Get help with the cost of living
If you don’t have enough money to live on, you might be able to get help to afford essentials like bills and food. This includes the Household Support Fund and cost of living payments.
You should check if you can claim benefits - you might be able to do this even if you work, have savings or own a home.
If you owe money and you're struggling to pay
You should speak to the organisations you owe money to – they might let you pay smaller amounts or take a break from payments.
Don’t ignore bills or letters about money you owe.
Check what benefits you can get
Lots of people miss out on benefits they’re entitled to - so it’s worth checking what you can get.
Claiming benefits might also let you get access to other financial help like cost of living payments and discounts on energy and transport.
You might be able to claim benefits or increase your current benefits if you’re:
over 16 years old with a low income or no income
sick or disabled, including if you have a mental health condition
of State Pension age with a low income or no income
responsible for children
Get your first benefit payment early
When you apply for benefits, you might be able to get your first payment early while you’re waiting for either:
a decision on your application
your first payment
This is called a 'short-term benefit advance'. You can get an advance for:
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
You’ll need to pay back the advance. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will take an amount off your future payments until you've paid it back. For Universal Credit, you can spread the repayments over 24 months. For other benefits, you’ll usually repay your advance over 12 weeks.
If you've applied for Universal Credit, you can check how to get a Universal Credit advance payment.
If you’ve applied for a different benefit, contact the benefits office that's dealing with your claim. You can find their contact details on any letter or email you’ve had from them.
Check if you'll get a Cost of Living Payment
The government will send you a 'Cost of Living Payment' if you:
get certain benefits - for example, Universal Credit, Pension Credit, PIP, income-related ESA or Attendance Allowance
are over State Pension age and get Winter Fuel Payments
You can get as many Cost of Living Payments as you're eligible for. For example, if you get Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance and Winter Fuel Payments, you’ll get 3 Cost of Living Payments. You won't have to pay tax on them and they won't count as income when calculating your benefits.
If you’re not claiming benefits yet, you should check 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 Cost of Living Payments in the future.
If you get benefits based on your income
If you’re eligible, the government will send you:
a payment of £300 in autumn 2023
a payment of £299 during spring 2024
To get these payments, you’ll need to be eligible for certain benefits. We’ll update our advice when the government have announced more information about who’s eligible.
The government have already given 3 Cost of Living Payments to people who get certain benefits. The government sent the last payment between 25 April and 17 May 2023 - this was a payment of £301.
If you didn't get the latest Cost of Living Payment
You should have got this payment if you get any of the following benefits:
Working Tax Credit
Child Tax Credit
income-based Jobseekers Allowance
income-related Employment and Support Allowance
You’ll have only got one £301 payment - even if you get more than 1 of these benefits.
To get the latest payment you must have either:
been entitled to a benefits payment on any day between 26 January and 25 February 2023
started a successful benefit claim by 25 February 2023 - or by 26 January 2023 if you're applying for Universal Credit
If you’re waiting for a decision on your benefits claim, you won’t get the Cost of Living Payment until your claim is successful.
If your benefits are paid to someone else, like your landlord, you should still have got the Cost of Living Payment.
If you think you should have received a Cost of Living Payment, you can report a missing payment on GOV.UK.
If you get a disability benefit
The government gave a £150 Cost of Living Payment to people getting disability benefits between 20 June and 4 July 2023.
You would have been eligible for this one-off payment if you get any of the following benefits:
Disability Living Allowance
Personal Independence Payment
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement
To get this payment you must have:
been getting one of these benefits on 1 April 2023
applied for one of these benefits by 1 April 2023 - you won't get the payment until your claim is successful
If you haven't received a previous Cost of Living Payment
If you think you should have received a Cost of Living Payment, you can report a missing payment on GOV.UK.
If you're over State Pension age and get Winter Fuel Payments
You'll either get a £300 or £150 Cost of Living Payment, depending on your situation. You'll get this at the same time as your usual Winter Fuel Payment from November 2023.
You’ll get a £300 Cost of Living Payment if you live either:
on your own
with people who don’t qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment
If you live with someone else who qualifies for the Winter Fuel Payment, the amount you’ll get depends on whether either of you get any of the following:
income-related Employment Support Allowance
income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
If either you or the person you live with gets one of these benefits, you’ll both get £300 - as long as you’re not partners. If you’re partners, you’ll only get one £300 payment.
