Financial Hardship Support
In this bulletin, you will find services that could help with financial hardship
Family Holiday Association
2023 Holiday applications now open in England for Spring holidays
There are lots and lots of families going through tough times who can't get away together. We want to make the biggest difference we can to as many families as we can. We focus our holiday offers on families who:
- Are on a low income (a household income of less than £24,000)
- Haven’t had a holiday together in the last 4 years
- Have at least one child under 18 who will go on the holiday
Families require a professional to refer them. The referrer will need to register here and fill in an application.
We have set up a new Crisis Fund to support families with household bills and payments, and other items, throughout the winter and into 2023. There is £45,000 of funding available through the Crisis Fund, which will be administered through our nine Children’s Centres.
We have nine Children’s Centres in total - in Sandy, Shefford, Stotfold, Flitwick, Leighton Buzzard, with two in Dunstable and two in Houghton Regis - who already work with over 4,700 families.
What is the funding for?
Funding will be available from December 2022, with vouchers available to primarily cover household bills and payments.
Emergency support will also be available – for example, to replace an essential household appliance that’s broken, like a fridge or washing machine, or to ensure children in the household have winter weather clothing.
Who is eligible?
We’ll be using the funding to support families already known to the Children’s Centres who use our services. And our partners, including in health, housing and education, will be able to refer families in need for extra support.
Helping more people visit our Zoos: our Community Access Scheme
We want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy a brilliant day out with us, to benefit from the amazing animals who live at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos, connect with nature and help us create a world where wildlife thrives.
To help people who might find cost or other challenges a barrier to visiting ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, our Community Access Scheme provides discounted tickets.
Who can get a Community Access ticket?
The Community Access scheme provides discounted tickets to:
- Low-income households
- People with additional needs or disabilities
- People over the age of 60 and may be at risk of isolation.
Help for Households scheme
In support of the Government’s Help for Households scheme we are providing an additional 500 tickets every day to both London and Whipsnade Zoos, from as little as £3 per person. These are available on a first come, first served basis and are strictly limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.
These tickets can only be purchased from our admissions kiosks at the time of your visit – they are not available online or in advance. We are operating a cashless system on our sites and we ask that you pay with credit or debit cards, or contactless payment methods only. Regular admissions tickets, including those for anyone coming along with you, must still be booked online and in advance.
To be eligible for the £3 ticket, you must meet certain criteria and be able to prove that you are currently receiving Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.
You will need to bring your proof of benefit letter along with you to the zoo when you buy your ticket from our friendly staff at the admissions gate. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to issue discounted tickets unless you bring along one of these documents per household as proof of eligibility.
Grants and benefits to help you pay your energy bills- Citizens Advice
You can get help if you’re struggling to afford your energy bills or top up your prepayment meter. You might be able to take advantage of certain benefits, grants and help offered by the government and energy suppliers.
Check benefits and financial support you can get
Cost of Living payment
You may be able to get a payment to help with the cost of living if you’re getting certain benefits or tax credits.
You do not need to apply. You’ll be paid automatically.
If you’re eligible, you’ll be paid automatically in the same way you usually get your benefit or tax credits. This includes if you’re found to be eligible for a Cost of Living Payment or a Disability Cost of Living Payment at a later date.
Cost of Living Payments 2023 to 2024
The government has announced when further Cost of Living Payments will be made between spring 2023 and spring 2024. These payments are:
- up to £900 for people on an eligible low income benefit
- £300 for pensioner households
- £150 for people on an eligible disability benefit
Further guidance will be published when more details have been announced, including the qualifying dates.
Open Door to Advice in Central Bedfordshire
FREE & CONFIDENTIAL
A single source of information on a vast range of topics including Benefits, debt, disabilities, education, health, housing, immigration, employment & legal.
We are one of the leading providers of online benefits calculators in the UK today. We help people determine what they can claim from national and local government via our self-serve calculators.
Our calculators are authoritative and accurate and we are entirely independent of government. We provide a reliable estimate of benefit entitlements based on our in-depth knowledge of the UK's social security system. By using our online benefits calculators, users can determine whether they are receiving the right amount of money in their benefit claims, whether they are eligible for other types of benefits, as well as understand what their position will be as Government welfare reforms take effect.
