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Grant Grabbing Free money if you're on a low income

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If you're struggling on a low income, there's a lot more cash out there to help than you may think. Charities, the Government and even companies often have funds which are available to help, especially if you've got children.

Millions of pounds' worth of these grants, loans and tax credits go unclaimed, so the aim of this guide is to take you through them and see if there's any help available to you.

What is a grant?

A grant is money, or a voucher, that contributes towards the cost of you buying something. Although it may not cover the full cost of the item, meaning you'll have to cough up the rest yourself, it's almost always completely free.

Grants are usually offered to encourage people to do or buy something they wouldn't normally consider.

Most tend to be for specific suppliers, which can mean even after the grant, it isn't necessarily the cheapest place - so always check if you can get it cheaper somewhere else. See the Online Shopping guide and look for ideas, or ask your own question on the Benefits and Tax Credits forum.

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Top 'Low Income' Grants

Both Government grants and hundreds from small charities are available for individuals on a low income for all kinds of help. Sometimes they are open to all, but randomly, sometimes they are only available to a certain group of people and can even depend on your surname or where you live.

Check the following to see if you are eligible for help with costs or increase your income ...

Do a charity grant search

money jar

Hundreds of small charities give grants to individuals, from one-off sums to help with things such as furniture, decorating or ways to improve quality of life (eg, holidays or training) to regular amounts to help cover bills and household expenses.

The grants usually depend on an individual's circumstances, maybe any illnesses they have or their nationality, occupation, age or income.

Charity-run website Turn2us has an easy-to-use grant search which tells you how to contact any suitable charities directly, or you can register for a free account to send online enquiries and applications to charities through the site. Here are some grant success stories to give you some inspiration:

I got all sorts of different grants to enable my daughter to study ballet from the age of 11 - 18 years, although it took time to trawl through all the grants.


I have a disabled son and have had a £500 grant to be used on a Haven holiday. The holiday was £400 and they let me convert the rest of the money into family fund vouchers to spend on the park, including meals out and swimming activities.


Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Anyone
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Varies but inc. things such as household essentials, clothes and medical help.

Claiming Jobseeker's Allowance?

tool boxEach Jobcentre Plus has a little-known 'Flexible Support Fund' to help support jobseekers looking for work.

Each centre decides how to use their fund which can include things such as cost of transport, childcare, work clothes, tools and more (during the job search or to enable you to accept an offer of employment) if an adviser believes it'll make the transition into work easier. Ask your local office if it provides any help.

The cash can be requested for any reasonable expense, yet no one has a right to the money - it's completely at the discretion of each adviser, who will look for specific needs. If you think it'll help you, speak to an adviser at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Those on benefits looking for work
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Help cover the costs of looking for or going back to work

Want to work in the arts?

maskIf you live in England and want to work as an artist, the Arts Council gives National Lottery grants throughout the year to help artists carry out their work, including writers, presenters and producers.

If you are more musically minded, Making Music aims to help young professional musicians at the beginning of their careers by giving bursaries and prizes in both the voluntary and professional sector.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Musicians and artists
  • What's the maximum award?Varies
  • What does it cover? Help to build a career in arts or music

Holidays for disabled people

deckchairSmall charity 3H Fund has a grant scheme to help disabled adults and children (whether physically or mentally disabled), on a low income, along with their families and carers, to take a short break in the UK. Maximum awards vary.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Households with a disabled adult or child
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Short breaks in the UK

Home improvement grants

If you're elderly, disabled or on a low income your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA) may help you to repair, improve, maintain or adapt your home.

There are around 200 not-for-profit, locally-based HIAs around the country that can help in varying ways. Assistance can include putting together flat-pack furniture or looking after your garden.

Search for your nearest on Foundations in England (or Care and Repair Cymru, Care & Repair Scotland or Fold Housing Association in NI).

Alternatively, the Turn2us grant search can help you check for charities that might be able to help with things such as furniture, decorating or bills and household expenses. The grants usually depend on an individual's circumstances, any illnesses or their nationality, occupation, age or income - see above for more on Turn2us.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? The elderly, disabled or those on a low income
  • What's the maximum award? n/a
  • What does it cover? Odd jobs around the house

Free cash to help pay for utility arrears

As well as grants to make your home more energy-efficient, some utility companies also offer help if you have large arrears on your gas, electricity or water bills. Please let us know if you have success with any of these schemes.

