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About charitable funds and grants

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.

1. What is a charitable fund?

Charitable funds give grants to people in financial need who meet their eligibility criteria, using a sum of money that the grant-giving charity has set aside for this purpose.

They are generally run by charities or organisations (such as energy companies) that have grant giving as part of their aims and objectives.

Although some grant-giving charities have only one fund, others run more than one fund that give money for different purposes.

Some charitable funds also provide other kinds of support and services to the people who they help.

2. What help do charitable funds give?

Each charitable fund is very individual in the way that it works and the types of support it gives. Although the financial help offered is usually through grants, many funds also have other services.

Grants

Charitable funds often give financial help to people in need who qualify for their help in the form of a grant. This may be a sum of money, given as a gift or award, so it doesn't have to be paid back.

Grants can be given as money, products or services.

Grants may involve:

  • Regular amounts of money to help you with your bills and other living expenses. This may be given for a limited time while you are experiencing difficult life changes, such as bereavement or job loss. It may also be granted as ‘on-going’ support, for example if you have had to retire from work for medical reasons, are on a low income and need help to pay your bills or to buy essentials such as food and clothing.
  • One-off grants (sometimes called specific gifts) to help you pay for an essential item you need. This is often given as money. However, some grant-giving charities buy certain items, such as white goods, furniture, telephones and televisions, on behalf of their beneficiaries – especially if they can get a better price because they are a charity or through buying in bulk. Equipment to help someone who has a disability may also be bought by grant-giving charities and given as a loan (free of charge or at a low rental cost) rather than as a gift.
  • Educational awards to help with the costs of educational and training courses. For example, to help children who require extra help because they have disabilities/special needs or who might miss out on educational opportunities because their family is on a low income. This type of grant might also be given to adults on low incomes who want to improve their job prospects or who are studying a particular subject, such as engineering.
  • Vouchers or an amount paid in credit to a shop to allow you to obtain specific items you need, such as food or clothing.
  • Help with house repairs, adaptations and decorating.

What other support might charitable funds give to the people they support?

Other services that a charitable fund might offer to the people they support - that they run themselves or work with other organisations to provide - include:

  • Career coaching and other employment services to help people who have been made redundant find another job

  • Financial advice and debt counselling

  • Housing services

  • Information and guidance on managing money and aspects of daily living as well as links to other sources of help

  • Illness/disability/mental health support, such as counselling.

  • Carer support

  • Holidays

  • Respite care

  • Care homes

  • Befriending, regular visits and other social activities.

Working with other charitable funds or organisations

Many charitable funds work with other charities and organisations to help the people that they support.

If the financial support you need exceeds the limits of a particular charitable fund, they may agree to give you part of the cost. You may be able to find the rest from another organisation that you have a connection to.

For instance, if you have a disability and have worked in a particular type of job, you may be able to get help from a relevant disability charitable fund as well as one for people who have worked in your occupation or industry.

 

 

 

3. Emergency help and charitable funds

People in need often contact Turn2us because they need emergency financial help.

Some charitable funds give help in an emergency or crisis

What is defined as an emergency will depend on the charitable fund's definition. However, this might include:

  • Homelessness because of fire, flood or family breakdown
  • Help with respite care costs for an older or disabled person because a carer has to go into hospital
  • Repair or replacement of a vital item of household goods, such as a washing machine, if the person who needed it was disabled or aged and would be at risk without it
  • Vital living costs that you cannot pay because of a sudden job loss or bereavement.

Most charities will handle requests for emergency help on an individual basis. However, most charities are unlikely to be able to give immediate (same day help). Where they do give emergency help, this will usually take at least a day and often several days to organise.

The emergency help may be given as a grant or a loan (usually on an interest-free basis and paid back at a rate that you can afford).

If you need emergency help

If you need emergency help, use our Grants Search to find charitable funds that you have a connection with. You can then contact them to find out what urgent support they might be able to offer you.

Help from the local council and other emergency help

If you are on a low income and in receipt of benefits, help might be available to you through your local council.

See our Emergency Assistance guide for more information on what is available.

4. 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. However, in most cases they will assist people in financial need/low incomes who:

  • Have particular disabilities or illnesses - for example, Macmillan Cancer Support helps people affected by cancer

  • Worked or previously worked in specific jobs or industries - for example, the Bank Workers Charity helps people who have worked in banks

  • Belong to a particular faith group - for example, there are several Jewish and Christian charities listed on the Grants Search

  • Nationalities - for example, the Netherlands Benevolent Society helps Dutch nationals in need who are living in the UK

  • Living in a particular area of the UK, such as a village, town, city, local council area, county, parish (past or present)

  • 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 dependants of people their fund supports – e.g. their partners, dependent children, widows/widowers. Sometimes, they also help ex-partners of someone who meets their eligibility criteria depending on the circumstances.

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.

Most charities will set income and savings levels that an individual or family have to be at or below in order to receive their help. This will often be based on Minimum Income Standards which uses detailed research with groups of members of the public specifying what items need to be included in a minimum household budget.  The results show how much households need in a weekly budget and how much they need to earn in order to achieve the minimum income standard.

The research organisation Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published Minimum Income Standard updates every year since 2008. The University of Loughbrough who does the research for JRF has more information about Minimum Income Standard and how they work on its website.

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.

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, stressful family situations or they are struggling to manage on a low income.

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.

5. Benefits and charitable grants

What is the difference between a 'benefit' and a 'grant'?

Benefits

Benefits (and Tax Credits) are payments made by the Government to people in certain circumstances, for instance if they are:

  • On a low income

  • Are expecting or bringing up a child

  • Are pregnant

  • Have an illness, disability or injury

  • Are caring for someone

  • Are an older person

  • Have been bereaved.

You can be entitled to particular benefits, if you meet the qualifying rules.

See Your Situation for details of what is available to people in different circumstances.

Grants

Grants are sums of money that charitable funds give for specific purposes to people in need who qualify for their help. They are given as a gift or award, so they don’t need to be paid back.

You do not have an entitlement to a grant, even if you meet the qualifying rules of the charitable fund. They are given at the discretion of each charitable fund.

See About charitable funds for more information about grants

Please note: The Government and other funding bodies also often give grants to people or organisations to pay for particular projects or services.

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

You don't have to be getting benefits to qualify for a grant.

Most charities would not give a grant where statutory help was available in the form of benefits or for items that there is a legal requirement on statutory services, such as your local council, to fund.

Many charities will ask you about any benefits you are receiving as part of the application process and may ask you to check what you might be eligible for if you aren't already claiming any. You can do this using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator

For example, the Elizabeth Finn Fund online application form asks about benefits on the first page of its individual's application form. (See Screengrab below.)

Screengrab of the Elizabeth Finn Fund application form first page

If you use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator to check your benefits and you are asked by a charitable fund for the calculation reference, you will find this on the results page above the benefits entitlement estimate (see Screengrab below).

Screengrab of Turn2us Benefits Calculation results page

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.

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 Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and are involved in a trade dispute.

Irregular charitable or voluntary payments

Irregular charitable payments count as capital rather than income.  However, if you are involved in a trade dispute, they can count as income for Income Support (IS) or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (iJSA).

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.