If neither of you gets one of these benefits, you’ll both get £150.
If you live in residential care and qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment, you'll get £150 unless you get any of these benefits.
Check if you need to apply for Winter Fuel Payments
You're usually entitled to Winter Fuel Payments if you’re of State Pension age in the third week of September. The State Pension age is 66.
You should start getting the Winter Fuel Payment automatically once you reach State Pension age. You might need to apply if you're in one of these situations:
you don't get State Pension
you don't get another benefit
you live in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
Get help with your energy bills
If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills or top up your prepayment meter, you might be able to get help - for example a fuel voucher or a grant from your energy supplier.
You might be able to save money on your energy bills by switching to a different supplier, or to a different tariff with your current supplier. Check if you can switch.
If you don’t use electricity or gas
You might be able to get help with your fuel costs from the Discretionary Assistance Fund. This includes:
a one-off payment of up to £250 towards a tank of oil
up to 3 payments of £70 for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - this is paid over 12 months
If you want to apply for help with your fuel costs, you’ll need to talk to an adviser. You can also apply through your social worker or housing officer.
Check how to make your home more energy efficient
If your home is energy efficient, you’ll pay less to heat your home and it will stay warm for longer.
It’s a good idea to look into making your home more energy efficient at any time of the year. This is because it can take a few months to sort things out - for example, to find someone who can do the work.
You might be able to apply for help with the cost of:
a new boiler
loft or cavity wall insulation
a heat pump
Check if you can get help with the cost of energy efficiency.
If you need somewhere to stay warm
You can ask your local authority if they have information about nearby ‘warm spaces’. These are public places that anyone can use to stay warm - for example a community space like a library. You can find out how to contact your local authority on the Welsh Government website.
Get help with essential costs
Your local council might help you pay for things like:
your energy and water bills
essential items - for example, clothes or an oven
This help is known as 'welfare assistance' or the ‘Household Support Fund’. Each council runs their own scheme. You’ll need to check if you can get support and what type of support you can get.
Ask your local council if they run a welfare assistance or Household Support Fund scheme. You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.
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 help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund
You might be able to get help from a hardship fund called the ‘Discretionary Assistance Fund’. You don’t need to pay this back.
You don’t need to be getting benefits to access the Discretionary Assistance Fund, but you can only get it if you need money urgently. You'll need to show that if you don't get help, there will be a serious impact on you or your family.
You can use this to pay for urgent expenses or to deal with an emergency, including:
living expenses - for example, food, clothing or gas and electricity
household items - for example, an oven or fridge
changes to your home so you or a relative can keep living there
There are also other things you can do if you’re struggling to afford essentials like rent or food.
Get help paying for rent, council tax and other bills
There are things you can do if you’re struggling to pay your rent and bills.
Get help paying for food
If you're struggling to pay for food, you might be able to get a referral to a food bank.
If you have a child or are pregnant
You might be able to get a Healthy Start card to help you buy certain types of milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables.
To get the Healthy Start card you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old. You must also be getting either:
Universal Credit - but only if your household earns £408 a month or less
income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
income-related Employment and Support Allowance - but only if you're pregnant
Child Tax Credit - but only if your household earns £16,190 a year or less
If you get Child Tax Credit, you can’t get the card 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.
With the Healthy Start card you’ll get:
£4.25 each week from week 10 of your pregnancy
£8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old
£4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old
Get help with health costs
If you're registered with a GP in Wales, you can get free prescriptions from pharmacists in Wales.
If you live in Wales and you're registered with a GP in England, you can still get free prescriptions - but you'll need an entitlement card. If you don't show the pharmacy your entitlement card, you might be charged.
If you’ve been charged for a prescription, you can get a refund if you contact the NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership.
If you have certain conditions, you can get free prescriptions anywhere in the UK using a medical exemption certificate. Check if you can get a medical exemption certificate on the Welsh government’s website.
Get help with other health costs
You might also be able to get free dental treatment, eye tests and help with other NHS costs.
Get help with your energy and water if you're disabled
If you're disabled, you might be able to get extra support with your energy and water. You can check how to get free advice about energy and water bills on the Scope website.
