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Millions of Brits on benefits may only get a crucial £324 cost of living payment after a hike in energy bills has kicked in this autumn.

People on Universal Credit are due to get a £326 payment between July 14 and July 31, directly to their bank accounts, to help with soaring costs.

With bills set to soar again on October 1, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has pledged a second payment of £324 “in the Autumn”.

But the date for that second payment has not been set – and Labour now fears it may only come several weeks after October 1.

The small print of a Bill, due to pass the Commons today, appears to indicate it could arrive in November or even December at the latest.

A government spokesman also confirmed it will arrive “closer to the coldest months of the year”.

So why are Labour worried about this, given the date hasn’t been confirmed?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has pledged a second payment of £324 “in the Autumn” ( Getty images)

Each payment comes with a “qualifying day”. People must have been claiming benefits on this day to receive the cost-of-living payment.

For the first payment, the qualifying day was May 25 – and payments are beginning seven weeks later.

The second payment’s qualifying day has not been announced, as that could help people game the system.

However, the small print of the Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill says the qualifying day will be “no later than October 31”.

If the date was only October 31, and there was another seven-week gap, it would mean the payment only arrived just before Christmas.

Labour tabled an amendment to the Bill today to look at the impact of bringing forward the qualifying day cut-off by a month.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Market experts are predicting another devastating rise in the price cap – possibly £1,000 more this October.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “Forcing families and pensioners to wait for help will have severe consequences” ( PA)

“Forcing families and pensioners to wait for help will have severe consequences, especially as we also know other essentials like the weekly shop are going through the roof.

“It’s urgent that ministers reassess these dates.”

Tax-free payments totalling £650 for 8.3million UK benefit claimants were part of a string of measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

People on Universal Credit, income-related ESA and JSA, Income Support, and Pension Credit will receive their first payment between July 14 and July 31.

But those on Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit will have to wait until later in the summer, because that system is run by HMRC.

Likewise, people on Tax Credits will have to wait longer for the second payment.

Sources have previously suggested Tax Credits claimants could have to wait as long as December for their second payment.

A government spokesperson said: “The £650 Cost of Living Payment for those on means-tested benefits is deliberately being delivered in two payments to help support budgeting.

“This also ensures any newly eligible claimants can be paid the second instalment, even if they weren’t paid the first instalment.

“It also reflects other support being paid, such as the £400 for energy bills in October.

“And [it] means that all recipients of the second instalment receive this closer to the coldest months of the year.”

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