Living Wage Champions Awards

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By Sophie Little, North West Programme Manager at the Living Wage Foundation

On Thursday 6 July, the Living Wage Champions Awards were held in Greater Manchester for the first time ever in recognition of the growth and strength of the movement in the region.

Greater Manchester has 693 Living Wage Employers – meaning nearly 25,000 workers receiving a pay rise in line with the cost of living every year – and 18 Living Hours Employers, more than anywhere else in the UK.

In 2021, it became the first city-region in the UK to be recognised for its plan to bring employers together from the public and private sectors and civil society to create a Living Wage city-region where the real Living Wage is the norm. The awards were hosted by BBC North West presenter Annabel Tiffin and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham delivered an opening speech. Of the 22 winners nationally, four were from Greater Manchester:

  • Advocate of the Year Award: Chris Smallwood, Anchor Removals
  • Beyond the Living Wage Award: One+All
  • Campaign of the Year Award: Greater Manchester Campaign calling on Anchor Hanover to Accredit
  • Third Sector Champion: Salford CVS.

Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA) sponsored the Living Wage Places award category which was won by Royal Docks and the award was presented by GMPA Chief Executive, Graham Whitham.

It was a great night, and we are grateful to the support we received from GMPA as an award sponsor, and also for the support and collaboration we receive all year round from the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign.

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Newly launched Poverty Research and Advocacy Network (PRAN) to advance the fight against poverty and justice

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By Dr Natalija Atas and Dr Vicki Dabrowski, Liverpool Hope University

A momentous gathering happened in Liverpool last month, uniting 160 people who represented over 87 different regional and national institutions, NGOs and charities.

Hosted by Liverpool Hope University, the ‘Cost-of-Living’ conference brought together advocates working to eradicate the pressing issues of poverty and inequality.  

Vital conversations about the causes and wide-reaching impacts of the cost-of-living crisis were held, shedding light on some shocking statistics. It was revealed that 34% of children (900,000) in the North of England were living in poverty during the pandemic and 150,000 children in the North West do not currently have their own bed – instead, they are sleeping on hard flooring, sofas, air mattresses, or sharing with other family members.

In addition, End Furniture Poverty data showed that 230,000 people in the region live without a freezer, and 110,000 people are living without a washing machine.

While we, as the conference organisers, acknowledged that the cost-of-living crisis is only an acute symptom of long-standing issues of poverty and inequality, we also emphasised that it is a moment where more people than ever understand and can empathise with experiences of hardship and deprivation.

Therefore, we argued that the crisis presents a unique opportunity to mobilise and drive real change in tackling these issues, both regionally and nationally. There was a strong consensus in the room that the only way to achieve a more equal and empowered society is through collective action.

The Poverty Research and Advocacy Network (PRAN) was launched at the conference. PRAN is an independent, collectively run advocacy network that will create a research and knowledge-sharing platform on the broad issue of social inequality. Its advocacy work will focus on changing popular and stigmatising discourses on poverty that work to hinder social progress. It will be an interactive and dynamic platform, incorporating elements such as newsletters and a podcast series. These will be freely accessible to the public.

PRAN aims to bring together various stakeholders to amplify voices fighting against injustice, both regionally and nationally. Third-sector representatives, activists, politicians, civil servants, academics, researchers, lawmakers, journalists and members of the general public are encouraged to join the network. This wide representation is vital to the ethos of the network – established around the belief that only collective, coordinated action can escalate the fight against poverty.

Poverty should be understood as a structural issue created by the negligence of basic human needs and a series of poor political policies and choices. Poverty is a violation of basic human rights and a debilitating human experience. The fight against poverty is therefore possible through change – by working together to raise awareness and dismantle existing misconceptions about the experiences and causes of poverty. This is the top priority on the PRAN agenda.

For more information about how to join the network, please email

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Scottish human rights consultation: why we are encouraging everyone to get involved

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By Helen Flynn, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns at Just Fair

On Thursday 15 June the Scottish Government published its consultation on the new Human Rights (Scotland) Bill. We believe the Bill could have very important implications for the human rights landscape across the UK.

