Tag: Cost of Living
If you’re struggling with the cost of living, you’re not alone. Times are hard right now for a lot of people. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions we hear from single parents when it comes to the cost of living. There are lots of people and organisations out there who can help.
Am I getting all the benefits possible?
It’s always worth checking this again, as your circumstances and the benefits rules might have changed. The benefits you can get will depend on things like your income and savings, your housing costs, and whether anyone in your family is disabled or has any health conditions.
Can I get other financial support apart from benefits?
The government is continuing with its Cost of Living Payments for low income households in 2023. If you’re eligible for this, you should get this on top of your normal benefits or tax credits.
You might also be able to apply for a grant – money from a charity that doesn’t have to be paid back and that won’t affect your benefits. You can use grant money for one-off things, like a school uniform or a broken washing machine, as well as for everyday living costs.
Every charity has their own rules for the grants they give. You can use this tool to find grants that you might be eligible for.
If you’re claiming benefits, you might also be able to get a Budgeting Advance or Loan to pay for emergency household costs or help with getting a job or staying in work. This is up to £812 that you’ll have to repay through your benefits within 2 years (without interest). A Budgeting Advance is for people on Universal Credit. A Budgeting Loan is for people on older benefits like Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
Bills and food
How can I get urgent financial help to cover things like food and bills until I get paid next?
There are various places that might be able to give you more urgent help.
For help with food and other essentials, try the Trussell Trust. They have a free helpline run by Citizens Advice – you can call 0808 208 2138 between 9 and 5 Mondays to Fridays to speak confidentially to a trained adviser about what support you might be able to get.
In England, your local council may be able to help you with the cost of essentials like food, energy and water bills through something called a Household Support Fund. You’ll need to contact your council to see if they can help.
Your council may also have a welfare assistance scheme in place. The Advicelocal website has a postcode checker where you can see what services your council offers as well as other local support groups. Enter your postcode and choose welfare benefits under the advice topic to see what’s available in your area.
If you live in Wales, you might be able to get emergency assistance payments through the Discretionary Assistance Fund, the national welfare scheme.
Where can I get free food?
You can get an emergency food parcel from a foodbank.
The Trussell Trust is the largest network of food banks in the UK – they can help you find a foodbank near you. To use a food bank you usually need a food voucher. These are given out by people like your local Citizens Advice, GP or social worker.
Money Saving Expert also has some helpful advice on how to get free or cheap food.
If you’re pregnant or have children under 4 years old, you might also be able to get healthy foods like milk and fruit and free vitamins through the government’s Healthy Start scheme. Unless you’re under 18, you’ll need to be claiming certain benefits to qualify.
Can I get help with my energy bills?
Yes, your supplier should be able to help if you’re struggling to pay your bills. Get in touch with them as soon as possible to talk about how to get financial support and set up a payment plan.
Check if they’re part of the Warm Home Discount Scheme. If you’re eligible, you’ll get a yearly discount on your electricity bill (in winter 2022-23, this was £150). You don’t need to apply for this – payments should be automatic.
If you’re claiming certain benefits, you may be able to get Cold Weather Payments. You could get £25 if the temperature falls below freezing for 7 days or more.
If you use a prepayment meter and can’t afford to top it up, you might be able to get a fuel voucher. This is a code you can use to add credit to your gas card or electricity key. Citizens Advice can tell you how to get a referral for a fuel voucher.
Lots of gas and electricity companies have charitable funds which can help if you’re behind with payments. You often don’t even have to be their customer to apply to them. You can check what you might be able to get using a grants finder tool. Go through the first search and then click on energy and water providers.
Can I get help with my water bills?
Your water company should be able to help if you’re struggling with your bills. Each company will have a special plan for people on low incomes (called a social tariff). Get in touch with them as soon as possible to talk about how to get a discount and maybe set up a payment plan.
The Consumer Council for Water has lots of advice on getting help with water bills.
How can I get financial help with big things we need for the house, like furniture and appliances?
You can find free household goods on giveaway sites and groups like Freecycle, Freegle, Freeloved, Gumtree and Reuse Network. Bear in mind that you’ll often need to collect things yourself, so you might need access to a car or van.
Your council may also have an emergency support scheme where you can get things like second-hand furniture, appliances and vouchers for essential items. Go to the Advicelocal website and choose welfare benefits under the advice topic to see what’s available in your area.
If you’re on benefits, you might also be able to get a Budgeting Advance or Loan to pay for things like this. This will give you up to £812 that you’ll have to pay back through your benefits within 2 years (without interest). A Budgeting Advance is for people on Universal Credit. A Budgeting Loan is for people on older benefits like Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
Can I get help with school uniform costs?
You might be able to get a small grant to pay for school uniforms from your council. Every council is different. Money Saving Expert has helpful advice on how to get help with school uniforms. If you can’t get a grant, ask your school if they have vouchers or sell second-hand uniforms.
How can I stop getting so behind with my bills?
If you find yourself struggling, you don’t need to deal with it on your own. Organisations like the National Debtline and StepChange can help you with things like budgeting, stretching out your income, prioritising debts and negotiating with creditors.
You might also want to read our page on dealing with debt.
Can my landlord/lady increase my rent without my permission?
Not legally, no. They can propose a rent increase, but you don’t have to agree to it. If you don’t agree, they can only increase your rent if they follow specific rules. These rules depend on the type of tenancy you have and what your tenancy agreement says about increasing the rent.
Shelter has more information about different tenancy types and the rules around increasing the rent. They also offer specialist housing advice. And Citizens Advice can give you guidance around challenging a rent increase.
If I can’t pay my rent, will I be evicted or made homeless?
Can I get help to pay my rent?
You might be eligible for benefits to help pay your rent. If you’re not getting any support or you think you’re not getting the right amount, talk to us. One of our expert advisers can do a full benefit check for you.
If you already get help with rent from Universal Credit or Housing Benefit but it doesn’t cover all of your rent, you can apply to your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment. This is a payment to help you catch up with rental payments.
If you’ve fallen behind with your rent, you may be able to use the Breathing Space scheme. This gives you a break of up to 60 days when people can’t chase you for money and you can get help to deal with your debts. To apply for this, speak to a debt adviser at National Debtline or StepChange.
There’s more about this on our dealing with debt page.
Can I get help with my mortgage?
Yes, you might be able to get a Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan if you’re on certain benefits. You can get support to cover the interest on up to £200,000 of your mortgage or loans you’ve taken out for home improvements. But remember: this is a loan, so you’ll need to pay it back with interest when you sell or transfer the ownership of your home. You can read more about deciding if you should apply for SMI on the Citizens Advice website.
Look after yourself
Struggling with the cost of living as a single parent can be hard on your mental health. If you’re feeling depressed, anxious or stressed, speak to your GP about getting support.
If you’re feeling suicidal, go to A&E or call 999. Mind has more advice about what to do in a crisis.