loans and help paying your rent.
For victim-survivors, this can be an even more challenging time. Some landlords are increasing rents to cover their own costs, making it harder to survive on a single income if you need to leave an abuser. The increase in mortgage rates might also be causing additional tension and risk in your home. For help with rent, mortgages and other housing costs, see our housing resources.
You may already be receiving benefits, or the cost-of-living crisis may have changed your circumstances so that you are applying for benefits for the first time. Citizens Advice has a simple benefits calculator to help you see if you’re eligible and for how much.
Additional support at this time for people receiving benefits includes:
If you have not received a Cost of Living Payment that you are entitled to, this form allows you to report a missing payment.
The Government will increase benefit payments, including State Pension, by 10.1% in April 2023.
Additional Cost of Living payments will be made after April 2023 to those who are eligible. This includes up to £900 for people on means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioners and £150 for people getting certain disability benefits.
You do not need to be unemployed to receive Universal Credit. There is special financial support and benefits available for people experiencing domestic abuse – see our guide on ‘Grants, benefits and financial help’ or the guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions.
You may be able to pay some of your energy bills directly from your benefits. This means the payments will come out automatically, which can be helpful if an abuser is limiting your access to your resources.
The government Fuel Direct website tells you how to apply at your local Jobcentre Plus or Pension Service.
Even though you cannot switch water providers, you can change your bills. Money Saving Expert recommends considering a water meter if there are more bedrooms in your home than people, or the same number of bedrooms as people.
The Consumer Council for Water has a water meter calculator that asks questions about your water use and can tell you the cost estimate if you had a meter. Consider whether an abuser might take advantage of this by increasing water use, however.
Even if you cannot have a meter installed, you can ask for an assessed measured charge.
If you are receiving benefits or a state pension, you can often get onto a cheaper broadband rate with plans with ‘social tariffs’. See Money Saving Expert’s guide on all the plans available.
If you are leaving or planning to leave an abuser and you need to open a new bank account, consider banks that are offering money to switch to them. Some are offering £100. Changing bank accounts can be challenging if you are facing economic abuse – we have a guide on ‘How to open a new bank account safely’.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is encouraging financial services firms, including banks and building societies, to take extra steps to support vulnerable customers, particularly those with debts and in financial difficulty, during the cost-of-living crisis. This could include offering more flexibility in repayment of debts (known as forbearance).
Some financial services providers, including banks and building societies, may have hardship funds at this time for customers in financial difficulty. Some may have specific funds for customers fleeing domestic abuse. You can ask your financial services provider if this is something that they have.
The cost-of-living crisis has increased grocery bills for many people. If you are living with an abuser, you may be facing even more restrictions or the abuser may be monitoring your spending more closely.
If you are struggling to pay for food, food banks can help. You will need a referral to use most food banks, but you can get this from a doctor, a school or social worker.
The Trussell Trust operates many food banks around the UK. You can check their website to find one near you.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, the abuser might be limiting your funds for personal items like tampons and pads. Money Saving Expert has a full guide on where to find free sanitary products from places like libraries and even some grocery stores.
The local council may be able to help you if you are struggling to pay for:
This is called ‘welfare assistance’ or the ‘Household Support Fund’. Ask your council about their scheme and whether you’re eligible. You do not have to be getting benefits to get this type of help from the council.
If you have limited access to the internet, including if you’re afraid your partner might be monitoring your use, you can go into the council offices in person.
You can ask your local council about grants that are specific to your area. Some libraries have a list of organisations that give grants, as well. Ask for ‘The Educational Grants Directory’, ‘The Grants Register’, ‘A Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need’ or the ‘Directory of Grant Making Trusts’, or look online.
Council support may differ outside of England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different or additional schemes:
Check the Scottish Welfare Fund for details of Scotland-wide grants available.
The Discretionary Assistance Fund can help you pay for essentials such as food, energy, clothing or emergency travel.
Discretionary Support helps people who are in need of short-term financial help.
See our ‘Grants, benefits and financial help’ page for other grants and hardship funds that you might be able to apply for.
No recourse to public funds (NRPF) is a condition that applies to many migrants in the UK without permanent settled status.
Even if you have no recourse to public funds, you will still receive the £400 government grant through the Energy Bill Support Scheme.
However, you will not have access to any payments related to benefits, such as the Cost of Living payment or payments for pensioners. The Department for Work and Pensions sets out who it defines is at risk of fuel poverty and who is eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme. It is unclear whether some suppliers will provide this to people with no recourse to public funds – contact your local Citizens Advice for more information.
We have more information on economic support for victim-survivors with no recourse to public funds.
SEA is not aware of any specific support for victim-survivors of domestic abuse linked directly to the cost-of-living crisis. However, we are joining Women’s Aid and others in making calls for an emergency fund to support survivors at this time. Read more about our policy calls here.
The Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse is run by Money Advice Plus in partnership with SEA. It offers specialist advice to anyone experiencing domestic abuse who is in financial difficulty – including difficulty due to the cost-of-living crisis.
The cost-of-living crisis may be leaving you feeling more stressed or anxious than usual. The extra worry about how to make ends meet during such uncertain times can have a major impact on your mental health.
We have a list of organisations that can help, including those that can provide emotional support and support with your mental health and wellbeing.
Last updated November 2022
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