We believe that everyone living in the UK should be able to understand what their legitimate entitlements are and honestly claim that amount from government - social security is a key aspect of our society and a vital part of our modern communities.
We have been operating since 2000, and provide our calculators not just through this web site, but also to numerous Local Government Authorities, Housing Associations, leading Charities as well as other web sites that need to provide benefits calculators to support their users, such as MoneySavingExpert.com.
Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College
The Summer Prospectus 2022 is out now. View the handy flip version here - courses start April.
Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College is part of the Bedfordshire Mental Health Academy which is a formal partnership with East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) and the University of Bedfordshire.
The college is open to any adults who live or work in Bedfordshire and Luton.
Our courses and workshops focus on mental health wellbeing and recovery. They are delivered by people with lived experience and professional experience.
We promote a positive student experience based on the principles of recovery and the values of the University of Bedfordshire and ELFT.
- The University of Bedfordshire strives to offer transformational educational change for people’s lives
- East London Foundation Trust key values are:
We Care, We Respect, We are Inclusive.
All of our courses and workshops are FREE of CHARGE
WaterSure scheme – help with paying water bills
WaterSure is a scheme which helps some people with their water bills. To apply for the scheme, you must be on benefits and need to use a lot of water either for medical reasons or because your household has a certain number of school-age children. You also need to be on a water meter or be waiting to have one installed.
If you get your water from Welsh Water you’re covered by WaterSure Wales, which works in a similar way to the English scheme.
If you get help through the WaterSure scheme, your water bill will be capped. This means you will not pay any more than the average metered bill for the area your water company deals with.
In some cases, your normal metered water bill could be less than your company's WaterSure cap. If this applies to you, you will only be billed for the amount of water you use.
You can ask your water company what their cap is if you want to check this before applying.
Who qualifies for WaterSure
To qualify for WaterSure you need to:
- be on a water meter or have applied for one and be waiting for it to be installed, or be paying an assessed charge because it's not possible to fit a meter at your property
- be on certain benefits
- have a high essential use of water
Which benefits you need to be on
The benefits you need to be on depends on your supplier. You should check which benefits they cover.
All suppliers offer WaterSure if either you or someone in your household get one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Housing Benefit
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income Support
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit awarded at a rate higher than the family element
Some water suppliers also offer WaterSure if you're on Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments. You should check with your water company if you're not sure if they cover these benefits.To find out more about these benefits, see our Benefits pages.
British Gas Energy Trust
We can help with your money and fuel bills
If you’re struggling with money and energy debt, you are not alone. We’re an independent charitable trust set up to support families and individuals who are struggling to pay their bills across England, Wales and Scotland, no matter which energy company you are with.
How we help
- Free resources to help make sure you’re getting the support and benefits you may be entitled to
- We fund frontline advice services in local communities providing free 1-2-1 money, benefits, and energy efficiency advice
- We also run a direct access energy debt programme – awarding grants to households that remove energy debt, fund emergency fuel credit and provide boiler replacements
If you live within the postcode catchment area of one of our Pet Hospitals, and you are receiving benefits, you should qualify for treatments and help with the cost of prescribed medications for your pets*.
Our Pet Hospitals treat cats, dogs, rabbits and other small pets described as 'small furries'.
Free Service - free treatments and medications
To qualify for free treatments and medications, you must live within the postcode catchment area of one of our Pet Hospitals and be receiving at least one of the following benefits:
- Housing benefit (means tested)
- Council tax support (means tested)
- Universal credit with housing element
Our Free Service is only available for one pet per household. Any additional pets can be registered for our Low Cost Service.*
Low Cost Service – low cost treatments and medications
To qualify for low cost treatments and medications, you must live within the postcode catchment area of one of our Pet Hospitals and be receiving at least one of the following benefits:
- Child tax and working tax credits
- Universal credit without housing element
- Pension credit
- Income support
- Job seekers allowance
- ESA – (Income Based Only) Employment Support Allowance
- Disability living allowance / personal independence payment (PIP)
- State retired pensioners who are householders living in council tax bands a – d
Our low cost prices are typically 20% to 30% lower than private veterinary practices. This can vary, depending on the treatment.
