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You can investigate what is available locally, as well as using the resources below.
If people are struggling or in a crisis situation, Citizens Advice are often the best people to talk to first. They can help with legal problems, debt, consumer issues, housing, money, benefits and more.
The Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, offers extensive advice on all things money-related. He has also put together a selection of cost-of-living crisis advice.
Citizens Advice have guidance about getting help with the cost of living. Use their Help to Claim service to check whether people are receiving all the benefits they’re entitled to. In Reading, Communicare can also assist.
Get help talking about money from Money Helper. The Money Helper service offers free, impartial help, and offers a free budget planner.
Turn2us provide help with benefits, searching for grants (which don’t need to be paid back, and will support those with No Recourse to Public Funds, and accessing support services). Turn2us Benefits Calculator can help the millions of people missing out on getting the benefits they’re entitled to.
Help for Households' advice from the government outlines the benefits and support available.
CAP Money Course is a free course that teaches budgeting skills, and a simple system to manage your money. In a few weeks, attendees get to grips with their finances so they can budget, save and, in many cases, prevent debt.
Jobcentre Plus will support people with creating a new benefit claim or look at their existing benefit claims. Find your local Jobcentre Plus office.
Yorkshire Building Society says that around one in five adults have less than £100 in savings. They don’t have an emergency fund to fall back on in a crisis (e.g. a broken boiler or car repairs, or a surprise redundancy). Whilst some people are on such tight budgets that saving is simply impossible, others could look at slowly building up savings to prepare for unexpected costs.
Help to Save is a type of savings account if you’re on a low income, and gives the account owner 50p for every £1 saved over four years. The most you can pay into your account each calendar month is £50, which is £2,400 over four years. The most you can earn from your savings in four years is £1,200 in bonus money.
These co-operatives provide affordable access to loans and other financial services to people sharing common bonds. The mission of “people helping people” has been paramount since the start of credit unions.
As they are not-for-profit organisations, members benefit from higher returns on savings, lower preferential rates on loans and no hidden fees. Credit Unions work by using the regular savings of members to fund loans to other members when necessary.
Find your local credit union (Credit Unions are not yet widespread; it is hoped more people will set them up.)
Loan sharks are illegal money lenders, often charging very high interest loans. Typical characteristics of loan sharks are no credit agreements, no receipts or payment books, payments often made in cash, violence and/or intimidation.
If someone has borrowed money from a loan shark they are not in trouble. They are likely to be under no legal obligation to repay the debt.
The Illegal Money Lending team (Stop Loan Sharks) investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders and provides emotional and practical support to victims in the UK. Report a loan shark and seek support for a victim.
Debt Advice Locator, from Money Helper.
Debt help plan, from Money Saving Expert.
Citizens Advice provide a debt and consumer advice service.
Step Change Debt is a debt help service, including an online debt advice tool for creating a budget and getting a personal plan with practical next steps.
National Debtline provides free advice and resources for those dealing with debt.
CAP debt help offers help and support to become debt-free, and is linked to a network of UK churches.
Jobcentre Plus advisers provide help and advice for those who are unemployed and looking for work, e.g. how to look for a job vacancy most suited to your skills, putting together a CV, and writing a covering letter.
Use the government’s find a job service, or other online job sites such as Indeed, Reed, Monster, LinkedIn jobs to search for jobs.
National Careers Service provides information, advice and guidance on learning, training and work at all stages of careers.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) have a Job Club.
The Money Saving Expert says that as many as half a million employees don't realise they've been underpaid – as their pay may not cover all the time classed as working, or they have to buy items to do their job. If so, folk may be due £100s or £1,000s back. Read what to look for in their National minimum wage guide.
The National Minimum Wage calculator may also be useful.
If someone is struggling to afford their gas and electricity bills, they should contact their supplier to help come up with a solution that works for both parties – advice on this is available from Citizens Advice. People can ask their energy provider about hardship funds if they are unable to pay their energy bills, or will be unable to in the near future.
Advice on grants and benefits from Citizens Advice to help pay energy bills.
National Energy Action provides help to those who can’t afford to heat their homes, through a range of advice and support, directly to those in need and via frontline workers.
Find ways to save energy in your home.
Better Housing Better Health is a service helping Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire residents to stay warm and well in their homes by providing free tailored energy solutions.
Advice on what to do if you’ve been told your energy supply will be disconnected.
LEAP supports people to stay warm in their homes and reduce energy bills without costing them any money. They can check energy tariffs, sort out problems with energy suppliers, and install simple and free energy saving devices.
Citizens Advice can refer people on a prepay meters to Fuel Bank Foundation to get a £49 fuel voucher for gas and/or electricity (which doesn’t need to be paid back).
Charis Grants has more information on available grants and how to apply if someone needs help paying off their energy bill debts.
CCW’s advice hub will help you reduce your bills or access financial support.
Thames Water offer financial support if people are struggling to pay their bill or concerned they might struggle in the future, and can help to clear previous water bills debt for those who qualify.
Compare petrol, diesel, and fuel prices to find the cheapest local provider.
