24-year-old 'struggling to make ends meet' on £34,000 salary amid cost of living crisis

17 November 2022, 21:17

Sangita hears from worried caller over energy bills

Melissa Fleur Afshar

By Melissa Fleur Afshar

'Check if you're entitled to benefits', advises personal finance expert as Brits tighten their belts in preparation for the biggest drop in disposable income since the 1950s.

While many let out a sigh of relief when the Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement that the government will "tackle the cost of living crisis", "protect the vulnerable", and be "compassionate", others feared that Hunt's pledges would only stretch so far.

READ MORE: The Autumn Statement as it happened: Hunt unveils a brutal package of tax rises and spending cuts to curb Britain’s spiralling debts

After the government's new economic roadmap was unveiled, personal finance expert, Sarah Pennells, joined Sangita Myska on LBC to dissect the announcement and how it could impact individuals on a case-by-case basis.

The pair were shocked to hear from a 24-year-old woman named Rebecca from Dulwich, who makes £34,000 a year yet still has anxieties about paying off her gas and energy bills.

"I am on £34,000 a year and I am already struggling to make ends meet," said Rebecca.

"I am now hearing that the energy support will be wound down in the Spring, how will I get help?"

Sangita Myska empathetically raised that while £34,000 might sound like quite a comfortable salary to most, it will be "eaten up very fast" after getting taxed and while living alone in London.

"It's massively problematic," said Sangita.

The presenter then questioned whether Rebecca and those with similar circumstances are in a group of people who Jeremy Hunt has failed.

"It's a group of people who unless you qualify for means-tested benefits [you miss out]" said Ms Pennells.

"Some households that earn up to £50,000 a year [are eligible to financial support], and you can get additional payments if you have a child who is sick or disabled."

Ms Pennells then shared that, "some people who don't even realise it can qualify for benefits".

The finance expert advised Rebecca to check the free benefits calculators available online, to see if she can qualify for any benefits and reap some financial support.

"Billions of pounds go unclaimed in benefits every year," said the finance expert.

"We have a charity partner called Turn To Us, they have a free benefits calculator, but there are others that you can use."

Ms Pennells stressed that filling out the calculator is "worth it".

"It takes about 10 minutes, and you will need information about your income and outgoings," she said, before insisting that the public, "check if [they] are entitled to benefits."

"There could be money with your name on it," said Ms Pennells.

Self-employed caller asks: 'What happens to us?'

How to survive the energy crisis, according to personal finance expert, Sarah Pennells:

At the moment, inflation has hit 11.1%, the highest in over 41 years.

Ms Pennells shared that if you're not eligible for tested means benefits, you could try and qualify for other kinds of support on energy bills.

"You could see if you qualify for the Turn To Us grants," said Ms Pennells.

"There are specific ways that you may have to qualify, depending on where you live and the profession you do."

READ MORE: The winners and losers of today's autumn budget announced by Jeremy Hunt

Ms Pennells then shared that if all other options prove unhelpful, people could try to turn to their own energy providers for support.

If a household is in arrears, instead of being worried about affording bills in the future, then the charitable trusts affiliated with some energy providers could help customers pay off bills.

Unusually, British Gas has a charitable trust that will help individuals even if they are not a customer of the energy provider.