Below we explore what the Bill proposes, what impact it could have, implications for the rest of the UK and why we are encouraging groups and individuals to get involved in the consultation process.

The content of the Bill

The consultation lays out that the Bill will seek to:

  • Incorporate into Scots law, within the limits of devolved competence: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
  • Recognise and include the right to a healthy environment.
  • Ensure the rights are incorporated in a way which guarantees they can be enjoyed and accessed by everyone without discrimination.
  • Provide a clear set of duties for public bodies (including, so far as possible, private actors) carrying out devolved public functions in Scotland in relation to the rights of the Bill.
  • Create and promote a multi-institutional approach.
  • Ensure there are routes to remedy available.

A new Scotland – potential positive impacts

The Bill could have hugely positive impacts for people across Scotland. Indeed, the Bill, if delivered effectively (including with proper enforcement powers), will make a direct difference to people in Scotland, ensuring that  human rights are at the centre of all decisions duty-bearers make, and if this isn’t done, remedies are available.

This change could be transformational, building a culture where human rights are at the basis of decision making across public life in Scotland.

Learning from Scotland – potential implications for the rest of the UK

The work within Scotland to better realise rights through legislation is not only a refreshing change from the seemingly constant onslaught against rights at the Westminster level, but an important opportunity to change the trajectory of rights across the UK.

What happens in one part of the UK influences other parts. The Bill represents an important move to bring our ESCR home in Scotland; providing the rest of the UK with a roadmap and real example for how to do it, and the benefits of this approach.

The Bill allows us to show a different way is possible, one where we do not just try to shore up and protect our existing rights framework but start having wider conversations about all the rights we need in our domestic law to ensure everyone in the UK can thrive and lead a life of dignity.

Get involved in the consultation on the Bill

We are working with our colleagues at the Human Rights Consortium Scotland to encourage and support groups and individuals across the UK to respond to the consultation.

This is such an important moment not only for people within Scotland, but for human rights across the UK. Another way is possible and within our reach.

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Volunteering in sport, physical activity, and movement: what is the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on this?

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By Holly Grimes, People and Leadership Lead at GreaterSport 

Volunteering in all forms can have huge benefits for individuals, organisations, and society, but there are persistent inequalities in who is most likely and able to volunteer their time, including those who are most impacted by poverty and the cost-of-living. 

At GreaterSport, we have been conducting research with a focus on working collaboratively with VCSE organisations to develop a collective understanding of how we can develop a systemic approach to volunteering in sport, physical activity, and movement in Greater Manchester.

Conducted alongside 10GM, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Bolton Council, the research had three key objectives. One of these was around understanding the trends, inequalities, and barriers within physical activity, sport, and movement volunteering to make it more accessible, inclusive, and reflective of Greater Manchester’s communities – and this is where the intersection between poverty and volunteering became most apparent.

To ensure the research was grounded in local, on-the-ground knowledge and lived experience, we also established a VCSE Volunteering Advisory Group, made up of a diverse network of organisations – including GMPA – each bringing unique and meaningful insights into volunteering in this space and how we can make it more inclusive and accessible.

Penny Rimmer, GMPA’s Policy Officer said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time being a part of the advisory group. It has been a fantastic opportunity to represent GMPA and bring our insight and experience to shape and support the research and recommendations with an incredible network of passionate individuals and organisations.

“The cost-of-living crisis is worsening already difficult financial circumstances, further exacerbating the difficulties organisations and volunteers face, from the financial and operational sustainability of organisations to the impact of reduced disposable income on individuals’ ability to volunteer.

“I look forward to the next phase of this work, implementing the recommendations through the GM Moving Volunteering Community of Practice into tangible action, and particularly joining the cost-of-living working group to delve deeper into the implications of the Cost-of-living Crisis – examining both its immediate and long-term impacts on volunteering in sport, physical activity, and movement in Greater Manchester.”

Through the research, eight recommendations have been developed for how we can enhance the volunteering system in GM, with one of the key themes emanating from the research around how the cost-of-living is impacting people’s ability to volunteer in different ways.

