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What to do if you need emergency help with money and food

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Are you short of money and struggling to pay for food or other essentials? On this page you'll find ways to get financial help and other resources. We'll explain how to access food banks and where to get help with money in an emergency.

There may be all sorts of reasons why people find themselves in financial difficulty and need emergency help with money. It may be through losing a job, or perhaps it's simply a reduction in income. If your outgoings have risen suddenly, it can become harder to cope with making all the usual payments.

Needing emergency support could be a sign you need debt help

We can help if you’re in debt. You can get free and confidential debt advice online now. We’ll recommend the best way to deal with any debts you have, and also tell you about other organisations who can support you.

Also, if you’re eligible, you could get Breathing Space. This means your creditors won't be able to add interest or fees to your debts, or take enforcement action, for up to 60 days.


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Where can I borrow money fast?

If you're struggling to pay for your essentials, there are a number of government-run schemes that can provide you with emergency loans quickly. These schemes are the best way for you to access money in difficult circumstances.

We don't recommend payday loans or other forms of high-cost credit. They can leave you in even more financial trouble over time due to high interest and charges.

Can I get a payment holiday from my mortgage or other debts?

Taking a payment holiday can be a good way to ease your short term money worries if you have a mortgage, credit card, loan or hire purchase agreement.

Where can I get help with food?

How to find your local foodbank

If you're struggling to pay for food, find your local foodbank.

The largest foodbank organisation in the UK is the Trussell Trust. It has over 1,200 foodbanks across the country. You can use their website to find your local foodbank. There are also smaller organisations running foodbanks too.

To be able to access a foodbank you’ll need to be referred by one of the following:

  • Jobcentre Plus
  • A social worker
  • Citizens Advice
  • A children’s centre
  • Your local authority
  • Police or probation workers
  • A GP, health visitor or other medical professional

If you aren’t already in touch with any of the above, you can contact your local foodbank directly to ask for help. They’ll work with one of their referring agencies to arrange an appointment with you.

How does a foodbank work?

If you get referred to a foodbank you’ll normally receive vouchers or a letter to exchange for food. Depending on your need, a foodbank may provide you with:

  • A few days’ worth of meals
  • Other household items like toiletries or cleaning products
  • Small top-ups of credit for gas or electric pre-payment meters

Foodbanks may also help you access other sources of help in your local area.

Free school meals

If you receive certain benefits your child may be eligible for free school meals. This can help reduce some of your day-to-day costs.

You can find out if your child is eligible for free school meals on the Government website.

Help with vets bills

If your pet isn't insured, vets bills can be very expensive. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals (RSPCA) the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) may be able to provide you with free, or subsidised, treatments, including microchipping, neutering and vaccination.

Search for support with vets bills in your local area on My Pet Child.

Save money on food and meals

We also offer a range of tips and help on this site on how to save money on food and meals.

How can I get help paying utility bills?

If you’re struggling with payments for a gas, electric or water bill, contact your supplier to let them know. They’ll discuss your options to help you repay the arrears. Find out more about dealing with utility bills.

In some situations, suppliers will have further support available for customers who are struggling with money. Help varies between suppliers, and you can find a useful summary of the different energy schemes available around the country (PDF) here.

If you have a pre-payment meter, some foodbanks can also help by giving you a small top-up if you’re out of credit.

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Struggling to make important payments?

Free, online debt advice available now

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Can I get help from a credit union?

Credit unions are local cooperatives designed to provide facilities for savings and loans. They're owned and run to provide help for their members. They have three main aims:

  • To provide loans at low rates
  • To encourage all members to save regularly
  • To help members in need of financial advice and help

You'll need to be a member of a credit union before you can get a loan from them, and some will require you to build up some savings first.

To find out whether your local credit union might be able to help you financially, first find a credit union in your area, and get in touch with them.

What financial help is available from the government?

What is a hardship payment?

