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If you're struggling with living costs

This advice applies to Scotland

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

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

Get help paying for daily essentials

You might be able to get help from:

  • your local council
  • a government loan


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

If you you’re pregnant or have a child under 3, you might be able to get free vitamins and a Best Start Foods prepaid card to spend on:

  • milk
  • vegetables
  • egg
  • pulses - like beans and lentils

Get help from your local council

Your local council might be able to help you pay for:

  • essentials like food or heating
  • costs in an emergency like the cost of somewhere to stay or travel costs
  • household goods like furniture or a cooker

This help is known as the 'Scottish Welfare Fund' and is run by local councils across Scotland. Read more about the scheme and how to apply on our Scottish Welfare Fund - overview page.

You don't have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council but you do need to be on a low income with no other way to pay for what you need.

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 you’re paying back a budgeting loan to the DWP

You don’t have to make any repayments to the DWP until at least 1 July 2020 – this includes payments to debt collection companies.

If money is normally taken off your benefits or earnings to repay a budgeting loan, this will stop – you don’t have to do anything.

If you normally repay a budgeting loan yourself, you can stop making payments. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your bank to cancel it.

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:

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

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