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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. Claimed benefits and waiting for my first Universal Credit payment

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

While you are waiting for your first payment, you can ask for a Universal Credit Advance.

An Advance is an interest-free loan which you pay back over 12 months.

You can ask for an Advance using your online journal as soon as you have verified your identity, using either the online service or by having a telephone interview.

Read more about Universal Credit

Updated: December 2020

2. Benefits not enough to meet my needs

First, check if you are getting the right benefits using our Benefits Calculator.

If our calculator shows you should be getting more than you are, check whether you are being sanctioned or having deductions taken for debts.

If you are having deductions for other debts, speak to the organisation you owe the debt to and ask them if they could give you a break in payments.

If you are having money taken for a sanction, you might be able to get a Hardship Payment

If you are struggling because you are affected by the benefits cap, read our Benefits Cap guide.

Rent

If you are struggling because the help you get with your rent through the benefits system is less than your real rent, you could contact your council to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Assistance Schemes

As well as Discretionary Housing Payments, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and some councils in England have hardship funds which they can use to support people who are struggling. Sometimes it is hard to find the section of your council website that has information on hardship funds (known also as local discretionary fund, welfare assistance scheme and other terms depending on your council).

Try doing a Google Engine Search. For example, search on "council hardship fund Birmingham".  This will bring up a link directly to that page as would "council hardship fund Cardiff".

Charitable grants

If you are struggling financially, it is possible you might be able to get support through a grant from a charity.

You can use our Grants Search to find charities that might be able to help you, based on your background, circumstances and needs.

Energy and water bills

If you are struggling with energy or water bills, contact your supplier for help and advice.

Debt 

If you are struggling with debt payments, get free, confidential debt advice.

Updated: November 2020

3. Facing an unexpected cost

Charitable Grants

You might be able to get a grant from a charity (that you don't have to pay back) to help you pay for what you need. You can use our Grants Search to find charities who may be able to help you, based on your background, circumstances and needs.

Welfare Assistance Funds

England

If you live in England, your council might operate a local welfare assistance scheme. Contact your council to ask if you can get help in your area.

If you are struggling to find any mention of a fund on your local council website, try doing an internet search typing "name of your local council and hardship or welfare fund" e.g. "Birmingham hardship fund" and it should bring up that webpage.

Scotland

If you live in Scotland, you might be able to get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Wales

If you live in Wales you might be able to get support from the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland, you might be able to get help from the Discretionary Support Fund.

Benefits Advances

If you can’t get a grant through a charity or a discretionary support scheme, you might be able to get an advance on your benefits. If you are on Universal Credit, read more about Universal Credit advance payments. If you are on Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you might be able to get a short term benefit advance.

Household goods

If you need household goods, you might be able to get affordable goods through the ReUse network.

Updated: December 2020

4. Don't have enough to eat

Foodbanks

If you are struggling to afford enough food to eat, you may be able to get help from a food bank.

Each foodbank will be different in the services it provides and how you access them. However, you will usually a voucher from a local referral partner (often Citizens Advice bureaux, health and social care professionals and/or local charities). Check what you need with the food bank you want to use.

Many foodbanks may also be able to provide 'extras' such as toilet paper, toiletries, period products, baby basics or pet food.  If there is something essential you need, ask your local food bank if they can help.

They may also be able to provide additional support by referring you to local services that may be able to help.

To find your local food bank, see the following websites:

Pet food

Turn2us users often ask us about sources of help for emergency pet food . Some food banks may be able to help with emergency pet food. If you have a foodbank voucher and need pet food as well, talk to the food bank staff and see if they can help.

Some people have set up pet food banks in their local areas. You could do an internet search to see if there is anything where you live or ask your local Citizens Advice bureau, similar advisory service or animal charity if they know of any local sources of help. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find local advisers

Some charitable funds listed on our Grants Search may also be able to help, if you meet their eligibility criteria for help, depending on your background, circumstances and needs, as well as what purposes they give grants for.

Scotland

There is a Pet Foodbank in Scotland.

Coronavirus

Not able to get to the shops

If you are unable to get food because you are not able to get to the shop because of coronavirus, there might be a volunteer group in your area who can help you. Contact your local council so they can put you in touch with a group in your area.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, many local voluntary networks have been set up to help people who need support. Find out if there is one in your area by looking at the Mutual Aid - local group website

Free school meals - Homeschooling, and school holidays

Schools must provide some pupils with a free midday meal during term times. For more information who is eligible, see Free School Meals

What is available when the schools are shut because of the coronavirus pandemic and in school holidays depends on the country of the UK that you live in.