Hardship payments are available to people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), or Universal Credit (UC), whose benefits have been stopped and who need money for essentials such as food or utilities. They are also available for people who are vulnerable or who look after people who are at risk.

You should enquire about hardship payments at your local Jobcentre Plus. Alternatively, you can call the Department of Work and Pensions on 0345 608 8545 to find out more.

Help from your local council

In some situations you can apply to your council’s local welfare assistance scheme. These schemes are usually available to people on a low income who are facing financial difficulty. Each local authority runs their own scheme with different qualifying criteria. Some offer help including small cash loans or grants, food vouchers and free used furniture.

Different emergency funding is available depending on where you live in the UK.

Social fund budgeting loans

If you’ve been on one of the following benefits for at least 26 weeks and have an unexpected expense you need to cover, you may be eligible for a budgeting loan to cover the costs:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credits

The amount you can apply for depends on your situation. The smallest amount you can apply for is £100. Repayments to a budgeting loan are deducted from your benefits.

You can use budgeting loans to help pay for things like:

  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Moving costs
  • Maternity expenses
  • Travel costs

Short-term benefit advance

You can apply for a short-term benefit advance from many benefits. This is an amount that’s given to you early, which will then be taken from your future benefit payments, usually over 12 weeks. You can get a short term benefit advance if:

  • You’ve made a benefit claim, but you’ll need money before your first payment
  • Your benefits payment is increasing, but you’ll need money urgently before the increase takes effect
  • Your benefit will not be paid on its due date, for example because of technical problems processing it

To apply for a benefit advance, you should contact the DWP office who is handling your benefit claim. You can find this on any letter or email you have received from them. Most benefits can be applied for through your local Jobcentre Plus.

It’s really important to be sure you’re applying for all of the benefits you’re eligible for. Use our quick, simple benefits calculatorto check.

Are there any grants I can apply for?

It's worth checking if you’re eligible for benefits or other grants that could help to improve your situation. Turn2Us is a charity that helps people in financial difficulty access grants and support services, and can check for you.

Can I get a crisis loan?

The government is no longer offering crisis loans. They're now encouraging people to apply for a social fund budgeting loan instead.

Support with mental health issues

If you're finding things tough, support is available:

  • If you’re experiencing mental health issues, Mind can help by providing advice and support
  • The Samaritans have a range of support services available, including a helpline that you can call around the clock
  • We understand the burden that debt can cause. We can offer you free support and advice

I’m pregnant. What help is available?

During pregnancy you’re entitled to:

  • Free NHS prescriptions
  • Free NHS dental treatment

You can continue to receive both of these free for up to one year after you’ve had your baby.

You can find out more about receiving free dental treatment during pregnancy on the NHS website.

I'm pregnant and already on benefits. Can I get more help?

If you or your partner receives one of the following benefits, and you're expecting your first child, you may be eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Universal Credit

The grant helps towards the costs involved with having a baby, and you won’t need to pay it back.

You can find out more about the Sure Start Maternity Grant, and check your eligibility, on the Government website.

In Scotland, the same scheme is called the Best Start Grant.

I can’t pay my rent. What can I do?

If you’re unable to pay your rent, it’s important to get in touch with your landlord to let them know the situation. You may be able to come to a payment arrangement that’ll help you to pay off your arrears.

You may also be eligible for housing benefit. You can check this by using our online benefits calculator. Shelter offer specialist housing advice if you’re facing eviction.

If you’re on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit but can’t afford your rent, you may be able to apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) from your local council. You’ll need to contact your local council to find out how to apply.

Help if you’re in, or have been in, the Forces

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) is a charity that offers support to people who’ve served, or are currently serving in the Forces. They may be able to offer you help with a range of support from housing advice to buying household goods, and health care.

Find out about the services they offer, and check your eligibility for help on the SSAFA website.

Source: Find out more about Recite Me Last updated: 13/12/2021 16:03:38