Energy

Three providers offer an Energy Trust scheme for their account holders in hardship, to help cover energy arrears and sometimes other essential household items.

Essential items are covered by Further Assistance Payments and can include white goods, boiler repairs or funeral costs. Those who live in a home supplied by the provider, but are not account holders, can apply for the Further Assistance Payments only.

You need to complete a full income and expenditure budget sheet along with proof of your income, give details on how your arrears have built up, eg, due to illness or redundancy, and say how the grant will help you. It can take several weeks to process your claim but can give £1,000+ in support.

Links: British Gas Energy Trust /EDF Energy Trust / Npower Energy Fund

For other providers or general advice, Homeheat is a not-for-profit phone line that gives advice on grants (both for energy arrears and insulation), benefits, reduced tariffs, special payment options and energy saving tips to people struggling to pay their bills and keep warm. You can call 0800 33 66 99 or check the Homeheat website for info.

Also see the Housing and Energy Grants guide for discounts and grants to help you pay for heating, and the Free Insulation and Boilers guide to see if you qualify for help making energy efficient home improvements.

Water

Water UK website has info on all the water company schemes. Help from all providers includes WaterSure (see below), referrals to hardship funds and help in applying for direct payment from benefits (Water Direct).

If you're on a meter and a means-tested benefit, and either have three or more children under 19, or someone in the household with a medical condition needing lots of water, you could get help from the WaterSure scheme which caps your bills at the average for your area.

Some providers also offer other special tariffs and/or New Start/Restart (name depends on where you live), a scheme that can match payments or write off some of your debt if you enter an arrears payment plan.

Also see the Cut Water Bills guide.

Phone

Some means-tested benefits recipients (eg income support, iESA, iJSA and pension credit) can get BT's special basic tariff for £15.30/quarter (rather than per month).

The package includes £4.50 worth of calls to landlines and free weekend calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers up to 60 minutes. However, normal landline calls are costly (11.3p a minute, plus 3.3p set up fee for each phone call).

The tariff lets you make and receive calls as well as stopping certain calls being made, eg, mobile or Premium Rate numbers. You can also call to check your bill amount at any time, or check online, helping to keep costs down and budget for your bills.

Also see the Cheap Home Phones guide.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Anyone with utility arrears, usually a customer of the grant provider
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Repayment of arrears and some household items

You may be entitled to benefits

While this one isn't a grant, it's still well worth checking. The benefits net spreads much wider than you think. In rare circumstances households with income in 2013/14 below £72,000 may be eligible, so read the full Five Minute Benefit Check-Up article to see if you should make a claim.

Once you are entitled to certain benefits (usually Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance or Pension Credit) this can lead to other grants, although the pot of money is sometimes limited. Get more info on these grants from your local Jobcentre or benefits office.thermometer

Cold Weather Payments: These help with gas and electricity costs during cold weather. Cold Weather Payments are different fromWinter Fuel Payments which are made every winter to people over 62 regardless of the temperature. Find out more on Gov.uk.

Mobility Grants: If you are disabled and need a car to get around, the Mobility Scheme from Motability may be able to give financial help for driving lessons or to replace or adapt your car.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Various
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Various but intended to help cover costs for additional support you may need

Reclaim & complain

calculatorWhile not grants, if you're looking for money it's worth checking out the Council Tax, Bank Charges, Mortgage Fees,Packaged Bank Accounts, CPP, Uniform Tax and Payment Protection Insurance reclaiming articles.

And if you've had bad service from a financial provider read the Financial Rights and Consumer Rights guides.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Anyone
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Problems and complaints with financial services

Government grants

There are a few ways which may be able to provide you with interest-free borrowing rather than getting commercial debt.

  • Local council support schemes: Each local authority is responsible for providing help to its residents struggling with an emergency, such as you or your families' health being at risk, not being able to afford to buy food, needing help to stay in your own home and coming out of care, hospital or prison.

