Thousands will get free cash or vouchers from £500m scheme to help with bills – how to apply

STRUGGLING families will be able to get free cash and vouchers through a new fund as energy prices and the cost of living soar.

The government has made a new pot of cash available to local councils worth £500m, to help cover the cost of bills, food and other essentials.

The Household Support Fund was first launched last year and has given out supermarket vouchers and free cash to help with bills, among other support.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his Spring Statement extra cash for the scheme so it can continue.

It comes as millions of people face paying more for bills from April, including energy bills as the price cap has shot up 54%.

The new £500m pot of cash will be distributed according to the size, population and needs of each area.

read more on bill help

Cheapest time to run your washing machine to cut your energy bills

Martin Lewis reveals why you shouldn’t ditch your energy direct debit

Each local authority then dishes out the money to those who need it locally.

There will be £12.8m given out in Birmingham – the largest amount of any area – followed by £11m for Kent and £9.7million in Lancashire.

Posh areas like Windsor and Richmond will be allocated less than £1m each while Tower Hamlets, the most deprived area in London, will get £3m of funding.

Cash through the Household Support Fund will go to local authorities from April onwards.

Most read in Money

UK’S BEST BOSS

I’ve given my staff £750 each to help pay their bills – I'm happy to help

MIND THE GAP

Thousands WON'T get £150 council tax rebate due to four gaps in rules

EXTRA HELP

Major energy firm is giving away FREE electric blankets to customers

EXTRA HELP

Major change coming TODAY means thousands more will get fast-tracked benefits

The previous £500m through the fund was given out up to the end of March, though many areas closed the scheme before this due to high demand.

Anyone who needs help with bills, food or other household essentials, not just those in Universal Credit, will need to apply directly for the help

You can find your local council using this tool and searching you postcode.

If information about the scheme is not yet listed on your local authority's website, you can call or email for more information.

Each area will have a different way to access the money, like with the previous cash, and a scheme before that known as the Winter Covid Support Grant.

For instance, thousands of families were able to claim up to £275 free supermarket vouchers for food and essentials including from Tesco and Asda, in North Yorkshire.

And in Birmingham residents were able to get up to £200 cash, and residents of West Northamptonshire were offered help with their energy bills worth up to £120.

The amount you can get will depend on where you are, and your circumstances.

The cash has been made available for council to hand out locally according to needs of people in the area.

The help comes as millions of Brits face paying more for a host of bills, like energy, council tax and water.

Workers will pay more National Insurance contributions (NICs) from April too after the government confirmed it will go ahead with a 1.25 percentage point rise to rates.

But come July and many will see their tax cut, after Mr Sunak said he will increase the threshold at which you start paying NICs.

There's other help anyone struggling can get when they're on Universal Credit too.

Council tax help

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 reduction of your bill to a total exemption where you pay no council tax at all – check out our guide.

Around four in five households will this month get a £150 council tax rebate to help with energy bills too.

You can see if you're eligible here and how you'll get the payment.

Energy bill support

Energy companies offer hardship funds, for example you can get £750 from British Gas if you're a customer.

Households on pension credit or low incomes may qualify for the warm home discount scheme worth £140 – but this has now closed until next winter.

Brits on low incomes can get £25 payment when temperatures fall and thousands of payments have already been made.

See if you've got one of the cold weather payments with the postcode checker.

The cold weather payments are made up until March 31.

In October billpayers will also get a £200 discount on their energy bill – but this will have to be repaid over the next five years.

Cheaper internet

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.

Reducing your grocery bills

If you’re pregnant or have a child under the age of four then you may qualify for Healthy Start vouchers to help pay for basic foods such as milk or fruit.

They can be used in shops across the UK and can also be used to buy pregnancy and breastfeeding vitamins, and vitamins for children aged six months to five years old.

You can apply for free school meals for your child if you're claiming certain benefits including Universal Credit.

Some will need to apply through their local authority so that it can ask for extra funding from the government, while other councils will ask you to contact the school directly.

Type in your postcode on the government website and you'll be redirected to your local council's website to apply.

Debt advisers shared their eight money saving secrets with us – including cutting grocery bills.

Using food waste apps could cut hundreds off your bill.

If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free.

You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

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 for DHP through your local council by downloading an application form from their website or phoning them.

Check out how to find your local council here.

If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord.

You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.

Support looking for work

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.

Read More on The Sun

William and Kate want to move to Windsor this summer to be nearer the Queen

Russia ‘worse than ISIS’ after executing more than 400 in ‘genocide’

There is no set amount you claim as the payment will depend on individual circumstances.

You could get a one-off payment worth up to £812 – but you'll need to pay it back.

We pay for your stories!

Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team?

Email us at [email protected]

    Source: Read Full Article