Getting financial 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 have a job.
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
You might be able to claim benefits or increase your current benefits if you’re:
- of working age and on a low income
- sick or disabled
- of State Pension age and on a low income
- a carer
- responsible for children
You can check what benefits you can get.
Get your first benefit payment early
When you apply for benefits, you can usually ask 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 most benefits, including Universal Credit. You can’t get an advance for:
- Housing Benefit
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Child Benefit
- Guardian's Allowance
- Working or Child Tax credits
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, PIP 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 get benefits based on your income
In September 2022, the government gave a cost of living payment to people who get benefits based on their income.
They'll give you a second payment if you get any of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
You’ll only get the second cost of living payment once - even if you get more than 1 of these benefits.
To get this payment you must have either:
- been getting a benefit payment on or between 26 August 2022 and 25 September 2022 - it doesn't matter if it gets paid to someone else, like your landlord
- started a successful benefit claim by 25 September 2022 - or by 26 August 2022 if you're applying for Universal Credit
If you’re applying for Universal Credit, you won’t get the cost of living payment until your benefits claim is successful.
For most benefits, you’ll get the second payment of £324 between 8 and 23 November 2022. If you get Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, you’ll get the second payment between 23 and 30 November 2022. You’ll get the second payment even if you weren’t entitled to the first payment.
If you haven’t had your cost of living payment, and you think you should have, you can report a missing payment on GOV.UK.
If you’re not claiming any of these 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 the second cost of living payment.
If you get a disability benefit
The government will automatically give you a £150 cost of living payment from 20 September 2022. You'll get this one-off 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
To get this payment you must have:
- been getting one of these benefits on 25 May 2022
- applied for one of these benefits by 25 May 2022 - you won't get the payment until your claim is successful
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.
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:
- Pension Credit
- income-related ESA
- income-based JSA
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 get 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. If you get any of the benefits, you won't get a cost of living payment.
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
The government are giving every household £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.
You’ll get the £400 in 6 instalments starting from October 2022. Check how you’ll receive the £400 off your electricity bill.
Check how the Energy Price Guarantee affects you
The government has put a limit for most households on the rates your supplier can charge you for gas and electricity. This is called the Energy Price Guarantee.
You don’t need to do anything. The Energy Price Guarantee automatically applies to all types of energy tariffs. It started on 1 October 2022 and lasts until 31 March 2023. There’ll still be a limit after March 2023 - but the amount you pay for energy will go up.
Check what other help you can get
You might be able to get a fuel voucher or a grant from your energy supplier.
If you need somewhere to stay warm
You can ask your local council if they have a ‘warm space.’ These are public places which anyone can use to stay warm - for example a library or town hall. You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.
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.
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 Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance - but only if you're pregnant
- Pension Credit
- 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
- free vitamins
Get help with health costs
You might be able to get help paying for NHS charges, for example:
- dental treatment
- sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
- travel to NHS treatment
If you pay for regular prescriptions
If you can’t get help to pay for your prescriptions, you might be able to save money by buying a prepayment certificate.
You’ll pay a fixed price for either 3 or 12 months. This will cover the cost of all the prescriptions you need during that time.
You can buy a prepayment certificate for unlimited prescriptions for:
- £30.25 for 3 months
- £108.10 for 12 months - you can pay this in 10 instalments of £10.81
Get help with your child's school costs
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.
You could get:
- free school meals
- free transport to school
- a grant to help to buy school uniforms
Get help with travel costs
Contact your local council to check if they offer free or discounted travel - for example, if you’re:
- in education
- on a work placement
- unemployed and looking for work
- a veteran
You can find your local council on GOV.UK.
If you’re over State Pension age, you can get free bus travel. Apply for an older person's bus pass on GOV.UK.
If you’re 60 or over and live in London, you can get free travel on London’s transport services. You can apply for a 60+ London Oyster photocard on the TFL website.
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 our 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 our budgeting tool.
Apply for a charitable grant
You might be able to get extra money from a charity. Some of these charitable grants are open to everyone, others might be available to you based on your situation - for example, your health or 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 right now you can call the Samaritans for free.
Helpline: 116 123 (Monday to Sunday at any time)
Welsh Language Line: 0808 164 0123 (Monday to Sunday 7pm to 11pm)
You can also text 'SHOUT' to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained Shout 85258 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.