Find your local food bank. This search function only includes those registered with Trussell Trust. Most food banks require a referral from an organisation, such as a charity, school, children’s centre, or Citizens Advice. Some churches can also give referrals.
This map of food services is helpful for those in Oxfordshire.
Your Local Pantry is a membership food and neighbourhood club.
SOFEA Community Larders redistribute surplus food (mostly sourced from FareShare).
Free school meals are available to pupils in England if their parents claim certain benefits.
National School Breakfast Programme.
Cooking on a Bootstrap provides free recipes (all costed to the penny) and tips from Jack Monroe (former foodbank user, cook, and anti-poverty campaigner).
Eat Not Spend provides recipes from a family’s £1/day food challenges.
Jamie Oliver has a selection of budget friendly recipes, including his '£1 wonders'
Buy pre-loaded supermarket cards to give to those who need them.
A Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) is money from your council to help if someone already receiving Universal Credit Housing Element or Housing Benefit is struggling to pay their full rent or does not have enough money for a deposit or rent in advance. For more information, see Shelter’s advice.
Advise people to book an appointment with Citizens Advice to discuss housing. In Reading, Communicare offers housing advice.
Furniture, white goods, essentials, etc
End Furniture Poverty directs charities and organisations to those with a low income who are unable to afford furniture and white goods (including Local Welfare Schemes, charitable grants, preloved furniture, budgeting loan/advance payments).
Acts365 is an online giving charity directly connecting those in need of help through local churches and charities. Funds are raised for furniture, white goods and the cost of counselling.
Baby Basics provide essentials, such as clothing, toiletries, and baby equipment, to families unable to purchase them themselves. They work with midwives, health visitors and other professionals to provide support directly where it is most needed.
If someone is on a low income or claiming benefits, they may be able to get a Council Tax reduction under certain circumstances and their bill could be reduced by up to 100%. Find out more and apply.
There are other scenarios where people can apply for a council tax discount, such as those who are single-adult households, students, disabled, or where there are empty properties. Councils may also issue a discretionary discount to someone experiencing hardship. Apply for a council tax discount.
Child Trust Funds
If someone was born in the UK between 2 January 2011 and 1 September 2002, they will have a Child Trust Fund – money put into a personal account by the government which could now be worth up to £1,000. When they turn 16, they can take control of the account, and access it at 18.
If a parent or guardian/carer knows which account provider it's with, then no action is needed. But if they don't, The Share Foundation can help locate a Child Trust Fund.
Mental health support
The first place to seek mental health support is through a GP. They can direct people to other NHS services including therapy and counselling (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies – IAPT).
Mind provides advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. See Mind’s A-Z. Their Mental Health page is a good place to look for specific advice and information.
Search for a grant from a charity on the Turn2Us website.
Does your church have a hardship fund? Contact Generous Giving Adviser, Joshua Townson, to discuss how to set up a hardship fund.
Local Council Welfare Support Schemes
Short-term or one-off support is often offered by local councils in an emergency or crisis, and often called hardship funds or household support grants. These can include a referral to a local foodbank, or the cost of utilities, essential clothing, essential appliances/white goods, essential furniture.
- Bracknell Forest Council
- Buckingham Council
- The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
- Milton Keynes Council
- Oxford City Council
- Reading Borough Council
- Slough Borough Council
- West Berkshire
- Wokingham Borough Council
Other hardship funds
You can ask other organisations whether they have a hardship fund, for example your:
- trade union (if you're a member);
- university, college, or student union;
No Recourse to Public Funds (NRFP)
Section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 states that a person will have “no recourse to public funds” if they are subject to immigration control. They therefore have no entitlement to most welfare benefits, allowances and tax credits.
Those subject to immigration control include asylum seekers, Unaccompanied Asylum Seeing Children (UASC), Care Leavers who are yet to receive a determination of immigration status in their favour; people in the UK on a spousal visa, student visa, visitor visa, or who have limited leave granted under family or private life rules; a visa over-stayer.
However, NRPF individuals can be eligible for assistance from local authorities for a range of services including education and social care, and with a responsibility to provide subsistence and accommodation.
For information on NRPF rights and entitlements see the NRPF Network’s website.
Financial hardship increases the chances of domestic violence. The majority of cases are by male perpetrators, against their female partners/ex-partners or family members.
In addition, rising prices are making it harder for survivors of domestic violence to flee their abusers– money available to survivors if they leave is lower, and abusers are using financial hardship as a tool for coercive control (e.g. using this as a justification to restrict access to money or telling survivors they won’t manage financially if they leave).
If you, or someone else, is at immediate risk call 999 for the police.
How to recognise domestic abuse in a relationship.
Call Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline, use their online live chat, or complete a web form.
Women’s Aid offers support to women who think their relationship might not be right or who are experiencing domestic violence, including a chat function, email conversation, survivor’s handbook, and forum.
Contact the Men’s Advice Line (run by Respect), a helpline for male victims of domestic violence.
Galop has an LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Survivors Forum and an AI chatbot which can signpost local/national support services and advice lines, or provide information and guidance.
Restored report that one in four churchgoers have received abuse in a current relationship. They resource churches to never tolerate abuse, and offer some support to domestic abuse survivors.
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