HARD-UP households feeling the squeeze can get extra support in January – here's what's available.
The rise in energy bills and cold winter weather will leave many Brits worried about making ends meet.
If you're eligible for Universal Credit, then you can most likely get extra financial help from January following the Christmas period.
Universal Credit rolls six benefits, including Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit, into one payment.
Universal Credit and benefit payments are scheduled to rise by 10.1% in April, but many Brits could be left in need of some extra cash right now.
We explain how you can access and check your eligibility for this support in the New Year.
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You could get more than £500 in extra help – though this depends on your circumstances.
Free or cheap broadband
A number of broadband providers offer cheap deals for those on certain benefits called social tariffs.
The discount you'll get will depend on your provider of course, but Sky offers customers a package for £20 a month on an 18-month contract while Virgin offers poorer households a £12.50 contract.
It's definitely worth shopping around for the best deals on price comparison websites like Uswitch or Money Supermarket though.
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All the providers offer something slightly different.
How you can apply will varies, but it can usually be done online or over the phone – you will need to prove your circumstances and then possibly again after a year.
Household Support Fund
The Household Support Fund was launched in October 2021 to help Brits pay their way through winter amid a cost of living crisis.
The fund has now been extended to March 2023.
Councils up and down the country got a slice of the £500million funding available to dish out to Brits in need.
You may be able to get free cash and vouchers to help pay for things like heating your home or to cover costs of your weekly grocery shop.
However, it'll vary from council to council so do check to see what yours is offering.
Families who live in Shropshire can get £180 in vouchers to help with food and essentials.
Redcar and Cleveland Council has revealed that thousands of households can get up to £200 direct into their accounts.
Free school meals
In England, if you have children at a state school in reception, year 1 or year 2 they are entitled to free school meals regardless of your household income.
However, if you're claiming certain benefits, including Universal Credit, Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Child Tax Credits, you can get free school meals for older children.
And yesterday (December 29), we revealed that over 230,000 eligible children in England are not receiving them because their parents or carers have not applied.
The application process will depend on your personal circumstances – some may be able to via their local council and others might have to speak to their children's school direct.
If you head to the government's website, search for free school meals and enter your postcode, it should come up with local help available.
If you're eligible for free school meals, you'll also be eligible for help through the government's Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF).
It provides grant funding to local councils to offer free holiday clubs and food to vulnerable children over the Christmas school break.
Discount on your council tax
Households on a low income can get a deduction on their council tax, and sometimes they can even have it wiped entirely.
You'll have to contact your local authority to find out what discount you're entitled to though and you might still have to pay a small amount.
You can do that via the government's website.
In all cases, to get the discount you'll have to provide details of your household income, the number of children you have and the number of adults and children you live with.
Plus, you'll have to state what benefits you're receiving and how long you've lived in the UK for.
Cold weather payments
You can get a £25 discount on their energy bill over the winter through the cold weather payment.
It's is dished out when temperatures are recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees or below, on average, for seven consecutive days between November 1 and March 31.
You get £25 for each seven-day period where the weather is below zero Celsius on average during this time frame.
Again, the payment is made automatically, but if you want to see if you're eligible, you can use the government's postcode tool.
If you’re getting Universal Credit, you can also sign in to your account and add a note to your journal.
You can check out our guide on cold weather payments here.
Help with rent
If your Universal Credit payment is not enough to cover your rent, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
This will give you extra money if your council decides you need help to meet your housing costs.
You don't need to repay a DHP.
You can use it to cover a rent shortfall, rent deposits, or rent in advance if you need to move house.
You can’t get a payment to help pay your council tax, but we’ve outlined ways you could get help on that above.
Each local authority hands out the money on a case-by-case basis though, so it's best to check in with yours to see if you're eligible.
Learn more about the discretionary housing payment in our guide.
You could get a £500 maternity grant if you’re pregnant with your first child and are struggling financial.
Alternatively, if you already have a child under 16, you can get a maternity grant if either:
- you're expecting twins
- you have refugee status or humanitarian protection and you have a child from before you arrived in UK
You can claim up to 11 weeks before you are due to give birth or up to 6 months after your baby is born.
To apply, head to the government website, type in "maternity grant" and fill in the form.
Money for medical and health costs
You could be in line for free prescriptions if you meet certain criteria.
This includes if you or your partner receive certain benefits or you're under 20 and dependent on someone claiming certain benefits including Income Support and Universal Credit.
You can easily see if you can get free prescriptions using the government's eligibility checker.
You can also get help if you're on a low income through the NHS low income scheme.
How much you'll be entitled to depends on financial factors including outgoings and the amount of savings you have in the bank.
You can also get free wigs and fabric support through the scheme and travel to health appointments.
NHS prescriptions currently cost £9.35 in the UK.
You could also get help with the cost of glasses and contact lenses and money for travel costs for treatment.
The NHS has outlined more information on how to go about claiming here.
You could be in line for free dental care if you're on Universal Credit or other benefits.
If you're on Universal Credit, you can claim support by showing your dental surgery a copy of your Universal Credit award.
However, you won't be able to claim on health costs before you started receiving the benefit.
If you're on a low income you can also get help with dental treatment, again through the NHS low income scheme.
Universal Credit claimants can also get 50% off their bus and train fares with the Jobcentre Plus travel card.
However, it's only available if you're unemployed but looking for work and are on Jobseeker's Allowance.
You'll also have needed to have claimed Universal Credit for three to nine months if you're aged between 18 and 24 years old.
For those aged 25 or older, you must have claimed the benefit for three to 12 months to be eligible for a discount.
There's no guarantee you'll get the discount though – it's up to your local JobCentre Plus branch to decide.
We've listed all the help you can get with free school transport here.
Free cash for school uniforms
Parents struggling with rising prices could claim cash worth up to £200 to cover back-to-school costs.
Grants to help mums and dads pay for school uniforms at the start of the new school year are up for grabs in many places.
Local councils across the UK offer school clothing grants to households struggling to afford new uniforms.
But parents face a postcode lottery when it comes to getting the cash as the amount can vary depending on where you live – and in some places there's nothing at all.
When and how to apply, as well as who is eligible for the payment will also depend on your location.
School uniform grants are typically available for people on benefits such as Universal Credit, Jobseeker's allowance and child tax credits.
We’ve outlined all you need to know about applying for the discount here.
Free or discounted gym membership
Some councils offer discounted gym memberships to people on benefits, although discounts vary depending on where you live.
To apply, you'll need to go through your local leisure centre, but first you should check whether they offer a discount.
Some chains like YMCA, Nuffield and GLL offer concessionary memberships.
The exact application process varies depending on where you live but generally you'll be asked to fill out a form as well as provide proof you're on benefits.
You can check out our guide on gym membership discounts here.
Help with food costs
The healthy start scheme could see parents get up to £442 of free food per year.
The state-backed scheme helps low-income families with small children pay for milk, vegetables, fruit, pulses and vitamins by providing them with a pre-paid card.
To apply, you just need to download an application form from the Healthy Start website, print it off, fill it in and send it to:
Freepost RRTR-SYAE-JKCR, Healthy Start Issuing Unit, PO Box 1067, Warrington, WA55 1EG.
If you don’t have a printer, you can call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and get a form sent to you.
See how you can get more help with the healthy start scheme in our guide.
Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
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