Lightning Reach helps people find and apply for financial assistance. Image: Pexels
With the cost of living in the UK increasing at the fastest rate for 30 years, families across the UK are struggling to make ends meet.
The financial pressure on households during the energy crisis is likely to get worse in April, when Ofgem increases the energy price cap – which could hike average fuel bills by as much as 50 per cent.
Meanwhile food, housing and other essential costs are skyrocketing too, and hitting those with the least money the hardest.
The experts agree: only the government can take the sting out of the cost of living crisis and introduce sustainable protections for families trying to put food on the table.
But in the meantime, you might be entitled to more support than you currently receive. If you’re struggling to afford the cost of living, here are some places to start.
Check if you’re entitled to claim benefits
The benefits system can be complex and tricky to navigate, so it’s worth checking you are receiving what you’re entitled to. There are several benefits calculators available online – try Turn2us, StepChange, entitledto or Policy in Practice – which can provide you with an estimation of what you could receive.
People found to be eligible through the Turn2us calculator receive an average extra £5,000 per year, the organisation said.
Check for grants
To receive some grants, you need to be claiming all the benefits you’re already entitled to. From there, you might be eligible for a one-off sum to help you through a hard time.
Many are also open to people who have no recourse to public funds because of their immigration status, unlike benefits.
For energy bills, the government has a host of different schemes you can apply to which can help you pay your bills like the Warm Home Discount and Winter Fuel Payment.
But if you’re struggling to pay your heating bill, your first port of call should be your supplier.
You should be able to negotiate a payment plan which works for you and the supplier should take into account how much you can afford to pay.
If you receive benefits such as income support, income-based jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance, pension credit or universal credit (while unemployed) you may be able to pay energy bills or debts through your benefits.
Recipients of benefits may be eligible for other schemes to help pay for heating such as the Warm Home Discount. For more information on the help you could be entitled to, Citizens Advice has a list of schemes and grants available for those who need help paying.
Universal credit has replaced housing benefit for most people, so – if you’re not already receiving it – check if you’re entitled to the housing element of the payment.
You could be entitled to a discount on your council tax too if, for example, you are the only adult living in your household or are a carer living with the person you care for. Find out more on the government website.
If you need immediate help affording food, one of the quickest ways to avoid going hungry is to visit a food bank.
You will need to get a referral to use most food banks, from organisations such as Citizens Advice or local services like schools, charities or GPs.
Your local authority might also be able to give you a referral and, in some cases, give you vouchers for supermarkets, clothes or travel.
For more support
The effects of poverty on mental health – and vice versa – are well-documented. If you’re struggling with your mental wellbeing while trying to make ends meet, organisations such as Mind can offer expert support.
Other organisations like StepChange, Turn2us and Citizens Advice can guide you through the best steps to take if your income doesn’t cover the increasing cost of living.