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If you're struggling with living costs

This advice applies to England

If you don’t have enough to live on, you might be able to get help from the government or your local council.

If you're waiting for benefit payments to start, you might be able to get your benefit paid early.

Check if you can get one-off payments from the government

The government will give every household in Great Britain £400 off their electricity bill. This is called the Energy Bills Support Scheme.

You don’t need to do anything to get the money and you won’t have to pay it back. The £400 will be automatically added to your energy account over 6 months starting from October 2022. If you have a prepayment meter, the £400 will be added to your meter or you’ll be given vouchers - the government will confirm how you'll get the money nearer the time.

If you need help with your bills now, you can find out what to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills.

The government will also send you extra one-off payments if you:

  • get certain benefits that are based on your income - for example Universal Credit
  • get a disability benefit - for example PIP or Attendance Allowance
  • are over State Pension age and get Winter Fuel Payments

You can get as many of these extra payments as you're eligible for. You won't have to pay tax on them and they won't count as income when calculating your benefits.

If you get benefits based on your income

The government will give you 2 payments of £325. These are called 'Cost of Living Payments'.

You'll get the Cost of Living Payments automatically if you get any of the following:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support

The government will send you the first payment in or after July 2022. You must have started your benefit claim by 25 May 2022 to get the first payment.

If you've recently applied for a benefit, you won't get the first payment until your benefit claim is accepted.

The government have said they'll send the second Cost of Living Payment in Autumn 2022.

If you’re not claiming any of these benefits yet, it's worth checking if you can claim benefits. It's worth starting a claim as soon as possible if you're eligible - this means you might be able to get the second Cost of Living payment.

If you get a disability benefit

The government will automatically give you £150 in September 2022. You'll get this payment if you get any of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

You must have started your benefit claim by 25 May 2022 to get the payment.
If you've recently applied for a benefit, you won't get the first payment until your benefit claim is accepted.

If you're over State Pension age and get Winter Fuel Payments

You’ll automatically get an extra £300 with your usual Winter Fuel Payment in either November or December.

You're usually entitled to Winter Fuel Payments if you were born on or before 25 September 1956.

You should start getting the Winter Fuel Payment automatically once you reach State Pension age, but sometimes you might need to apply. You can find out how to apply for the Winter Fuel Payment on GOV.UK.

Get help paying for daily essentials

You might be able to get help from:

  • your local council
  • a government loan

Food

If you're struggling to pay for food, find out how to get help from a food bank.

If you're at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk. 

To get the free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers you must also be claiming either:

  • Income Support

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance - but only if you're pregnant

  • Child Tax Credit - and your household earns £16,190 a year or less
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit - and your household earns £408 a month or less

If you get Child Tax Credit you can’t get the vitamins and vouchers if you also get Working Tax Credit - unless you get the ‘run-on’ payment. Working Tax Credit run-on is the payment you get for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.

If you’re under 18 and pregnant, you can still get vitamins and food vouchers even if you don’t get any of these benefits.

Ask your midwife or health visitor for an application form. You can also call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and ask them to send you a form.

Calls cost up to 9p a minute from landlines and up to 55p a minute from mobiles. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract.

Check what help you can get from your local council

Your local council might give you vouchers to help pay for day-to-day essentials like:

  • a hot meal

  • second-hand furniture

  • household appliances, for example a cooker

This help is known as 'welfare assistance' or the ‘Household Support Fund’. Each council runs their own scheme. The help on offer and who can get it varies. Find your local council on GOV.UK and ask them if they run a welfare assistance or Household Support Fund scheme that could help you.

You don’t have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council. If you do get benefits, they won’t be affected if you start getting money from a welfare assistance or Household Support Fund scheme.

Get an interest-free loan to pay for essentials

You might be able to get what's called a 'budgeting loan' for essentials like clothing or a washing machine if you claim certain benefits.

You might be eligible if you get:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

The loan is interest-free, so you'll only have to pay back what you borrow. You'll usually need to pay back the loan within 2 years.

Coronavirus – if your repayments for a budgeting loan overpayment were temporarily stopped

Your repayments will start again after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped them because of coronavirus.

The DWP will write to you to tell you when your repayments will automatically restart if:

  • you make repayments by Direct Debit
  • your repayments are taken from your benefits or earnings

They’ll either write you a letter or add a journal entry if you get Universal Credit.

If you normally make repayments yourself, for example by a bank standing order, you should contact your bank and start them again.

If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs and can’t afford your repayments, contact the DWP’s Debt Management contact centre.

DWP - Debt Management contact centre

Telephone: 0800 916 0647

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 916 0651

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233

Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm

Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

Check what you could get and how to apply on GOV.UK.

If you get Universal Credit, you can’t get a budgeting loan. You can apply for a budgeting advance instead.

Get help paying your rent

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all your rent and you need more money, you could make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is extra money from your local council to help pay your rent.

You need to claim Housing Benefit or the housing costs part of Universal Credit to get a DHP.

Your local council doesn't have to give you a DHP - it depends on your circumstances.

If the council decide to give you a DHP, they'll write to tell you:

  • how much you'll get
  • when the DHP will stop

If you still need a DHP after it stops, you can apply again.

Applying for a DHP

Contact your local council and ask how to apply for a DHP. They might want you to apply by phone or online. You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.

When you apply, be as clear as you can when you're explaining why you need a DHP. For example, you should explain:

  • why you can't afford to pay the rent
  • why you can't move somewhere cheaper
  • if it's causing problems for someone you look after, like a child or elderly relative
  • any evidence you have, like a letter from your doctor or details of debts you're paying off

You should also tell the council if you're waiting for them to decide whether you can get Housing Benefit.

If you apply on a paper form, it's a good idea to keep a copy of the form for your records.

Check what benefits you can get

You can use a free benefits calculator to check which benefits you can get. You’ll need to be a British or Irish citizen and over 18.

You’ll need details of your:

  • savings
  • income
  • pension
  • childcare payments
  • existing benefits

You’ll need these details for your partner if you have one.

You can use the Turn2us or Entitledto benefit calculators to check which benefits you can get.

You can also ask your nearest Citizens Advice to help you work out what benefits you can get.

Get your benefit paid early

Most benefits can be paid early. This is known as a 'short term benefit advance'.

You might be able to get your benefit paid early if:

  • you’ve claimed a benefit and are waiting for the first payment
  • your benefit has been increased but you haven’t had the new amount yet
  • you’ve been told you won’t be paid on the usual date  

A small amount will be taken off future payments to pay it back - usually for 12 weeks.

You can’t get a benefit paid early for:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Child Benefit
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Tax credit

To ask for an advance, contact the DWP office that's dealing with your benefit claim. You can find their contact details on any letter or email you’ve had from them.

Next steps

If you don’t have enough to live on, check what else you can do to increase the money you have each month. You could:

You can also check how to reduce your regular living costs. You might be able to get better deals for things like energy, water and broadband.

Check what help you can get from local charities on the Turn2us website. You’ll need to know your postcode.

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