England

Families in England who are entitled to free school meals should be able to access schemes in their area when schools are shut and during school holidays. Contact your local council to find out what help they are providing.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has a direct payments scheme for families eligible for free school meals when there are school closures in term time and during school holidays..

See the NI Department of Education:Covid-19 direct payment scheme for families eligible for free school meals

Scotland

If you get free school meals, you may also be able to get help when homeschooling and the school holidays.

See Mygov.scot: School meals for more information

Wales

While schools are closed because of coronavirus and during the school holidays, families eligible for free school means are given vouchers or food packages by local councils in Wales. .

.Updated: January 2021

5. Can't pay my rent or mortgage

If you are worried about being able to pay your rent, first make sure you are getting all the help you’re entitled to.

Next, get in touch with your landlord to let them know what is happening. If your landlord is not being understanding, get advice on what you should do.  If you live in Wales, you may be able to get a government backed loan to pay your rent.

If you are struggling with your mortgage payment, get in touch with your lender. 

Housing advice

The following organisations can advise further on housing issues:

England

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

General Information

For general information, see Help with Housing Costs

Updated: December 2020

6. Need local support because of the coronavirus pandemic

If you are unable to do essential shopping or collect medication because of the coronavirus, there might be a volunteer group in your area who can help you.

Your local council  should be able to put you in touch with a group in your area.

Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK

Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK are a group of volunteers aiming to support the network of local community groups organising to support people through the coronavirus pandemic.

They are not in charge of the network and have no say over what local groups do. 

Your local group should have a safeguarding policy to ensure that the welfare of both volunteers and vulnerable people seeking help are protected.

Find your local Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK group

Updated 2 November 2020

7. Funeral costs I can't afford

Funerals can be expensive but help may be available if you can't afford to pay.

Benefits and grants

For information on the help that might be available to you through benefits, charitable grants and other help, see Your Situation: Bereaved

Quaker Social Action (QSA) resources

Quaker Social Action (QSA), a charity that works with people on low incomes in east London and across the UK, has been a key campaigner on funeral poverty for the past 10 years. It has information on its website to help you plan an affordable funeral and find help with the costs.

If the funeral has not taken place

If you are on benefits or a low income, QSA's Down to Earth service can support you to find a meaningful funeral that is more affordable. The charity mainly does this by phone but you can also make initial contact by email. The experienced team support thousands of people across the UK to look at their options, keep costs down and identify ways to raise money for a funeral.

If the funeral has taken place

QSA provides information and guidance on its website to support you when faced with debt following a funeral. This includes a guide to Raising money towards funeral costs

Emotional support

Losing a loved one is a difficult experience, especially while the coronavirus lockdown is in place and you may not be able to easily access your usual support networks.

The national charity Cruse Bereavement Care has resources and information on its website, including a section on Coronavirus: Dealing with bereavement and grief

Other sources of information and support include:

Updated: 17 April 2020

Reviewed: December 2020

8. Disability, illness or mental health condition and I am struggling at home

If you need additional support at home, you should contact your local council for help.

If your usual carer can’t help you because of coronavirus, it is important you let the council know what has happened and ask for support.

General information

Your Situation: Ill, Injured or Have a Disability

Your Situation: Carer

Updated: December 2020

9. Don't feel safe at home

If you are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse of any kind, help and support is available to you. This includes police response, online support, helplines, refuges and other services.

You are not alone and there is never an excuse for domestic abuse.

See the following sections on this page for more information.

Report domestic abuse

If your life is in immediate danger or in an emergency, call the police on 999.

See Report domestic abuse on the Gov.UK website for more information and to find other support services.

Domestic abuse charities

Women and children

Children

Men and boys

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people

Domestic abuse during coronavirus

The lockdown rules as a result of coronavirus do not apply to you if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

For more information, see the Gov.UK website information: Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for victims of domestic abuse

Turn2us tools and resources can help you find financial support

Money to start a new life away from your abuser is important.

You can use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search to see if any help is available to you from a charitable fund, based on your background, circumstances and needs.

We have information on benefits and grants in the Your Situation section.

You can also find local advisers by using our Find an Adviser tool.

Turn2us news stories on domestic abuse

Updated: 3 June 2020

Reviewed: December 2020