Resources to help people struggling to pay for food, utilities, and housing

On BBC Radio 4 this week, Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth claimed that 250,000 UK households ‘will be pushed into absolute poverty over the next year.’

The shadow secretary of state for work and pensions said that ‘ministers are walking into a tsunami’ amid the cost of living crisis, mirroring Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey’s warning of a ‘very big shock’ due to ‘apocalyptic’ food price rises.

Brits in 2022 face energy bill hikes of up to 700%, a lack of affordable housing, and higher overall outgoings as a result of supply chain issues and global unrest.

Yet wages aren’t keeping up with these rising costs, meaning many of us who were just about managing before will struggle to cope going forward.

And while ministers may spend their time debating how to lessen the impact through policy, it’s scant reassurance for those wondering how they’re going to stay afloat financially.

So what do you do if you’ve cut back as much as you can and still aren’t making ends meet?

The first thing to highlight is that there’s no shame in seeking help – now or ever. We’re all living through extremely difficult times, and organisations that offer support are there to do just that, not to judge or look down on you.

Secondly: even if you’re not sure whether you qualify for help, always check first. There may be benefits you haven’t claimed or schemes you didn’t know you were eligible for, so use the Entitledto calculator or speak to Citizen’s Advice for more information.

For those who are feeling the pinch, we’ve compiled all the most useful support resources to contact if you have no money for food or other essential expenses.

From how to get a referral to a food bank to what to do if you can’t pay your rent, these services will point you in the right direction.

Food

If you have no money for food, you may be able to get help from a food bank.

These community organisations offer free parcels of food to those in need, but service users typically need to be referred to them (rather than simply turning up).

Your best bet is to contact Citizen’s Advice, who will set up an appointment to go through your situation, offer financial help where appropriate, and refer you to a food bank if eligible.

If you can’t get to Citizen’s Advice, call your local council and explain your situation – they should be able to signpost you to a referral. Find your council’s contact details here.

Make sure to also ask about any ‘local welfare assistance schemes’ that may be available. Depending on your authority, you may be able to get fuel or clothing vouchers as well as help with food.

Energy bills

The price of gas and electricity to keep your home warm, heat your water, and cook your food has gone up considerably in recent months.

The government’s £200 ‘energy loan’ will apply to all English, Scottish, and Welsh customers, while a £150 rebate in council tax for those in England (from bands A to D) should be automatically paid out or discounted from your upcoming bills.

If you’re still struggling to manage your utility costs, first contact your suppliers and let them know you’re experiencing hardship. They may be able to offer a payment plan or even forgive outstanding debt – and at the very least you’ve got a record of your communications should you need it later.

Those who are in receipt of certain benefits may be able to pay in instalments through the Fuel Direct Scheme. To set this up, contact your local JobCentre, who will call your supplier (and they must agree) if you qualify.

There may also be grants available to you if you’re in debt with your supplier. These are run by energy companies, but you don’t necessarily need to be a customer to apply. Check out Charis Grants for a number of schemes that can provide assistance.

Those who use a prepayment meter for electricity or gas in their home can ask their supplier for temporary credit, or contact their local council for a fuel voucher.

Rent or mortgage payments

The support available to you will depend on whether or not you’re in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. Those claiming Housing Benefit can apply for a DHP (discretionary housing payment) from their local council if the benefit doesn’t cover their rent.

If you’re a private tenant who doesn’t receive these benefits, Shelter is the best point of contact if you’re behind on rent. They’ll be able to tell you how to approach the issue with your landlord, as well as offering support if you face eviction.

If you’re a homeowner who’s unable to pay your mortgage, you should call your provider as a matter of urgency.

Next, get in touch with Citizen’s Advice. They can help you to claim Support for Mortgage Interest from the government (if you’re eligible) and also talk you through any legal proceedings that may arise if you’re in mortgage arrears.

Other issues

Need support with an issue that’s not covered here?

These helplines offer everything from befriending to signposting, so you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone.

Samaritans

24-hour listening and support for those in need. Call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Refuge

Confidential, non-judgmental information and expert support for victims of domestic violence. Contact 0808 2000 247.

National Debtline

Free and independent debt advice over the phone and online. Call 0808 808 4000 or use their advice tool to be pointed towards the correct service.

Family Lives (formerly known as Parentline)

Emotional support, information, advice, and guidance on any aspect of parenting and family life. Call 0808 800 2222 from England or 08000 28 22 33 from Scotland.

Citizen’s Advice

Support with benefits, debts, immigration, health, and consumer issues. Call 0800 144 8848 from England or 0800 702 2020 from Wales.

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