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Emergency Assistance

Find out what help there is available in emergencies and urgent situations.

1. What is available?

If you are struggling to make ends meet or your benefits are not being paid, you may be able to get other help.

Here are some of the things you can look into to improve your situation.  Click on each section to read more.

Extra benefit payments – hardship payments, advance payments and budgeting loans

Local Welfare Assistance – emergency help from your Council

Free food – places to get food if you are struggling

Check your entitlement – other benefits that you could apply for

Advice and other help – where to find more help

2. Benefit payments

Hardship payments

If your Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit benefit payment is stopped, for example because you have been sanctioned, and you don’t have enough money to live on, you may be able to get a Hardship Payment.

Hardship payments are reduced-rate payments of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit that are made in limited circumstances.  See our Hardship Payment guide for further information.

Advance payments

If you need help until a benefit claim is processed or paid, you may be able to get an advance on your benefit payment if you are in urgent financial need (usually the advance is for your first benefit payment). See our Short Term Benefit Advance and Universal Credit Advance guides to find out more.

Budgeting loan or advance

If you are claiming an out-of-work benefit, Pension Credit or Universal Credit and you need help to pay for one-off essentials, you may be able to get a budgeting loan or advance.  The DWP lends you the money and you pay it back out of your benefit payments.  Our Budgeting Loan/Budgeting Advance guide sets out what you can get it for and how to apply.

Updated: February 2018

3. Local Welfare Assistance

Am I eligible?

If you are on a low income or receiving certain benefits, and there is a scheme in your area, you could apply for help from your council in emergencies.  

Most schemes allow you to apply if you are claiming one of these benefits:
•    Universal Credit
•    Pension Credit
•    Income Support
•    Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
•    Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

What can I get?

Local Welfare Assistance schemes are discretionary. This means that even if you are eligible to apply, you may not be awarded a payment. You may get help with essentials but you can’t usually get cash.

You could get vouchers to pay for food, fuel or clothing.  You could get bigger basic living items like beds, cookers and fridges. 

How do I apply?

Not all councils have a Local Welfare Assistance scheme.  Check with your local council  to see if they have a scheme.

Northern Ireland
You can apply for a Discretionary Support loan or grant.  You can find out more about Discretionary Support on the NI direct website page about Finance Support.  

You can apply for a Community Care Grant or a Crisis Grant from your local council.  The money comes from the Scottish Welfare Fund, which you can read about in our Scottish Welfare Fund guide.

You can apply for an Individual Assistance Payment or an Emergency Assistance Payment.  The money comes from the Discretionary Assistance Fund, which you can read about in our Discretionary Assistance Fund guide

Last updated: January 2018

4. Free food


Foodbanks provide emergency boxes of food and offer support for people in a crisis. Foodbanks are good for connecting with your community and identifying other assistance too. 

You can get a voucher to use at the food bank from local charities, doctors’ surgeries, health visitors, social workers and Citizens Advice. 

Some foodbanks offer hot meals and advice sessions.  And some foodbanks in rural areas offer delivery to people who cannot get to the foodbank.

You can search the Trussell Trust website to see if there is a foodbank in your area.

Other places to get food

You can ask your local council, local charities or Citizens Advice about other places to get food like:
•    Soup kitchens
•    Places to go for breakfast or a hot meal
•    Emergency breakfast schemes for children

You can find your local council on the Find your local council page of the website.  You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find your closest Citizens Advice or other charity.

Last updated: January 2018

5. Check your entitlement

You may be struggling because you are not receiving all of the benefits you are entitled to.

Benefit Cap

If you are subject to the Benefit Cap, read our Benefit Cap guide for your options.

Benefit Check

Use our Benefits Calculator to check you are receiving the right amount of means-tested benefits. You may be eligible for other benefits too, like:

This is not a complete list. You may want to check our Your Situation pages for other benefits that you may be entitled to.

If you are struggling to pay your rent, and you are receiving Housing Benefit or the Universal Credit Housing element, you could apply for Discretionary Housing Payment.

Wrong Decision

If you think that a decision to refuse your benefits or stop payments is wrong, you can challenge the decision. You can read more about challenging benefit decisions in our Challenging Decisions benefit guide. For more help to challenge a decision, you can use our Find an Advisor tool to find an advisor near you.

Last updated: January 2018

6. Advice and Other Help

Even if you can’t claim any more benefits, you might be able to get help from other places.

Support from the council

If you are ill, injured, have a disability or you are a carer and you have an emergency, you can ask your local council for help.  You may be eligible for support such as:
•    respite from caring
•    help towards the cost of specialist equipment
•    help towards the cost of adaptations to your home
•    help with housework

Your local council can also advise on issues like flooding or fire, domestic violence or homelessness.

You can find your local council on the Find your local council page of the website.  

Support from charities

There are lots of charities which can assist people who are struggling.  Some provide help in emergencies but most applications take a while to be processed.  

Use our Grant Search tool to see if you are eligible for a grant in your situation.  A grant is money that you would not have to pay back. 

Get Advice

If you need help to deal with an emergency, you can contact the following organisations for advice or use our Find an Advisor tool to find an advisor near you.

Housing and Homelessness
•    Crisis: National Charity for Single Homeless
•    Shelter England/Scotland Helpline 0808 800 4444
•    Shelter Cymru Helpline 0345 075 5005
•    Housing Rights Service Northern Ireland (NI) Helpline 028 9024 5640

•    My Money Steps 
•    National Debtline Helpline 0808 808 4000
•    StepChange Helpline 0800 138 1111

Mental Health
•    Mind
•    Samaritans

UK emergencies, for example flooding
•    British Red Cross

Last updated: October 2016