Households on Universal Credit could get cash help this Christmas that won’t need to be paid back.
Many people are struggling to cover the cost of essentials, and the prospect of Christmas may be adding extra stress to household budgets.
Help for those on Universal Credit and other benefits ranges from council tax discounts to supermarket food vouchers.
Here we’ve rounded up all the help you could get this Christmas.
Check your benefit entitlement
Just because you get Universal Credit, it doesn’t mean that’ s all you can get.
Millions of Brits are missing out on benefits they’re entitled to adding up to billions of pounds in total.
Benefit calculators can help you check what you could be entitled to.
For instance you might get extra cash if you’re looking after someone else or for housing costs.
There are several benefit checker tools that you can use.
Get a council tax discount
Council tax is one of the biggest household bills and the most important – if you fall behind you could be asked to pay the entire yearly upfront.
Non-payment can also result in bailiffs visiting your home, court action or even imprisonment.
Paying this bill is a priority so if you’re struggling with it you should seek help straight away.
And you can also find help from charities like Citizens Advice.
Brits struggling can also get council tax debt written off using a little known rule.
Many don’t know that they could get a discount on their council tax bill, or be exempt from paying it altogether.
Reductions are available for those on low-incomes, people claiming certain benefits, those caring for others as well as other circumstances.
The amount your bill is reduced by can range from 25% off to 100% which would mean you pay nothing at all for this bill.
You can check out when you might get a council tax discount in our guide or contact your local council to check what support you can claim and apply.
Around 80% of households will get a £150 council tax rebate to help with the rising cost of living.
You’ll get it if you’re in council tax bands A-D, and a discretionary fund is also available for households not eligible or that need help on top and will give out payments of up to £150 too.
Low-income families may be eligible for charitable grants to cover housing costs.
As grants are typically different to loans, most do not have to be paid back.
Turn2Us has a tool that can help you check out grants available near you on its website.
You’ll need to enter some personal information like your postcode, your gender, and your age.
Household Support Fund
The government has released new funding – worth £421 million – for local councils to dish out to hard-up residents under the Household Support Scheme.
The Household Support Fund previously included vouchers to spend in the supermarket and for buying kids clothes in one area and £100 cash in another.
The help you can get depends on you location and your circumstances.
You can find your local council using this tool and searching your postcode to see what help is available near to you.
Cash for paying rent
There’s cash help for anyone struggling that’s available from your local council through the discretionary housing payment.
Anyone claiming Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit could be eligible if they are struggling with rent costs.
Each local authority dishes out the cash to those in need on a case-by-case basis and the amounts available can vary.
Here’s everything you need to know about who can get the cash and how to claim.
Welfare assistance scheme
Some councils also offer support through the welfare support fund, to help cover the costs of essentials, from buying new furniture to food vouchers. Exactly how much you get and what for will depend on where you live – and not all councils have this help.
Grants are given on a case-by-case basis and there will be a different application process depending on where in the country you live.
You can find out who your local council is by visiting the gov.uk website and get in touch with them about whether help is available in your area.
Cost of living payment
From November 8, vulnerable households across the UK will receive a £324 cost of living cash boost.
The government says it aims to make all payments by November 23.
More than eight million families have already received the first cost of living payment, worth £326, which was sent out from July.
The second payment will automatically be paid into the bank accounts of those eligible.
This means if you are eligible, you will not need to do anything to receive the money.
Those receiving tax credits will be paid shortly after
A £300 one-off “Pensioner Cost of Living Payment” will be paid out to eight million pensioner households.
It will be given to those who already get the Winter Fuel Payment – which is worth between £100 and £300 for those over state pension age.
Water bill help – as much as £600
Some water companies offer bill help if you’re on a low income, or debt write-off schemes if you’re in arrears.
What you can get depends on your water company so you’ll need to contact them directly.
For instance one woman on Universal Credit slashed her bill by £600 a year thanks to a fund from Severn Trent water.
Many water companies also offer free water-saving devices that shave pounds off your bills.
Contact your supplier. Freebies include shower timers and buffalo bags, which save water with every flush. Check out savewatersavemoney.co.uk.
Large families on Universal Credit or other benefits may be eligible for a cap on their bills under the WaterSure scheme.
To qualify for the scheme you need to already have a water meter installed, and prove you need to use a lot of water.
Work from home cash
If you have worked from home even for just one day since the pandemic started, you could get tax back.
It’s worth up to £125 a year for the previous two years and you can make a claim for both if you haven’t already.
Millions of people have still not claimed the cash back but there’s still time to do it.
HMRC has a simple tool you can use to apply