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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 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 an 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.

Updated 7 April 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.

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.

As well as discretionary housing payments, some councils 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"

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 who might be able to help you, based on your background, circumstances and needs.

Problem topping up my pre-paid meter:


Updated April 28 2020

3. Facing an unexpected cost

You might be able to get a grant from a charity 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.

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

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

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 a google search typing "name of your local council and hardship or welfare fund" e.g. "Birmingham hardship fund" and it should bring up that webpage.

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

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.

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

Updated 7 April 2020

4. Don't have enough to eat

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

The largest network of food banks is run by the Trussell Trust. Each food bank has a slightly different process for getting food but they will usually need you to get a voucher from a local referral partner. Contact your local food bank to see how they can help you. If you are unable to get to the food bank to collect food, speak to the food bank to ask if they have any support in place.

Food banks may also be able to provide essential household items, hygiene products or pet food.  If these are what you need, ask your local food bank what they can help with.

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.

There are also many local support groups that will provide support in their area - Search on the Mutual Aid - local group website - . 

Families who usually get free school meals are entitled to supermarket vouchers while schools are closed because of coronavirus. If you aren’t getting these, you should get in touch with your child’s school.

Updated 28 April 2020


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. The mortgage holiday scheme has come to an end, but you should be offered tailored support. 

Updated 30 October 2020

6. Need local support

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. They exist merely to provide resources that will help people.

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 4 May 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

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.

Updated 7 April 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


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