Whether that be through increased childcare responsibilities which means some older people are less able to give up their time, the impact volunteering may have on welfare payments, unaffordable upfront expenses for travel to volunteering opportunities, digital exclusion, or the need to take on additional paid work which removes time for volunteering – there is a clear link between the cost-of-living and people’s ability and agency to volunteer.

Our research alongside the VCSE Advisory Group has helped us begin to understand this, however, we are keen to explore this further to better understand the impact the cost-of-living is having on people and organisations across GM. If you would be interested in being involved in a working group around the relationship between the Cost-of-living and volunteering, with a particular focus on volunteering in ways that support others to move more, please get in touch with

To find out more about the research, read the full report and see how you can get involved in our new GM Moving Volunteering Community of Practice to help us implement the research recommendations.

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New statistics show the scale of child poverty across the UK

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By Rachel Walters, Coordinator at the End Child Poverty Coalition

On 5 June, Loughborough University and the End Child Poverty Coalition – of which Greater Manchester Poverty Action is a member – published the latest local child poverty statistics.

This research takes a closer look at child poverty levels in each local authority and Westminster constituency across the UK. Whilst the government produce national figures for child poverty, this research allows us to look at changes at a local and regional level. 

Researchers at Loughborough University use government data to calculate these figures, alongside information on local rent levels – meaning these figures are ‘after housing costs’ and take into account the income available to a family once rent, water rates, mortgage interest payments, insurance payments, ground rent and service charges are paid. This gives us a more accurate comparison of what households across the UK have available to spend on things like food, utilities, clothing and leisure, than looking at income alone, given the difference in rents across different parts of the UK.

Sadly, the results from this year’s research are shocking; for example, Birmingham constituencies have the highest levels of child poverty for any Westminster constituency – with child poverty in Birmingham Ladywood at 54.6%.

The government data which is used for this research is always a year old, meaning this year’s figures cover 2021/22, which is just six months into the cost-of-living crisis. It won’t be until next year that we see the true impact soaring living costs has had.

This years’ research not only looks as where levels of child poverty are the highest, but also which family types are most likely to experience poverty. We found that:

  • 71% of children who were in poverty, after the cost of housing is taken into account, were living in a family where at least one adult was working.
  • 44% of children in lone parent families are in poverty, after the cost of housing is taken into account. This is compared with just 25% of children in couple parent families.
  • The poverty rate for children in families with three or more children was 42%, compared with 23% and 22% among children in families with one or two children.
  • Children living in a family where someone is disabled had a poverty rate of 36% after housing costs were factored in, compared with 25% for children living in families where no-one is disabled.
  • 47% of children in Asian or Asian British households and 53% of those in Black households were in poverty after housing costs, compared with just 25% of those where the head of household was White.

High levels of child poverty shouldn’t be tolerated by decision makers, and we know that decisions made by MPs have the ability to change children’s lives. The Coalition is calling on the UK government to scrap the two-child limit to benefit payments as this is the most cost-effective way of reducing child poverty. Getting rid of this policy would immediately lift 250,000 children out of poverty.

Please take action, emailing your MP today – letting them know that you want change for the 4.2 million children who live in a low-income family in the UK.

The End Child Poverty Coalition is made up of over 101 organisations including child welfare groups, social justice groups, faith groups, trade unions and others. Together with a group of 18 Youth Ambassadors we all believe that no child in the UK should live in poverty. We ask that this and future governments, commit to end child poverty.

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A social safety net to protect people from hardship

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By Katie Schmuecker (Principal Policy Advisor) and Graeme Cooke (Director of Evidence and Policy) at Joseph Rowntree Foundation


Deepening poverty is shrinking people’s worlds. The grinding pressures of not being able to afford essentials leaves people more isolated, impacting on both physical and mental ill-health. This is about money, of course, poverty always is. But it is also about having someone and somewhere to turn to when times are tough.

A financial safety net

It is beyond doubt that we need to strengthen the financial safety net of our social security system. That’s why the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust, along with over 90 other organisations, are calling for an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ to be built into Universal Credit (UC). This would legally require the basic rate of UC to never fall below the amount needed for a basket of basic essentials like food, energy, toiletries and cleaning products.

