UNIVERSAL Credit payments sometimes don't stretch far enough to pay the bills, but you may be able get extra discounts to help make the money last longer.
Low income families can benefit from the freebies available too as it’s not just those on Universal Credit who can get the extra help.
Including things like cheap or free bus fares, we’ve put together a round up of schemes those claiming benefits may be entitled to.
Apply for a council tax discount
If you’re on a low income then you may be able to get help paying for your council tax. You’ll need to apply for a scheme that’s run by your local council on Gov.uk.
Depending on the scheme, you may be able to get a discount as a percentage, a set amount or the whole amount.
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 apply.
It's only available to those who live in England and Wales though.
Nab discounted BT broadband
BT offers households on benefits a basic broadband and phone rental package at a low rate.
It comes with a price cap so you can set a specific amount of internet access for web browsing and downloads to help you budget.
It's called BT Basic and is available to you if you’re claiming income support, jobseekers allowance, pension credit, employment support allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit.
You’ll need to be a BT customer to get it – if you’re not an existing customer you can get connected for free.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements– If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA 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.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – 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 Trussel Trust website.
To apply, you’ll need to fill out an application form that you can get by calling the team on 0800 800 864.
It's worth contacting other suppliers to see what they can offer, as there is no harm in shopping around first.
Families who rely on foodbanks can also access free internet and phone services through a new Vodafone scheme that's running now too.
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Check for free school transport
If your child has to get a bus into school everyday then you might be able to get help covering costs.
All children aged between five and 16 qualify for free school transport if they go to their nearest suitable school and live at least two miles away.
Your child can be entitled to the free transport if they are aged 8 to 11 and the school’s at least 2 miles away
Or if they are aged 11 to 16 and the school’s 2 to 6 miles away – as long as there are not three or more suitable schools that are a closer distance away.
They are also eligible if they are aged 11 to 16 and the school’s 2 to 15 miles away – if it’s their nearest school based on religion or belief grounds.
To find out if your child is eligible for help with the cost of getting to school visit Gov.uk.
Up to £500 if you're pregnant
You may be able to get a one off payment worth £500 to help towards the costs of having a child through the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
You don't have to pay it back.
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.
New parents must claim the grant within 11 weeks of the baby's due date or within six months after the baby is born.
To claim, you'll need to print out and fill in the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SF100) claim form.
A health professional such as a doctor or midwife must also sign it before you post it to Freepost DWP SSMG.
Apply for free school meals
You can apply for these for your child if you're claiming certain benefits including Universal Credit, jobseeker's allowance (JSA) and child tax 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.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
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.
You'll need to have been claiming benefits for three to 12 months before getting the card if you're 25 and older.
The cards are supposed to be used to cut the cost of getting to and from job interviews but they can also be used on other journeys.
All train operators in England, Scotland and Wales accept the discount and cards are valid for up to three months.
But just because you're on benefits, it doesn't mean you'll automatically get one – they’re handed out by Jobcentre staff on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the work coaches.
To find out if you qualify for the boost, speak to your work coach at your nearest Jobcentre, which you can find via Gov.uk.
Check if you can get Healthy Start food vouchers
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.
Get up to £150 towards school uniforms
How much you can get in England to help pay for school uniforms varies depending on where you live, but you can get up to £150 in some local authorities.
As a general rule, those on income support, Universal Credit, JSA, child tax credit, ESA, and pension tax credit are entitled to support under Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
You may also be eligible if your annual income is less than £16,190.
To apply, you need to put in your postcode on the Gov.uk website, which will direct you to your council's website where you should search for “uniform grant” in the “Education” section to find out what help is available in your area.
Cut gym membership by up to 73 per cent
Some councils offer a discount on membership cards to local council run leisure centres, tennis courts and swimming pools.
How much depends on your local council.
You'll need to apply for the discount through your local leisure centre – they will also be able to best direct you to how much money-off they can provide specifically.
The exact process varies by district but generally you'll be asked to fill out a form as well as provide proof that you're on benefits.
Get up to £1,200 free if you save
The Help to Save scheme is available to people on tax credits or Universal Credit who work at least 16 hours a week on at least the national living wage.
Under the scheme, you can save between £1 and £50 a month for four years from the date the account is opened – money can be withdrawn at any time but this will affect the size of the bonus.
After two years, savers get a 50% tax-free bonus on the highest balance they’ve achieved.
If they continue saving for another two years, they could receive another 50% tax-free bonus.
So if you saved the maximum of £2,400 over four years, you'd get £1,200.
You can apply for Help to Save via your government gateway account.
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Cap your water bills
WaterSure is a scheme that helps low-income customers stick to a budget by putting a cap on how much water they can use.
It’s to stop households from cutting back too much because they’re worried about how to pay their bill.
To qualify, you’ll need to be claiming one of the following – Universal Credit, housing benefit, income support, JSA, tax credits, pension credit, income-related ESA.
You’ll be charged no more than the average household bill for your water company, even if you use more than the average amount of water.
Households need to apply directly through their water company.
If you're on Universal Credit you could be entitled to a one-off payment of up to £812 to help with emergency costs and bills as well.
Plus there are six things you'll want to be aware of that could have your benefits stopped – we explain how long that cut-off could last for too.
Martin Lewis has revealed why you should stop worrying about your credit score – and why it's not the only thing lenders care about.
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