Grant grabbing

Free income-support grants to boost your income

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, this guide takes you through what you might be able to get. 

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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, it's almost always completely free.

Many grants tend to be for specific suppliers – so always double-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.

The top income support grants

Both Government and hundreds of small charities offer grants for all kinds of help for individuals on a low income. Some are open to all, while others are only available to certain groups of people. 

Below is a select list to give you a taste of what you could apply for. For more comprehensive lists do a free grant search, and consider alternative ways of boosting your income

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 to find out its procedure.

Budgeting loans and advances for those on benefits

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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.

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.

Help with 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. 

Water

Water UK's 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.

Energy

As energy bills are such a big issue right now, we've now got a dedicated guide for help if you're struggling to pay your bills

Help buying white goods

Some charities give grants for white goods – large household items such as cookers and fridges – to families in financial hardship, though you may need to meet other eligibility criteria, too.

Turn2Us'grants checker can help you find local charities and grants, while The Reuse Network can locate your nearest charity or furniture project that offers second-hand white goods.

Alternatively, you can google the name of your area and white goods (for example, "Barnet white goods") to get more info on locally available help. Many councils offer local welfare assistance schemes, but you may need to be claiming specific benefits to qualify. 

You can also find free white goods on sites like Freecycle and Freegle, but bear in mind you'll often need to collect them yourself. 

Help with home improvements

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 about 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 CymruCare & Repair Scotland or Radius Housing in NI).

Separately, Age UK also offer handyperson services at many of their local branches. See if your local Age UK offers this or call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 6565.

Alternatively, the Turn2us and Lightning Reach portals can help you check for charities that might be able to help with improvements such as furniture, decorating or bills and household expenses. The grants usually depend on your individual circumstances, such as illness, nationality, occupation, age or income – see above for more on Turn2us.

Living with a disability

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Small charity The 3H Foundation has a grant scheme to help people with disabilities and carers to have holidays and short respite breaks. Carers are able to apply for a carer grant enabling them to have a period of respite away without their cared for.  

Families with disabled children

If you've a child with a disability (17 or under) who lives at home and you receive certain benefits (such as, income support or universal credit), the Family Fund has grants to help make life easier. These can be used on things such as washing machines, computers and holidays.

Grants to help you into the creative arts

If you live in England and want to work as an artist, the Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants gives National Lottery grants throughout the year to help artists carry out their work, including writers, actors and musicians.

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.

Under 19?

The Christine Brown Trust provides funding to under-19s in the UK who are budding musicians but come 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.

Recently had a child, or expecting?

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If you're on certain benefits (universal credit, income support, income-based JSA, income-based ESA, tax credits, pension credit), the Sure Start Maternity Grant could give £500, or £642 in Scotland, 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 six months after the birth.

If you're pregnant or have a child under four years old, you can also take part in the Healthy Start scheme. It provides a prepaid card loaded with £4.25 per week during pregnancy and £8.50 per week in the first year, towards milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk. You can also get vitamin coupons. 

Other financial support to explore

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If you're struggling financially, it's worth looking into other forms of support as well as free grants. Depending on your personal circumstances you could find you're entitled to £100s:

  • Check what benefits you're entitled to. The benefits net spreads much wider than you think. Read the full Benefits Check guide to see if you should make a claim. Once you are entitled to certain benefits this can lead to other grants, although the pot of money is sometimes limited.

  • Social tariffs for broadband. More than 10 broadband providers offer discounted 'social tariffs' for those on universal credit and similar benefits. But the regulator Ofcom says more than four million people eligible for them aren't taking them up, missing out on savings averaging £144/year. Check out Broadband for low income families for full details of what's available.

  • Help with childcare costs. Working parents can boost their budget by huge amounts in the form of free childcare (for three and four years olds), or tax-free childcare (for children under 11). See the Childcare Costs guide for full details and eligibility criteria.

  • Free school meals, and help with uniform and school travel. If you are on means-tested benefits, you may be able to get help with free school meals, school uniform grants and transport. If your child is eligible for free school meals, you'll also be able to access extra support for childcare over the school holidays. See the free school meals guide for how to claim it. 

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