But fixing our national systems isn’t enough. This is why we are exploring the idea of a social safety net that protects people from hardship by bringing together local support for increasing people’s incomes (via income maximisation, welfare assistance and cash-first approaches) with building community power and reshaping services.

A social safety net

The social safety net operates at the point where the local state and community life meet. It is forged, owned and shaped in neighbourhoods by the local state, civil society, businesses, communities and citizens themselves.

It is rooted in community power and strengthening the capacity and assets of communities to do the genuine   preventative work of building networks of human relationships and practical support that protect people from hardship. This incorporates all aspects of community life – people helping each other, clubs and associations,    informal and formal voluntary organisations and local businesses – and it can reach parts that the state cannot. It provides the relationships, purpose and connection that make it more likely that life goes well. It also creates the infrastructure that enables people to participate in local decision making and the co-design of services.

But this is not about the state getting out of the way. This work will only succeed where community power meets a like-minded local state. That requires an openness to shifting culture and ethos toward more relational, human centred and no-wrong-door ways of working that support people to get the help they need when they need it. It also requires a commitment to building community wealth and power.

Knitting it together

There are many local levers to help protect people from hardship. Local welfare assistance and crisis support, income maximisation, primary healthcare, social prescribing and advice services are all essential. We can strengthen the social safety net by reshaping this offer and knitting it with the fabric of neighbourhood life, and the human to human kindness, help and support that exists there. This is happening already in some places, but it’s often fragile, partial, thin or disjointed.

Ambitious local areas don’t need to wait. Our recent work with New Local on how places can and are designing out hardship offers a framework to places who want to go further and faster. It shares much in common with GMPA’s own excellent work on local anti-poverty strategies.

What next?

We want to continue to explore the idea of a social safety net, looking at national policy changes that will help create the conditions for it to flourish. In addition, we want to work alongside a few places to test out how to realise, build on and unlock the potential of places to protect people from hardship. We’d love to hear what you think.

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The minimum cost of education: What does going to school really cost families?

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By Georgina Burt, Development Manager (Cost of the School Day) at Child Poverty Action Group

For the last three years through the UK Cost of the School Day project, Child Poverty Action Group has been talking to and listening to children and families to understand how poverty effects children’s time at school.

What we’ve heard time and time again is that despite the free state education system, going to school in England involves a lot of hidden costs.

For the first time, we have worked in partnership with the Centre for Research and Social Policy at Loughborough University to calculate what going to school in England is really costing families. Based on the Minimum Income Standard, this research draws out what parents and carers with school-aged children think are the essentials needed to send a child to school in the UK – and the costs associated with these items.

The research showed that school uniform – including P.E. kit and bags, transport to and from school, packed lunches and learning resources such as calculators and revision guides are some of the most costly items that families are required to pay for. Parents and carers in focus groups also agreed that a minimum education includes some fun and social school experiences such as going on a trip, attending a prom or taking part in a non-uniform day.

Taking the list of essential items needed, this research has shown that the minimum cost of sending a child to primary school is £864.87 a year, or £18.69 a week, and £1,755.97 a year, or £39.01 a week for a secondary aged child. This means the total cost of meeting a child’s minimum educational needs across all 14 years of school is £18,345.85.

It is important to note that these figures are the minimum costs associated with going to school, detailing only those items that focus groups agreed were necessary. In reality, for children to take part in all that going to school offers the real cost families face can be much higher.

For families experiencing poverty and hardship, these costs are putting households under additional financial pressure. In instances where families are unable to meet these costs children miss out on key parts of the school day, stand out from their peers and find it harder to learn and achieve at school.

We know that lots of schools across England are already poverty-aware and are taking practical steps to support families and bring down school costs. However, it’s clear that at a time of rising costs and stretched household budgets families need more support.

Together, we need to do more to acknowledge the costs families face in relation to their child’s education and explore what more can be done to ensure that all pupils are able to make the most of their time at school. For schools who are interested in taking action we’ve developed lots of practical toolkits and ideas.

We do also recognise that schools can’t solve this alone, and many are already doing all that they can within the constraints of their budgets and staff capacity to support families.

Alongside the minimum costs, this research also highlights that where you live in the UK makes a difference when it comes to the cost of education.