Get help if you have children or are pregnant
You might be able to get help if:
your child is at school
your child is in childcare
you’re pregnant or you’ve recently had a baby
If your child is at school
If you’re on a low income or claim certain benefits, you might be able to get help with the costs of sending your children to school.
For example, you could get:
free school meals
free transport to school
a grant to help to buy school clothes or uniforms
help with school trips
If your child is in childcare
If you’re on a low income or claim certain benefits, you might be able to get help with childcare costs. For example:
if you work and claim Universal Credit, you might be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs - you could get up to £950.92 a month for 1 child under 17 or £1,630.15 for 2 or more children
if you have a 2 year old, you might be able to claim up to 15 hours of free childcare a week
If you work, you might be able to claim Tax-Free Childcare. This is a government scheme that helps parents with childcare costs like holiday clubs, childminders and nurseries. You can get up to:
£2,000 a year for each child under 12
£4,000 a year for each disabled child under 17
You won’t be able to receive Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers if you get Tax-Free Childcare. Work out which option is best for you before applying.
If you have a 3 or 4 year old, you can get at least 10 hours a week of funded Foundation Phase nursery.
If you’re pregnant or have a baby
You could get a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a baby. You usually qualify if you get certain benefits and are having your first baby - you have to claim before your baby is 6 months old. Find out how to apply for a Sure Start Maternity Grant on GOV.UK.
You might be able to get support from a local baby bank - these offer free essentials like nappies, toys, shoes and clothes.
Some food banks also provide nappies, baby wipes and baby food.
Search online to find your nearest baby bank or food bank - or speak to your midwife or health visitor.
Get help with travel costs
Contact your local council to check if they offer free or discounted travel - for example, if you’re:
on a work placement
unemployed and looking for work
You can find your local council on GOV.UK.
If you’re over 60, you can get free bus travel. Apply for an older person's bus pass on GOV.UK.
If you’re disabled, you might be able to apply for a bus pass or railcard. You can check if you can get help with the cost of transport.
Get help with pets
If you’re using a food bank, you might be able to ask for some things, like pet food. Check with your local food bank if they’re able to help.
You can also check if there’s a pet food bank in your area. Ask your local vet or pet shop, or search online for 'pet food bank' and your local town.
You might be able to find free pet food collection points at your local supermarket, pet store or animal charity.
Get help with vet care
You might be eligible for free or reduced vet care from Blue Cross if you:
get certain means-tested benefits
live close to one of their hospitals or clinics
You also might be able to get free or reduced vet care from charities such as RSPCA and PDSA.
Get help with vet bills
If you’re struggling to pay your vet bills, talk to your vet about payment options - like reducing the bill or setting up a payment plan.
If you can’t set up an affordable payment plan, you should get debt advice. Your vet might decide to stop treating your pet if you owe money.
Work out your budget
You should use a budgeting tool to help you understand:
what money you've got coming in and what you have going out
where you might be able to cut costs
You can use a budgeting tool.
Apply for a charitable grant
You might be able to get extra money from a charity to help with living costs. Some of these charitable grants are open to everyone. Others might be available based on your situation, for example:
if you have a disability or health condition
your previous or current job
You can check what help you can get from local and national charities on the Turn2us website. You’ll need to know your postcode.
If you’re over 55 and have a personal pension
You might be able to take some money from your pension savings to help pay for essential costs or to pay off your debts.
You should think about whether taking money from your pension is the best financial decision for you. Taking money from your pension will mean you have less income when you retire. If you’re getting benefits, taking money from your pension could affect your claim.
You can get free guidance on your pension options from Pension Wise. They’ll explain the different options so you can decide which is best for you.
You should also get financial advice before taking any money from your pension savings - you’ll have to pay.
You can check how to find a financial adviser - they can tell you which option is best for you.
If you’re finding things difficult
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. You should talk to your GP if your money problems are affecting your mental health.
If you need to speak to someone
You can speak to a trained volunteer at organisations like Samaritans or Shout.
Helpline: 116 123 (Monday to Sunday at any time)
Welsh Language Line: 0808 164 0123 (Monday to Sunday 7pm to 11pm)
Calls to Samaritans are free.
You can also text 'SHOUT' to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained Shout volunteer. Texts are free, anonymous and confidential from anywhere in the UK.
If you think it's an emergency
If you think your life or someone else’s is at risk, you should call 999 or go to A&E if you can.
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Page last reviewed on 27 June 2022