    Sadly this is a postcode lottery, each council can choose whether to offer financial help or not and who is eligible. For example, some may give furniture or food grants while others may give cash. Contact your local council or just Google "www.yourarea.gov.uk" to find out its procedure.

  • Budgeting loans and advances: This is a government scheme providing interest-free loans to those on certain income-based benefits if you need essential items for your home or other things that you cannot pay for in a lump sum, such as clothes and furnishings.

    Apply for one at the Jobcentre or via the form on Gov.uk. If you have means to get money any other way (using savings, for example), you won't qualify. Up to £1,500 can be borrowed at one time for each loan and repayments are dependent on what you can afford to pay.

Sadly demand is extremely high at the moment and there isn't a bottomless pot of money, so if the council or Jobcentre decides your circumstances aren't urgent or you're not struggling, you may not get anything. But if you think you qualify and really need the cash, it's definitely worth a shot. Find full info and how to apply in the Debt Help guide.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Depends on loan type, see above.
  • What's the maximum award? Up to £1,500
  • What does it cover? Disasters, emergencies, essentials

Grants for low income families

On top of the grants above, if you have, or are having children, check to see if you're eligible for any of these additional grants.

Recently had a child?

babyIf you're on certain benefits (Income Support, iJSA, iESA, full Child Tax Credit), the Sure Start Maternity Grant could give £500 to help buy clothes and equipment for a new-born baby if it's your first child.

You must apply between 11 weeks before and three months after the birth. Check for the latest info on Gov.uk.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Those on means tested benefits with a newborn child
  • What's the maximum award? £500
  • What does it cover? Anything that will help you look after your child

Kids at primary or secondary school?

school booksIf you are on means-tested benefits or an annual income of less than £16,190 you could get help with school meals, uniforms and transport. Find out more on Gov.uk.

Some local councils help with the cost of school clothing and footwear (around £30 for primary and £80 for secondary school gear) and can provide lunches, milk or fruit and vegetables to your kids while they are at school.

It may also help cover transport costs if you live a certain distance away from the school. Use Gov.uk to find what your local council offers.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Those on a low income or certain benefits with children at school
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Help with the costs of sending your kids to school

Help with childcare

hand painted child

Working parents can boost their budget by huge amounts in the form of Childcare Tax Credits and free classes (for three and four years olds or all ages during the school holidays).

The average payout for Childcare Tax Credits is around £60/week, that's £3,000/year. Many families are missing out on £1,000s of cash through not claiming.

See the Childcare Costs guide for full details and eligibility criteria.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Working parents
  • What's the maximum award? Depends on no of kids you have but could be £3,000+ per child
  • What does it cover?Childcare costs

Families with disabled children

If you've got a disabled child (17 or under) who lives at home and receive certain benefits (eg, Income Support or Child Tax Credit), the Family Fund has grants to help make life easier. These can be used on things such as washing machines, driving lessons, computers and holidays.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Those with a disabled child
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Anything that will help you look after your child

Music grants for under 19s

fugelhornThe Christine Brown Trust provides funding to under 19s in the UK who are budding musicians but comes from a low-income family, to help towards the cost of learning a musical instrument.

This is aimed at those already at a high level, rather than complete beginners. But money can be used for an instrument, lessons or any other learning costs you may need help to cover.

As a Yorkshire-based charity, priority is given to those who live locally, but you may be accepted if you live elsewhere.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Under 19s learning a musical instrument
  • What's the maximum award? Varies
  • What does it cover? Help towards musical study costs

Check for tax credits

This one isn't a grant, but it's well worth checking if you're eligible. Tax credits are simply a payout made regularly into your bank account from the state to support those with children or in work, but with a low income.

The credits are paid via the tax office, and anyone aged over 16 who normally lives in the UK can apply to get them (though income limits apply). Many people are eligible for £1,000s - see the Tax Credits guide for full details on how to check your eligibility.

Quick Stats:

  • Who can apply? Anyone
  • What's the maximum award? Varies but often £1,000s
  • What does it cover? Looking after a family or topping up a low income

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