HARD-UP Brits can access financial support to help them pay for essentials such as bills, clothing and food this winter.
Winter can be a difficult time financially, with Christmas around the corner and energy bills set to be even higher than usual this year.
The cost of living is continuing to rise, with experts forecasting that families could pay an extra £1,800 on bills by the end of the year.
The energy crisis means the cost of heating and electricity has soared, with a string of suppliers already collapsing this year.
Meanwhile, recent research suggests that the weekly food shop could be £180 a week more expensive if inflation goes above 4%.
If you're worried about making ends meet this winter, we've explained how to get extra help and free cash.
Check your benefits
First of all, you should check you're receiving all the benefits you're entitled to.
You can do this by using an online benefits calculator, which are offered by charities such as Turn2Us and EntitledTo.
You'll have to provide some personal information and it will be useful to have financial details to hand.
This includes information on benefits you already claim, recent bank statements and details on your housing costs.
If you have a partner who lives with you, you'll need to provide their details too.
Cold weather payments
Cold weather payments are designed to help people cover the cost of heating their homes when temperatures drop.
The financial support is worth £25 and you can get it more than once if the thermometers plummet between November 1 and March 31.
It kicks in when temperatures are recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees or below, on average, for seven consecutive days.
If you're eligible, you'll get £25 for every seven day period where the weather is below 0C.
You can check if your area has had a cold weather payment by putting your postcode into the government's tool from November 1 onward.
You’re eligible for the cold weather payment scheme if you’re in receipt of one of the following benefits and meet certain criteria:
- Pension credit
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Universal Credit
- Support for mortgage interest
Depending on your specific circumstances, you may also need to meet one or more of the following additional criteria:
- Have a disability or be in receipt of pension premium
- Have a child who is disabled
- Be in receipt of child tax credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
- Have a severe or enhanced disability premium
- Be in receipt of a limited capability for work amount
- Have a child under five living with you
Winter fuel discount
The winter fuel payment is an annual tax-free benefit to help with heating costs through the cold months.
Most people who are eligible for it get it automatically, for instance if you receive the state pension or other social security benefits.
You won't qualify just because you claim housing benefit, council tax reduction, child benefit or Universal Credit.
If you meet the criteria but don't automatically get the payment then you will need to apply.
The winter fuel payment is worth between £100 and £300 depending on your age, whether you receive benefits and whether you live alone.
Winter household support fund
The government has launched a £500million Household Support Fund to help struggling families buy household essentials.
Households will be able to apply for the cash through their local councils, who were given the funds to dish out in October.
To find out who your local council is in order to put in a claim, head to gov.uk's local council finder tool.
The help has replaced the Covid local support grant – where families could get up to £1,500 to pay for food, bills and more.
Working from home tax relief
You could claim up to £500 extra cash due to working at home.
Even if you're now returning to the office, you can claim tax back on household expenses for time you've worked from home, dating back four years.
You can claim up to £125 per year and with the option to backdate claims by up to four years, this means you could claim up to £500 in total.
It's available to claim if you have been told to work from home by your employer, even for just one day.
Claims for last year are paid as one lump sum in your salary while ongoing claims for this year will be factored into your monthly wage.
The scheme is designed to help people cover the extra costs of working from home, like energy bills and internet connections.
The government has created a handy online tool to help you get the working from home tax back.
The online service is easy to use and takes just a few minutes to make a claim.
How to apply for grants
Charities across the UK provide grants to families in financial need, and you won't have to pay them back.
The schemes open to you will depend on things like your age, profession and where you live.
The amount you will get also varies depending on your circumstances and which charity grants you are eligible for.
You can easily search online to find out whether you could access free cash through a charity grant.
Poverty charity Turn2Us provides a grant search service where you can find out what cash pots you can apply to.
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