How to apply for THOUSANDS of pounds of FREE cash to help if you're struggling

HOUSEHOLDS can apply for thousands of pounds worth of free cash if they're struggling financially.

Ranging from charity grants to government schemes and support from suppliers, it's worth checking what you're eligible for.

It comes as the coronavirus crisis has hit household finances hard, with unemployment rocketing and many struggling to make ends meet.

If you successfully apply for a grant, you don't need to pay back the money.

Meanwhile, borrowing cash should be a last resort, as loans could actually make your long-term situation worse unless you manage to clear the debt.

Below we round up grants and free cash currently available.

Covid Grant Scheme

The Covid Winter Grant Scheme was first announced by the government in November last year to help vulnerable households with bills and food.

This week, the government said the scheme will be extended from April 16 until June 20, with an extra £40million available.

This is to bring it in line with England's roadmap out of lockdown, with the remaining restrictions set to be lifted on June 21.

The government also announced the scheme will be renamed the Covid Local Support Grant Scheme.

It comes after the government extended the scheme from March 31 last month.

The cash is handed out by local authorities across England and payments are worth up to £150 in some areas.

Councils have been given different amounts of cash depending on their size and how many people are struggling.

It's best to contact your local authority directly to ask what help you can get.

Find grants via the Turn2Us tool

There are around 8,000 charities and organisations in the UK that offer cash to help struggling families.

Turn2Us has a free grants search tool so you can find out what help is available to you.

You’ll need to search for what’s available specifically in your area by entering your postcode.

Next, you’ll be asked to give details about yourself, such as your name and gender.

You can also go into more depth by telling Turn2Us about your current health and employment situation.

Once you’ve found a grant you think you’re eligible for, you can put in an inquiry through Turn2Us.

You'll need to be logged into your Turn2Us account to apply – if you don't have one it's free to sign up.

If you're successful, you’ll usually be allowed to spend the money on whatever you need to, but cash is usually provided for essentials and bills.

Meanwhile, others are provided to help pay for white goods, which could be handy if your fridge of freezer has given up.

Energy debt grants

If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you might be able to get a grant to help pay it off.

The below energy suppliers typically offer help to existing and previous customers.

  • Npower Energy Fund
  • Scottish Power Hardship Fund
  • Ovo Debt and energy assistance
  • E.on Energy Fund
  • EDF Energy Customer Support Fund
  • Bulb Energy Fund

The British Gas Energy Trust has closed for applications for this year, but it'll reopen again on July 1, 2021, for new applications.

The eligibility criteria varies for the schemes but you'll typically need to be claiming benefits and/or on a low income.

When you apply, you'll have to provide details about your financial situation.

If your energy supplier isn't listed above, it's worth to get in touch directly to ask what support it's offering.

Help with water bills

Water companies offer a variety of discounts and support including social tariffs, so it's worth to get in touch with your provider and ask for help.

You can find the contact details for water companies such as Anglian Water, Essex & Suffolk Water and Southern Water here .

Some companies will carry out individual financial assessments, while others offer reduced rates for households whose income is below a certain specified level.

A scheme called WaterSure also allows firms to cap bills for low-income customers who use a lot of water for essential family or health reasons.

To qualify, you'll also need to receive one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

If your household is eligible then your water bill will be capped at the average household water bill for your water company.

You can find more information about what support your supplier offers on the CCW website.

Council tax cash help

There are a number of discounts and exemptions that you may be entitled to, if you're struggling to pay your council tax.

Firstly, you may be eligible for Council Tax Support (sometimes called a Council Tax Reduction) if you're on a low income or on certain benefits.

You don't need to be the property owner to apply for Council Tax Support, nor does it matter if you're working or unemployed.

The amount you could see your bill reduced by depends on your personal circumstances – but you could end up seeing council tax slashed by 100%.

Secondly, there are a number of discounts and exemptions that you may be entitled to, if you're struggling to pay your council tax.

For example, if you live on your own, or with someone who isn't classed as an adult, you'll qualify for 25% off your total annual bill.

You’ll also usually get a 50% discount if no-one living in your home, including you, counts as an adult.

Additionally, you won't have to pay at all if everyone in your household is a full-time student.

As each council offers different support, you'll need to contact your local authority for more information.

Fund for jobseekers

The Flexible Support Fund (FSF) is a sum of money that has been put aside by the government to help you with the costs of getting a job.

The fund is managed by local job centres, and the cash can be used to cover the costs of:

  • Training for a job, up to £150
  • Travel to interviews
  • Childcare
  • Tools for work
  • Cost of medical evidence required by a disabled person
  • Clothing and uniforms to start work
  • Support for single parents in financial emergencies in the first 26 weeks of starting a job

If you've already paid for the items, such as a suit for work or upfront childcare costs, then you are unlikely to be awarded FSF as back pay.

If you feel that you may be able to get help from the FSF, then you should contact your local Jobcentre.

Grants for families with disabled children

Households with disabled children (17 or under) who live at home can get grants from the Family Fund if they receive certain benefits.

These include:

  • Universal Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Related Employment Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Pension Credit

The grants can be used on things such as washing machines, computers and holidays.

To qualify, you need to meet a range of criteria, which includes that your child's condition is long-term or life limiting.

For more information about the grants and how to apply, check out the Family Fund website.

Grants for pregnant mums

The Sure Start Maternity Grant offers soon-to-be-parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland a one-off upfront sum of £500.

Meanwhile, Scots can get £600 through the Pregnancy and Baby Payment – you can read all about this and how to apply here.

The grants are paid to help cover some of the costs of having children, which could be things like needing a pram or baby clothes.

You usually qualify for the Sure Start Maternity Grant if you're pregnant with your first child or are expecting a multiple birth (such as twins) and have children already.

Either you or your partner must also be receiving any of the below benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Universal Credit
  • In some cases also if you're getting a Support for Mortgage Interest loan

Your income, or the amount you get of any of these payments or benefits, doesn't matter but there are also exceptions to these rules.

For example, you could be eligible for the grant even if you already have children under the age of 16.

To apply for the grant, you'll need to fill in the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SF100) claim form or if you live in Northern Ireland, you can download a claim form from nidirect.

The grant must be claimed within 11 weeks of the baby’s due date or within six months after the baby’s birth.

If you’re becoming responsible for a child, you must claim within six months of this happening.

A health professional, such as a doctor or midwife, must also sign your claim form.

Then post it to “Freepost DWP SSMG” – you don't need a postcode or stamp – or take it to your local Jobcentre Plus.

If you need help with your claim, contact the Sure Start Maternity Grant helpline on 0800 169 0140 or contact Jobcentre Plus.

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