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Emergency assistance

Find out what emergency assistance may be available to you from benefits, grants and other sources of help.

Woman wading through flood water


Short Term Benefit Advance

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

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

Social Fund

The Government’s Social Fund scheme provides support to people at times of exceptional need. The scheme is made up of different types of payments and loans to help people with emergency expenses that are difficult to meet on a low income.

There are several different types of Social Fund payments. For some, you can claim them as long as you meet the criteria, for others, payment is not guaranteed even if you are eligible to make a claim. With most, you have to be receiving certain benefits to qualify.

Social Fund payments include:

Local Welfare Assistance

If you are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits, help in an emergency may be available through Local Welfare Assistance which is administered by local authorities in England and the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


Some local authorities have set up their own local welfare assistance schemes.

The Children's Society and Child Poverty Action Group have created postcode look up services to take you to the relevant information about the local welfare assistance scheme in your area if one exists.

Use the Children's Society's map tool to find your local scheme

Use Child Poverty Action Group's 'Find your Local Scheme' tool

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland still has Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans because the Welfare Reform Bill for Northern Ireland is yet to become law.

See the NI Direct website for further details about emergency assistance for Northern Ireland.


Scotland has set up the Scottish Welfare Fund


Wales has set up the Discretionary Assistance Fund

Free Food and other Emergency Help

Your  local council, Citizens Advice or another local charity may also know about what other help may be available in your area. This could include things like:

  • Soup kitchens
  • Places to go for breakfast or a hot meal
  • Emergency breakfast schemes for children
  • Sources of second-hand furniture or household appliances.

If you are ill, injured, have a disability or are a carer and you have an emergency, your local council's social services department should be able to advise you further.

Your local council should also be able to advise on issues such as flooding or fire; domestic violence;  or homelessness.

Food banks

Food banks provide emergency boxes of food and offer support for people in a crisis.

Food banks are often run by church or community groups. There are over 300 food banks across the UK.

You will usually have to have a voucher to use a food bank. You then exchange the voucher at the food bank for three days' worth of food. You can get food bank vouchers from local charities, doctors' surgeries, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice and other welfare advice centres.

Some food banks offer a hot meal and advice service when you go to collect your food box. If you live in a rural area and cannot afford to travel to collect your box, some food banks offer a free delivery service.

The Trussell Trust is a charity that runs one of the largest network of food banks in the UK. You can search the Trussell Trust website to see if there is a food bank in your area.


Many charitable funds do provide help in an emergency or crisis. What is defined as an emergency will vary, but might include:

  • Homelessness because of fire, flood or family breakdown

  • Help with respite care costs for someone who is aged, ill or has disabilities, because their carer has to go into hospital

  • Repair or replacement of household goods, such as a washing machine, if the person who needs it would be at risk without it

  • Vital living costs that can't be paid because of a sudden bereavement, illness or job loss.

The assistance available depends on the charity's eligibility rules and what emergency help they give.

If you need emergency help, please use the Turn2us Grants Search to find charitable funds that you could apply for. You can then contact them to find out what emergency assistance they can offer you.

Advice and Support


Mental health

UK emergencies, such as flooding

Date of publication: 24 August 2015