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About charitable funds and grants - Who can apply for help from a charitable fund?

In this section, you can learn more about how charitable funds work and the support, including grants, that they give to people in financial need.

Who can apply for help from a charitable fund?

All charitable funds have:

  • Aims and objectives in their constitutions that must clearly define who they support
  • Specific qualifying rules (or eligibility criteria) that an individual has to meet in order to get help from them.

Each charitable fund's qualifying rules (eligibility criteria) will be specific to them, but in most cases they will assist people who are struggling to survive on a low income or experiencing financial hardship and have something in common, such as:

  • Particular disabilities or illnesses
  • Jobs or industries that a person is currently or was previously working in
  • Faiths
  • Nationalities
  • Living in a particular area of the UK
  • Trying to manage on a low income
  • A specific age group, e.g. ‘older people’ or ‘children and ‘young people aged under 18’.

Many funds also help the dependents of people their fund supports – e.g. their partners, ex-partners or children.

How is financial need (hardship) defined?

Although you usually have to be in financial need (hardship) to qualify for a grant, this does not mean you have to be destitute.

Most charitable funds would follow the guidelines of the Charity Commission (England and Wales) or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that you are in financial need if you do not have ‘access to the normal things of life that most people take for granted’, such as adequate housing, heating, food and clothing.

Why do people experience financial hardship?

The reasons why people experience financial hardship are complex.

Stressful life situations, such as bereavement, job loss, family breakdown, ill health, disability and caring for someone, are often significant factors, especially if these changes mean someone is no longer able to work. The mounting costs of living and the effects of the UK’s current economic situation have also had enormous effects on personal finances, causing many people to struggle to make ends meet.

Do I have to be getting benefits to qualify for a grant?

Although many people who qualify for grants will be getting welfare benefits, you do not have to be getting them to qualify for a grant.

Most charities would not consider an application for a grant where statutory help was available in the form of benefits or for items that there is a legal requirement on statutory services to fund.

Many charities will ask you about any benefits you are receiving as part of the application process.  They may also ask you to check whether you are entitled to benefits if you aren't already claiming any. You can do this using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator.

Will my benefits be affected if I get a grant from a charity?

Regular payments

If charitable payments are made or due to be made regularly then the payments are disregarded as income and do not reduce your benefits.

However if  you are on Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and are involved in a trade dispute then these payments will usually count as income. 

Goods (payments in kind)

If you get goods instead (payments in kind), then this is ignored as income unless you are getting Income Support or income-based JSA and is involved in a trade dispute.

Irregular charitable or voluntary payments

Charitable or voluntary payments that are made irregularly and are intended to be made irregularly are treated as capital under the benefits system and can have an impact on your benefits.

If an irregular payment is provided to a beneficiary and the payment takes your capital above the higher capital limit of £16,000, you will lose your entitlement to means-tested benefits, with the exception of Guarantee Pension Credit (GPC) which has no higher capital limit. If you are receiving GPC, no capital limit would apply to Housing Benefit also.

Whether it is counted as income for tax credits depends on whether the charitable income is taxable. You should inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) who would be able to confirm.

You should get advice from a benefits expert on this subject.  You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local expert.

Can I get a grant if I am working?

You do not have to be out of work to qualify for a grant. Charitable funds also help individuals who do not qualify for welfare benefits or who are working if they need support because of life changes or stressful family situations.

Can I apply to the same fund more than once?

If you receive help from a charitable fund and need further support at a later date, you may be able to apply to the same organisation more than once – it depends on their rules.

For instance, if you qualify for a regular grant from an organisation, they may also be willing to help with a one-off grant to buy a particular piece of equipment or furniture you need.

However, most charitable funds will only give one-off grants to a particular individual once a year.

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