There is no limit to the number of pets you can register for our Low Cost Service.
Pet Care Scheme
If you do not live near one of our Pet Hospitals, but you are receiving benefits, you may be eligible for our Pet Care scheme.
The Pet Care scheme is run with partner veterinary practices, allowing you to pay a small monthly amount to get access to low-cost treatments for cats and dogs, along with other help to keep your pet healthy.
To qualify for Pet Care Scheme you must live within the postcode catchment area of one of our practices Pet Care Scheme, and be receiving at least one of the following benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Means-tested support with Council Tax
- Universal Credit with Housing Element
- Rate Relief (Northern Ireland only)
Money Saving Expert
The site, history and team
MoneySavingExpert.com is the UK's biggest consumer website, with more than 16 million users a month. The site's dedicated to cutting your bills and fighting your corner with journalistic research, cutting-edge tools and a massive community – all focused on finding deals, saving cash and campaigning for financial justice.
The average person in the UK can give themselves the equivalent of a 25% pay rise by being an active, savvy consumer and shifting to the very best deals. This site's here to show you how. To get started, see the Money Makeover guide.
Better housing better health
Better Housing Better Health (BHBH) is a longstanding service working to reduce the number of people in fuel poverty and improve domestic warmth & wellbeing.
It is coordinated by National Energy Foundation (registered charity number 298591), but involves many other organisations across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Watford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Central Bedfordshire and Dacorum with a cross-referral mechanism in place to maximise the benefit to residents of each organisation’s field of expertise.
The service provides a central helpline, 0800 107 0044, able to give impartial expert advice on to reduce energy bills and improve the energy efficiency of the home.
Although a lot of services that we offer are only available to vulnerable residents, any resident looking for advice is encouraged to call the helpline. There is also a dedicated email address to make enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If funding is available, BHBH may be able to arrange a visit to your local community group and deliver a talk about fuel poverty and energy saving advice. We have delivered events at a range range of groups including community lunches, carers groups, retirement or 50+ groups, fairs and flu clinics. Please contact us to learn more.
We can also deliver training sessions to teams and organisations that work directly with residents vulnerable to the cold such as frontline health and social care staff. training will provide attendees with the tools and knowledge to both understand and identify those at risk to fuel poverty and cold home. Contact us to learn more about this.
What to do if you're struggling to pay your energy bills
The energy market is in crisis. Energy prices are at all-time highs, there are no cheap deals to switch to and the energy price cap has just risen by a massive 54%. This will leave many facing the stark choice of choosing between heating and eating. While we're pushing the Government to do more to help mitigate rocketing prices, at the moment it's not doing enough. So in this guide we take you through all the help and support available right now if you're struggling.
This guide is all about finding the right support if you're worried about being able to afford your energy bills. For help deciding whether you should fix or stay on a standard tariff, see Martin's Is now the time to fix? video.
Talk to your supplier as early as possible – they have to help if you're struggling
If you're falling behind with your energy bills, and finding yourself struggling to pay, the best thing to do is contact your supplier as soon as possible. Under rules from regulator Ofgem, your supplier has to help you – usually by negotiating a payment plan that you can afford.
So don't panic – your supply won't be cut off. Due to ongoing additional support measures put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, disconnections of standard credit meters have been suspended.
There are a range of options suppliers could offer if you're struggling, including:
- A full payment plan review
- Affordable debt repayment plans
- Payment breaks (though this won't be right for everyone)
- Payment reductions
- More time to pay
- Access to hardship funds
What help you can get is decided on a a case-by-case basis, but importantly, repayment must be based on your ability to pay. So get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible
On prepay and struggling to pay? Your supplier must help as well
If you prepay for your energy, and you find yourself struggling to top up and facing self-disconnection, there's also plenty of help available from your supplier – so do contact it as soon as you start to get in trouble. Here's what they will do:
- All suppliers offer small amounts of emergency credit. You'll usually get £5 of emergency credit on your gas and electricity meter (£5 on each meter) that you can access through your meter. The option to use it usually becomes available when you've little money left on your meter (usually about less than 50p for electricity, or £2 for gas).
