Get help with the cost of living

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

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.

You can find out how to start dealing with your debts.

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

  • a carer

  • responsible for children

Check what benefits you can get.

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:

  • Universal Credit

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Carer’s Allowance

  • Pension Credit

  • State Pension

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.

Cost of Living Payments

The government has sent the final 'Cost of Living Payment'. You should have got it if you get a benefit based on your income - for example, Universal Credit, Pension Credit, or tax credits.

If you get benefits based on your income

If you were eligible, the government should have sent you a payment of £299 during spring 2024 between 6 and 22 February 2024.

You should have got the payment if you got any of the following benefits between 13 November to 12 December 2023:

  • 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 have got one £299 payment - even if you got more than 1 of these benefits. 

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 didn't get a previous Cost of Living Payment

If you think you should have got a Cost of Living Payment, you can report a missing payment on GOV.UK.

If you get a disability benefit

You should have got an extra Cost of Living Payment if you were getting a disability benefit on 1 April 2023 - you would have got this payment 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

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Adult Disability Payment

  • Child Disability Payment

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

  • Constant Attendance Allowance

  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

To get this payment you must have either:

  • 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 didn't get a previous Cost of Living Payment

If you think you should have got 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 should have got a Cost of Living Payment of either £300 or £150 - you would have got this payment at the same time as your usual Winter Fuel Payment. This was paid between November 2023 and 26 January 2024.

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 have got a £300 Cost of Living Payment at the same time as your Winter Fuel 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 should have got depends on whether either of you get any of the following:

  • Pension Credit

  • 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 should have got £300 - as long as you’re not partners. If you’re partners, you should have only got one £300 payment.

If neither of you gets one of these benefits, you should have both got £150.

If you live in residential care and qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment, you should have both got £150 unless you get any of these benefits.

If you didn't get a Cost of Living Payment with your Winter Fuel Payment

If you think you should have got a Cost of Living Payment, you should contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.

Check how to contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on GOV.UK.

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.

Check if you can get help to pay your energy bills.

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.

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

  • boiler repairs

  • loft or cavity wall insulation

  • a heat pump

Check if you can get help with the cost of energy efficiency.

Get help with essential costs

Your local council might help you pay for things like:

  • your energy and water bills

  • food

  • 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.

If you're struggling to pay for food, you might be able to get a referral to a food bank.

You can find out how to get help from a food bank.

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.

You can check what help and support you can get with your rent and bills.

Get help with health costs

You might be able to get help paying for NHS charges, for example:

  • prescriptions

  • dental treatment

  • sight tests, glasses and contact lenses

  • travel to NHS treatment

Check if you can get help with health costs on the NHS website.

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:

  • £32.05 for 3 months

  • £114.50 for 12 months - you can pay this in 10 instalments of £11.45

You can buy a prepayment certificate on the NHS website.

If you’ve been prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

If you already have a prepayment certificate for other medicines, it covers the cost of your HRT.

If you only need a certificate for HRT, you might be able to save money. You can get an HRT prescription prepayment certificate -  it costs £19.80 for 12 months.

The certificate only covers certain HRT medicines. Check if your HRT medicine is covered on the NHS website. If you have HRT medicines that aren’t covered, you’ll have to pay for them or buy a normal prepayment certificate.

You can buy an HRT prescription prepayment certificate on the NHS website.

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 extra money to help pay for essential costs like food, childcare and school.

Check if you can get help with costs if you have a child or you’re pregnant.

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.

If you’re looking for work and you get benefits

You might be able to get a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card - this gives you half-price train tickets for up to 3 months.

You can apply for the card if you claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit. One of the following must apply:

  • you’re aged 18 to 24 and you’ve been getting the benefit for between 3 and 9 months

  • you’re aged 25 or over and you’ve been getting the benefit for between 3 and 12 months

You might also be able to get the card if you’ve been claiming another benefit for at least 3 months. For example you might be getting Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Incapacity Benefit. You’ll have to show you’ve been looking for work through a Jobcentre.

If you think you might be able to get the card, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office.

Check how to contact your local Jobcentre Plus office on GOV.UK.

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

Check if you can get free or reduced vet care on the Blue Cross website.

You also might be able to get free or reduced vet care from charities such as RSPCA and PDSA.

Check if you can get free or reduced vet care on the RSPCA website.

Check if you can get free or reduced vet care on the PDSA website.

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. 

If you need a warm, welcoming space

‘Warm welcome’ spaces are public places that anyone can use - for example a community space like a library. They’re free, warm, welcoming and safe.

You can ask your local council about warm welcome spaces near you. You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.

Some spaces are only open in winter and some are open all year. Each space is different, but they might offer things like:

  • activities and the chance to learn new things

  • a place to meet people in your community

  • access to the internet and help to use a computer

  • hot food and drinks

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 age

  • 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. 

You can find other ways to get help with your mental health on the Mind website.

If you need to speak to someone 

You can speak to a trained volunteer at organisations like Samaritans or Shout.

Samaritans

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 find other ways to get in touch with Samaritans on their website.

Shout

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.

You can also find a list of urgent mental health services on the Mind website.

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Page last reviewed on 30 October 2023