Families in Scotland and Wales who are eligible for support face lower education costs than equivalent families in England, with greater support available to them through uniform grants, support with curriculum costs and a more generous approach to free schools.

In what is supposed to be a universal childhood experience, this research shows that far more support is needed so all children have the essentials required to take part in school and learn. We are calling on the UK government to lower costs families face by providing free school meals to all children, introducing nationally available uniform grants and providing free bus travel for all children.

The full report is available here: The minimum cost of education.

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Missing out: £19 billion of support goes unclaimed each year

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By Tylor-Maria Johnson and Alex Clegg, Senior Policy and Data Analysts at Policy in Practice

new report by Policy in Practice estimates that the total amount of unclaimed income-related benefits and social tariffs is now £18.7 billion a year.

Millions of families need extra financial support to stay afloat

We estimate that one in four low-income households will not have enough money for basic household costs.

A simple way to support households through the cost of living crisis is by maximising income through the benefit system.

Designing an effective safety net requires an accurate understanding of the level of unclaimed benefits and an understanding of who is not claiming, and why.

Who’s not claiming what?

Universal Credit and Council Tax Support are the most underclaimed benefits

National benefits administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) make up the largest share of unclaimed benefits.

Approximately £7.5 billion of Universal Credit goes unclaimed by 1.2 million  eligible households.

Council tax support is the most underclaimed benefit in England, with 2.7 million people missing out on around £2.8 billion of support.

Support for broadband and utility bills is also significantly underclaimed.

At least five million families could access lower costs tariffs with their water, broadband and energy providers.

Four reasons why benefits are unclaimed  

Benefits go unclaimed because of a complex interaction of factors.

These include:

  1. Administrative complexity: The sheer complexity of multiple application mechanisms, administering organisations, eligibility criteria and conditionality make it challenging for households to access support.
  2. Lack of awareness: Many claimants are simply unaware that they can claim support given their circumstances or income.
  3. Increasingly fragmented support: Inadequacy of means-tested benefits drives a growing pathwork of local discretionary support schemes. This creates postcode lotteries for available support, and unequal conditions to access it.
  4. Stigma: Negative perceptions around claiming benefits may discourage eligible people from engaging with the benefits system.

How to boost benefit take up and close the £19 billion unclaimed benefits gap 

Three actions for policymakers

  1. Address the insufficiency of main social security benefits: Inadequate benefit levels have a hand in growing the complex web support. New support schemes often fill the gaps in the main system. It is crucial that benefits cover the basic needs of a household.
  2. Reduce complexity and increase awareness of local and national benefits: The DWP should be made responsible for increasing take-up of support. Data sharing can streamline access to support and raise awareness of benefits at all points of contact with the household.
  3. Change the messaging around benefits: Government messaging is critical to ensuring that all those that are eligible access support. We urge the government to adopt a supportive approach towards claimants by lessening conditionality.

Two actions for local authorities and other organisations

  1. Identify residents in need using data analytics and contact them on the benefits they are missing out on. Leading councils use their data and our Low Income Family Tracker analytics platform to launch benefits take up campaigns. Our ongoing data-led Pension Credit across London encourages over 8,500 eligible pensioner households to take up Pension Credit worth £3,700 per year. This campaign will have a return on investment of £200 for every £1.
  2. Check eligibility: Organisations should check eligibility on behalf of their customers. Our work in the utilities and finance sectors continues to find many customers who are unaware they’re eligible for benefits.

One action for families

  1. Do a benefits check: Check to see if you’re missing out on £19 billion of unclaimed benefits using a free benefits calculator on GOV.UK.

Policy in Practice is a social policy and analytics company that empowers people to build their financial strength. It runs a free benefits calculator. You can also use Turn2Us’s benefits calculator or grants search.


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Join the movement for Free School Meals for All

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By Louise Atkinson, primary school teacher and President of the National Education Union

In September, the National Education Union launched our campaign for Free School Meals for All, urging the Government to extend hot, healthy school dinners to every child in primary school in England.

Since then, educators, doctors, dentists, parents, youth workers, faith leaders, councillors and more have banded together around this demand. All of us are united by the belief that no child in Britain should go hungry and every child should have the basics to learn and thrive.