How you access it depends on your meter, either by entering the card or clicking a button when the option pops up – your supplier will be able tell you how it works for your meter. You will need to pay this back when next you top up.
- Friendly credit means you can't be cut off in certain times if your meter runs out. Friendly credit is there to protect you if you start running out of credit when the shops are closed. It means you won't be cut off, and can keep using gas and electricity if you run out of credit during evenings, weekends and bank holidays.
Times can vary slightly by supplier and season, but generally, you won't be cut off between about 6pm and 9am Monday to Saturday, all day Sunday, and on bank holidays. You'll need to pay back anything you've used during this time the next time you top up.
- Additional support credit is available to some if you can't afford to top up. If you can't afford to top up and you're facing self-disconnection through being unable to keep enough money on the meter, you may be able to get additional support credit (or extra support credit).
What you can get, how this works and if you're eligible will depend on your supplier, so speak to it as soon as possible.
In general, additional support credit is usually for those in vulnerable situations (such as those of state pension age, or with a disability or long-term medical condition). It's also up to the supplier to assess how much additional credit you'll get and to work with you to come up with a repayment plan, based on your ability to pay.
But even if you're not in a vulnerable situation, your supplier could still help if you're unable to top up. It may still be able to offer support credit, or can review any debts you may be paying off through your meter, or give you access to hardship funds. It's all done on a case-by-case bases, so do get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible.
What's more, regulator Ofgem has strengthened protections for prepayment customers, requiring suppliers to proactively identify and contact customers that have self-disconnected due to being unable to afford to top up. This includes support for repaying any outstanding standing charges.
Most energy suppliers offer hardship funds if you're in debt
All the big energy firms have charitable trusts and funds that can help if you're in debt and struggling to repay. They offer schemes and grants to help with your energy costs, to replace faulty or old boilers, and to make your home more energy-efficient.
Help is available from the following firms: British Gas Energy Trust / EDF Energy Customer Support Fund / E.on Energy Fund / E.on Next Energy Fund / Ovo Energy Fund / Octo Assist Fund / Scottish Power Hardship Fund.
However, be aware you'll usually need to be a customer of the firm to apply, and the application process for help with energy debt is fairly rigorous (a few charities may be able to help with the process if you're struggling). Firstly, you need to have spoken to a debt adviser before applying. You'll need to complete a full income and expenditure budget sheet. You'll also need to provide proof of your income, plus give details on how your arrears have built up – for example, due to illness or redundancy – and say how the grant will help you. It can take several weeks to process your claim.
Exact eligibility requirements vary – some say you need to be in receipt of certain benefits for example – but those with the greatest need are prioritised on a case-by-case basis.
Households to get up £350 help this year to help with rising energy prices
Households in England, Wales and Scotland are to get up to £350 of Government support to soften the blow of rocketing energy prices. This includes:
- A £200 rebate loan in October to all households. You'll get an automatic £200 discount on your bills, regardless of what tariff you're on. And from April 2023 you'll have a £40/year levy added to bills to effectively repay the discount. For full info, see Martin's video explainer.
- A £150 council tax rebate in April to all households in England, Scotland and Wales for those in bands A to D. How it works exactly depends on where you live – see our news stories for full info on the schemes in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland? It will receive a total of £100 million in funding to be able to put its own scheme in place, but we don't yet know exactly what it'll do with it though.
- A £144 million discretionary fund for councils aimed at those on low incomes who don't qualify for help due to their council tax band. This is to help those on low incomes who don't qualify for the £150 support above because, for example, they're exempt from council tax. See discretionary fund info.
We've full info on all the new measures in our Chancellor unveils £350 in support for households news story for more.
Check if you can get £150 towards energy bills each winter with the warm home discount
The Warm Home Discount scheme requires suppliers with more than 50,000 customers to help vulnerable people in the UK pay for their energy over the winter.
If you've a standard credit meter, the money isn't paid to you – it's a £150 rebate applied to your electricity or gas bill between October and March. If you're on a prepay meter, you'll usually be sent a top-up voucher.
