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Are You Entitled To Benefits You're Not Claiming?

Claiming the benefits on offer by the government can be a useful way to help you cover certain essential costs. If you’re eligible to receive them, then it’s important that you claim all the help you’re entitled to, to make your life as easy as possible.

While lots of benefits are tied to your income, and designed to help you if you’re not earning much, or are out of work for any reason, there are a few that are open to a much bigger group of people. Have you heard of all of these benefits you could be eligible for?

Budgeting Loans

Budgeting Loans are designed to help you pay for specific household essentials and costs. Some of the things you can get a Budgeting Loan to pay for include furniture or home appliances like a fridge, essential clothes, or the costs associated with moving house or getting a new job.

Who can get a Budgeting Loan?

Budgeting Loans are only available to people who already receive certain benefits, like Income Support, Pension Credit, or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, and who have been receiving them for at least six months.

Budgeting Loans aren’t available to people who receive Universal Credit, although there is an alternative available called a Budgeting Advance, which works in a similar way.

How much you’ve earned in the last six months, if you have savings, and if you still owe money for any previous Budgeting Loans or Budgeting Advances will also be taken into account when deciding if you can get a new one now.

How much can I borrow with a Budgeting Loan or Advance?

How much you can borrow as a Budgeting Loan (or Budgeting Advance, if you receive Universal Credit) depends on your situation. You can borrow up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you have a partner, and up to £812 if you have children.

All Budgeting Loans and Budgeting Advances are interest-free – you only repay what you borrow – and your repayments are taken automatically from your benefits. Budgeting Loans from the government don’t involve a credit check, and won’t appear on your credit report or count towards your credit score.

Applying for a Budgeting Loan or Advance

The main difference between Budgeting Loans and the Universal Credit Budgeting Advance is how you apply. You can apply for a Budgeting Loan online, but if you receive Universal Credit and need a Budgeting Advance, you’ll need to apply for this over the phone by calling the Universal Credit Helpline.

Free childcare

Childcare – at a nursery, pre-school or childminder – can be eye-wateringly expensive, and not everyone can lean on their family or friends to help out. It’s no surprise that for some families, even those who are relatively well off, it makes more sense for one parent to become a stay-at-home Mum or Dad, rather than go back to work and potentially spend more than they earn on childcare costs!

That’s why the government offers 30 hours of free childcare per week to families who meet their criteria, which we’ll talk about in a minute. This means 30 hours of free childcare per week, for the 38 weeks of the year that make up school term-time. If you use less than 30 hours a week, then you may be able to get free childcare 52 weeks of the year, but you’ll need to check with your childcare provider if they offer this.

How it works

Bear in mind, we’re talking about the scheme in England here. There are separate schemes available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that are slightly different.

To claim free childcare for your child, you need to meet certain criteria set out by the government, such as:

  • The childcare must be with an approved provider like a childminder or nursery school
  • Your child must be 3 or 4 years old
  • Your child must normally live with you
  • You must not be seeking free childcare for a child you are fostering
  • You – and your partner, if you have one – must be working
  • You expect to (each) earn at least minimum wage for 16 hours a week on average
  • But, you may be excluded if you have a very high salary – over £100,000 net (or take-home)
  • You must be from the UK or EEA, or be able to access public funds as part of your residency

You can check your eligibility and apply for free childcare online here, through the government website. If your application is approved, then you’ll get a code to give to your childcare provider. If your childcare provider offers meals, will handle nappy changes, or take your child on trips, then you may have to pay for these on top. You can use the free childcare benefit alongside other schemes like tax credits, childcare vouchers and tax-free childcare.

Once your child starts school in reception class, or reaches compulsory school age if this is later, then they won’t be eligible for this free childcare scheme any more. But, you may still be able to get help with your childcare needs – and paying for them – from other schemes, like after school clubs. Your local council can help you organise this, or you can speak to your child’s school for help.

Free childcare & coronavirus

If you’d usually meet the criteria for free childcare, but you aren’t working or your income has been affected because of coronavirus, then you might think you’re not eligible for this right now. But, that might not be the case. If some of your income is being paid through the government’s income support schemes, your application for free childcare could still be approved. Check out the government website for more info.

Energy efficiency grants and loans

If you’re thinking about energy-saving measures like installing solar panels at home, or boosting the energy efficiency of your property by installing new insulation or cavity walls, then there are grants and loans available to help you cover the cost.

The Green Homes Grant

The Green Homes Grant scheme allows homeowners and landlords to apply for vouchers that cover up to two thirds of the cost of making their home more energy efficient. For most people, the maximum you can get in vouchers is £5,000, but some households on low incomes will be eligible for up to £10,000 to fund their entire project. If you want to make the most of this scheme, though you’ll need to act fast. Any vouchers you claim must be redeemed and the work completed by 31st March 2021.

If you want to get more energy efficient but aren’t sure what your home needs, then the Simple Energy Advice service is a good place to start – they can recommend appropriate improvements that can be done using a Green Homes Grant, and help you find registered tradespeople to do the work.

When you’re ready, you can apply through the government’s website.

Home Energy Scotland loans

If you live in Scotland, then you could borrow up to £17,500 interest-free towards installing and setting up the equipment needed for you to generate your own energy from renewable sources at home. Think solar panels, or a small wind turbine that sits on your roof.

To access a Home Energy Scotland loan, you’ll need to speak to their team about the various options that could be suitable for you and your home, and they’ll send you an application form. Then, their team will be there for you every step of the way, from starting your application until your new energy efficiency kit is installed. So, you’ll always have plenty of chances to ask questions if you need to.

Cold Weather Payments

You never know when we’re going to have a mild winter, or when we’re in for a cold one. Cold Weather Payments are designed to help those on low incomes, who are already claiming other benefits, and may worry about paying to heat their homes during a long cold snap.

Cold Weather Payments are only available during the winter – from 1st November to 31st March each year. Those who are eligible for them will receive £25 for each seven day period where the temperature is recorded or forecast to be below freezing (0 degrees) every day in that seven days.

Cold Weather Payments are separate to the Winter Fuel Payments that you can claim to help with the costs of your heating if you’re of retirement age.

Who can get a Cold Weather Payment?

Like most of the other benefits on our list, you’ll only be eligible to receive Cold Weather Payments if you’re already claiming certain other benefits. You may receive Cold Weather Payments if you claim Pension Credit, Income Support, Universal Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Support for Mortgage Interest.

How do I claim a Cold Weather Payment?

There’s no need to apply for cold weather payments. If you’re claiming benefits that make you eligible for one, and the weather is cold enough for the scheme to kick in, then you’ll receive the payment automatically. It’ll be paid into the same bank or building society account as your other benefit payments, and will arrive within 14 working days (so about three weeks).

Basic broadband

If you already receive income-related benefits like Universal Credit, Income Support or Pension Credit, then you might be entitled to sign up for a low cost BT Basic phone and broadband package.

This package costs £10.07 per month. You’ll need to be a BT customer when you apply, but if you’re not, you can get connected for free. The monthly cost includes your line rental, unlimited downloads, and a £1.50 call allowance. You’ll also benefit from free weekend calls and a monthly ‘price cap’ of £10 on calls you make to UK landline numbers starting 01, 02 or 03, mobile numbers starting 07, and to 08 numbers, which means you can make as many calls to these numbers as you like, and will never pay more than £10 for them.

Of course, it’s not an all singing, all dancing superfast package, and your broadband speeds will be capped at around 10Mbps, even if your connection supports faster. But, this is more than enough for you to be able to do your grocery shopping online or browse the web, and gives you essential internet access at a low price!

Find out more about BT Basic here.






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