Why Free School Meals for All

Last year, four million children experienced food insecurity — not having access to nutritious and balanced meals, or some having to skip meals entirely.

As teachers, we know food is part and parcel of a good education. Free School Meals boost academic attainment, they help children focus in class and connect with their peers.

But restrictive eligibility guidelines, low thresholds and bureaucracy block too many families from this support.

Providing Free School Meals for every child is the only way to ensure no child goes short of food at school. It increases healthy eating for every pupil, and ensures children can eat and socialise together, free from stigma or shame.

We already do this for our very youngest children. For the first three years of school, every child in England gets a hot school dinner – and no child under seven wants for food while they’re at school. But from year three on, the Government stops Free School Meals for All.

How we can win this for every child

The power of this campaign is in the broad and committed coalition behind it. Together, we’ve moved the needle further in eight months than any of us could have done alone.

200+ civil society leaders have signed a joint open letter to the Prime Minister calling for Free School Meals for All. From Greater Manchester Poverty Action to Feeding Liverpool, from the British Medical Association to Fans Supporting Foodbanks, from Mayor Andy Burnham to the Trades Union Congress.

In partnership with MP Zarah Sultana, we introduced the Free School Meals for All Bill in Parliament – more than 70 MPs from seven parties have declared their support so far. Next, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced an emergency scheme extending Free School Meals to every child in a London primary school for one year.

And we’re only getting started.

Add your voice to this campaign

Next month, we will hold a Week of Action for Free School Meals for All to spotlight the issue and turn up the heat to pass the Bill. This mobilisation will culminate in the hand-in of our open letter to Downing Street on 29 June.

If your organisation or group supports extending Free School Meals to every child in primary school, sign our joint open letter and we’ll take your message straight to the Prime Minister.

When you sign, you’ll join a dedicated, diverse coalition pushing for a better future for children. You’ll be included in regular updates and invited to briefings, and we’ll share the different ways you can be involved in the campaign.

Together, we believe we can win Free School Meals for All.

Read about the campaign on our website, sign the open letter for your organisation/school/council using this form, or email if you have questions or would like to learn more.

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Cost-of-Living Payments

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One million families claiming tax credits to receive Cost-of-Living Payment from May 2nd, 2023

One million eligible claimant families receiving tax credits, and no other means-tested benefits, will get the first 2023-24 Cost-of-Living Payment from Tuesday 2nd May 2023, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has confirmed.

The £301 government payment will be paid automatically into most customers’ bank accounts between 2nd and 9th May 2023 across the UK. Only eligible families who receive tax credits and no other means-tested benefits will receive the payment from HMRC.

This is the first of three payments totalling up to £900 for those eligible in 2023-24.

The payment will show as ‘HMRC COLS’ in customers’ bank and building society accounts, so that they know the money is cost of living support.

For tax credit-only customers to be eligible for the £301 Cost of Living Payment, they must have received a payment of tax credits in respect of any day in the period 26 January to 25 February 2023, or later be found to have been entitled to a payment for this period.

Eligible customers do not need to apply or contact HMRC to receive the payment.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently announced that eligible households receiving DWP means-tested benefits will receive their first 2023-24 payment between Tuesday 25 April and Wednesday 17 May. This includes tax credit claimants who also receive other income-related benefits from DWP.

The payments are part of a package of wider government support to tackle the cost of living in 2023-24, including:

•   a £300 Cost of Living Payment for eligible families in autumn 2023, with a payment of £299 in Spring 2024

•   a £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment for eligible disabled people to be paid during summer 2023

•   a £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment to be paid during winter 2023-24.

Including both DWP and HMRC payments, the latest Cost of Living Payment will see more than 8 million households across the UK receive their £301 cash boost by mid-May 2023.For joint claimants, where one claimant receives Working Tax Credit and the other claimant receives Child Tax Credit, payments will be made into the same bank account as the Child Tax Credit.

Receiving a previous Cost-of-Living Payment does not mean you will be entitled to a future one. You will need to meet the separate eligibility criteria for each payment. You do not need to apply for this payment.

The government is offering help for households. Check to find out your eligibility.


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