Following a recent shake-up of the Warm Home Discount, the money is paid automatically – previously, some had to apply to get it. You should get it if you qualify under the following criteria:
- If you get pension credit, you should get it automatically. If you or your partner receive the 'guarantee credit' element of pension credit, and your name (or your partner's) is on your energy bill, you should be eligible for the discount under what's known as 'core group 1'.
Provided your energy supplier is part of the scheme (see the full list below), you should receive a letter (usually sent between October and December) confirming when the £150 will be deducted from your electricity bill. The letter may also ask you to contact the Warm Home Discount helpline to confirm your details. The helpline can also be used if you need assistance, or if you've not received your letter. Call 0800 731 0214.
- On certain benefits? You should get the discount automatically – if you're deemed to have 'high energy costs'. If you don't qualify for the above, you may still get the discount automatically if you're in receipt of certain benefits (such as Universal Credit and Income support) and your home has 'high energy costs' (see full eligibility criteria below), under what's known as 'core group 2'.
If you're eligible, and providing your supplier is part of the scheme, you should receive a letter confirming when the £150 will deducted from your bill. The Government has also said it is looking into providing an online tool to allow people to check their eligibility.
If there's someone aged 66 or older in the home, you could get up to £300 with the winter fuel payment
Every household with someone born on or before 26 September 1955 is entitled to help towards their winter energy costs. Under the Government's winter fuel payment scheme, provided you lived in the UK for at lease one day between 20 and 26 September 2021, then regardless of income, you can grab a one-off, tax-free winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300.
It should have been paid automatically by the end of December. If not, check full eligibility info in winter fuel payment help.
Older people and those on certain benefits could get £25 during freezing weather
Under the cold weather payment scheme, older people and those on certain benefits can get a grant to help cover costs when temperatures hit zero degrees or below in their area.
It applies if the average temperature is – or is forecast to be – 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November and 31 March. You get £25 for each seven-day period. It's usually automatic if you get pension credit, or get other benefits including some universal credit recipients and some who get support for mortgage interest. See our full Cold weather payment guide for more info.
The Eaton Fund can help women over the age of 18 who face financial hardship. Applicants must live in the UK.
The Eaton Fund can make one-off grants to help purchase specific items such as white goods, carpets or essential furniture. We can also help disabled women by contributing towards an item that improves quality of life or independence.
Details of our grant application process and application form are here
Applications must be via an approved independent referee, such as a social worker, housing officer or other key worker. Applications for mobility aids must be backed up by an assessment from an occupational therapist to ensure that the item meets your needs.
Please see our eligibility page for further information.
Anyone can be a missed pay-cheque, illness or bereavement away from a real financial crisis, which is why we can help you find the support you need to get back on track.
The Benefits Calculator takes less than 10 minutes to complete and it will tell you which means-tested benefits you may be entitled to, including tax credits.
The Grants Search can help you look for funds that might be able to give you a grant or other types of help.
StepChange can check a whole range of debt relief options. Their Expert Advisors help thousands every day with various types of debt problems. You can access free, no obligation and confidential advice for anyone struggling to re-structure their current finances.
Best Before Cafe
What’s a Food Boutique? All the food they don’t use on the day is offered to customers on a Pay as you feel basis. The cafe will have a display of groceries that we have rescued from Lidl, Waitrose, Morrisons and Tesco. Everyone can take what they need in return for donations of money, time or skills
Food Rescue Hub
A food boutique where unsold food, otherwise destined for destruction, is rescued and diverted from the bin, and offered to the community. Uncooked food is recovered from local food-based businesses’ and is offered on a pay-as-you-feel (PAYF) basis making it accessible and encouraged to all members of the community.
The Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation
Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation (BLCF) is the leading local grantmaker in the county. We are passionate about improving the lives of people in Bedfordshire and Luton and we are known for our ground-breaking initiatives, for our investment in supporting local charities and for our deep relationships with grassroots groups in our area.
Ickleford Community Larder
Offering Larder Essential Food Parcels and Rescue Food. We are stopping so much food going to landfill.
Come along, no proof needed, donate if you can but it's not essential