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Emergency Information

You might find yourself caught short of money and need help with essentials like food or paying your bills. Please look at the range of support options we discuss in this guide.

1. What is Emergency Information?

Please look through the sections of this guide for an area that relates to your situation. Our Benefits Calculator and Grants Search tools may be able to identify a benefit you can claim or find a fund that may help you with a grant.

If you need advice please try our Find an Advisor tool.

2. Waiting for Universal Credit payment

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 guide and Universal Credit Advance guide to find out more.

Universal Credit Advance

When you first make a claim for Universal Credit, you will have to wait around five weeks for your first payment.

If you face financial hardship during this period of time, you can request an Advance Payment of Universal Credit. 

The Advance Payment is a loan which you have to pay back from your Universal Credit payments. You will pay this back a bit at a time. You don’t pay any interest on a Universal Credit Advance Payment.

3. Been sanctioned?

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.

Hardship payments are reduced-rate payments of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA) and universal credit (UC) that are made in limited circumstances, including if you have been sanctioned.

You or your partner or children must be experiencing hardship and in most cases you must show that you or your family will suffer hardship unless benefit is paid. In some cases for JSA, you must be in a ‘vulnerable group’.

If you come under the universal credit (UC) system you need to claim the hardship payment of UC.

Read the full Hardship Payment Guide

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.

4. One-off payment

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 Department for Work and Pensions (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.

5. Local Welfare Assistance

Local Welfare Assistance schemes help people on low incomes or receiving certain benefits in an emergency.

What help may I get?

You could get vouchers or a pre-paid card to pay for food, fuel or clothing. You could get basic living items, such as beds, cookers or fridges.

What benefits do I have to be claiming to apply?

This will depend on where you live. Most councils 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.

How do I apply?

England

In England, it is up to your local council whether it provides a Local Welfare Assistance scheme or not. There is no legal duty to do so.

Where there is a scheme, the amount of money available may be small. The council may only give help when there is no other way of meeting your needs.

The benefits team at your local council should be able to tell you if there is a scheme in your area.

Northern Ireland

You can apply directly for a Discretionary Support loan or grant through the Finance Support Service.

Scotland

You can apply through your local council for a Community Care Grant or a Crisis Grant funded by the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Wales

You can apply directly for an Individual Assistance Payment or an Emergency Assistance Payment through the Discretionary Assistance Fund


Last updated: November 2018
 

6. Foodbanks

Foodbanks, largely run by volunteers, provide emergency boxes of food (usually a supply for a minimum of three days) and offer support for people in a crisis. The food is donated by members of the local community. Many also give personal hygiene items such as toilet paper and soap.

Some foodbanks offer hot meals and advice sessions. They may also be able to refer you to other local agencies for further help, depending on your situation.

To find your local foodbank, use the Trussell Trust website, which also has information on how foodbanks work.

Other places where free or low cost food may be available

You can ask your local council, local charities or Citizens Advice about other local sources of free or low cost meals. These might include:

  • Soup kitchens

  • Places to go for free or low cost breakfasts or hot meals. For example, as part of their religion's teachings, Sikh temples (known as gurdawaras) provide langar (free vegetarian food) every day that everyone who visits them is welcome to enjoy, regardless of their faith, gender, age or status. People sit on the floor together to eat the food which is cooked and served by Sikh volunteers.

  • Emergency breakfast schemes for children.

You can find your local council's details on the Gov.UK website.

You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find your closest Citizens Advice or other local organisations that may be able to help you.


Last updated: December 2018

7. Check your benefits 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.


Last updated: January 2018

8. Advice and Other Help

If you are getting the benefits you are entitled to, 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 gov.uk 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. 

Social fund loans  

Interest free loans which may be accessed in emergencies and repaid from your benefits https://www.gov.uk/budgeting-help-benefits

For essential household item such as a washing machine or cooker, Fair for You are a not for profit organisation who provide small loans, to people who may not be able to receive credit elsewhere to purchase directly the item you need.

To find out more and for full terms and conditions www.fairforyou.co.uk/why-use-fair-for-you/

Credit Unions

Credit unions are available to many people for small loans often at short notice and to find out more or to see if you have a credit union in your area: https://www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk/

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

 

Debt

•    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 reviewed: December 2018