UNIVERSAL Credit is being cut back, but families worried about cash can find extra help available.
There are discounts, freebies, grants and schemes for those on a low income to help them get by.
Millions of Brits were given £20 a week extra to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic, but the extra cash is only temporary.
The Universal Credit uplift is not being made permanent by the government – despite widespread calls to leave it in place – and will finish at the end of September.
Budgeting Advances – £812
You can get a payment in the form a Budgeting Advances if you need to cover emergency bills such as the cost of replacing broken household items such as a cooker or a fridge.
Or if you need help getting to or staying in work, for example for new clothes or shoes.
A Budgeting Advance is a loan and needs to be paid back. Repayments are taken off your Universal Credit payment each month over a maximum of 24 months.
The smallest amount you can borrow is £100.
You can get up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple and £812 if you have children.
The exact amount you can get depends on whether you can can pay the loan back or have any savings.
Your first £1,000 of savings will be ignored, but the loan amount you are offered will be reduced by £1 for every £1 you have over that amount.
To be eligible for a Budgeting Advance, you need to have been claiming Universal Credit (or other benefits) for at least six months – unless the money is to help you start a new job or keep an existing job, for example buying a train ticket.
You also need to have earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 jointly for couples) in the past six months, and have paid off any previous Budgeting Advances.
Council tax discounts – £1,818
If you’re on Universal Credit or a low income then you may be able to get help paying for your council tax.
You’ll need to apply for this from your local council in England and Wales, which you can find on Gov.uk.
The amount of discount you get depends on your circumstances, your income and who you live with as well as your local council, as they each run different schemes.
The help can range from a discount to a total exemption where you pay no council tax at all.
With the average council tax bill coming in at £1,818 for a band D property, a total exemption or reduction could reduce your outgoings by a lot.
Of course, the exact help you can get will depend on your circumstances and how much your bill is.
You’ll need to provide details of your household income, the number of children you have (if any), and the number of adults and children that you live with.
You will also need to detail which benefits you get and list information on how long you’ve lived in the UK for, so it’s important to have this information to hand when you app ly.
Discount phone and internet – £240
People on Universal Credit can get low cost connections from providers.
BT Home Essentials can save customers who are on Universal Credit and other benefits £240 per year on their bills, the telecoms firm says.
You can get online and make calls for just £15 per month, or £20 a month if you want speedier internet.
There’s also call-only tariff which costs £10 per month.
Equivalent tariffs for those not claiming benefits cost £27.99 for the internet connections and £7 for calls.
Virgin Media also offers a deal for those on Universal Credit called Essential.
It’s priced at £15 per month and offers 15mbps, but does not come with calls and is for existing Virgin customers only.
Other options out there right now are similarly priced, but are not as widely available, including local provider Hyperoptic and KCOM.
Free school meals – £437
If you’re on Universal Credit, your kids may be entitled to free school meals.
Given the average family spends £437 on lunches per child over the course of a school year, if you qualify for free meals that could be a big saving.
Of course the exact amount you can save will depend on your circumstances.
Kids in the first three years of primary school automatically qualify for free lunches.
To apply for free school meals after this age, you need to go through your local council which you can find on the government website.
The majority of them will ask you to fill in an online form.
Depending on your children’s age, some councils will ask you to contact the school directly.
And it depends on the council how quickly you’ll get the perk after applying.
School uniform grant – up to £150
School uniforms can be expensive – and that’s why some local authorities offer struggling parents a grant to cover some of the cost.
You could get up to £150 to put towards your child’s school uniform, but the amount varies depending on which council area you live in.
Families in London boroughs such as Islington and Hackney can get £150 and £100 respectively.
At the bottom of the scale are those in the West Midlands, with Sandwell council giving out £20 for a child in primary school or £25 for secondary year pupils in years 7 to 11.
You can use this government website to work out which local authority you fall under.
You just have to put your postcode into the search bar to find out.
Help in pregnancy – £500
If you are on Universal Credit and are expecting your first baby you can claim a Sure Start maternity grant worth £500.
You’ll qualify for the grant if you’re already claiming benefits and you’re expecting your first child, or expecting twins or triplets and have children already.
This grant can only be claimed by post. To do so you’ll need to print out the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SF100) claim form and follow the instructions.
Cold Weather Payments – £25 per week
Cold Weather Payment are intended to help you with the cost of heating your home during winter.
With bills set to rise this could help cover extra the cost.
Cold Weather Payments are given out when the average temperature in your area is recorded as or is forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
You’ll receive £25 for each period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.
You do not need to apply for this benefit, if you are on Universal Credit you will get it automatically.
Help with rent
If your Universal Credit payment is not enough to cover your rent, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
This will give you extra money if your council decides you need help to meet your housing costs. You don’t need to repay a DHP.
You can use it to cover a rent shortfall, rent deposits, or rent in advance if you need to move house.
You can’t get a payment to help pay your Council Tax, but we’ve outlined ways you could get help on that above.
You’ll have to apply through your local council by downloading an application form from their website or phoning them.
Check out how to find your local council here.
Flexible Support Fund
The Flexible Support Fund is designed to help people claiming unemployment benefits to find a job.
It is offered by local jobcentres by Jobcentre Plus advisers.
The scheme is discretionary and you do not have an automatic right to it if you qualify.
The payment will cover travel expenses to attend an interview and tools and clothing or uniforms required to start work
If you are claiming Universal Credit, you may also be able to get help with the first month of childcare costs from the Flexible Support Fund.
There is no set amount you claim as the payment will depend on individual circumstances.
Get half price bus or rail fares
The Jobcentre Plus travel card is available for free and cuts the cost of travelling on public transport, including buses and trains, by 50%.
In London, they’re accepted by Transport For London (TfL), and here, users can save money by purchasing a seven-day or monthly travel card at a child’s rate.
But the discount card is only available to those who are unemployed and looking for work, and those who claim JSA.
You’re also entitled to one if you’ve been claiming Universal Credit for three to nine months and are aged between 18 and 24.