HARD-UP Brits can claim up to £1,000 in furniture and supermarket vouchers at shops including Aldi to help pay bills and much more.
The Sun can exclusively reveal that councils have given out hundreds of pounds to families struggling to pay for essential household items and bills – especially during the Covid crisis.
Many local authorities run welfare assistance schemes, which are available to people on a low income who have run into financial difficulties – or who have had to deal with a crisis.
But The Sun can reveal that families are facing a postcode lottery when it comes to what help they can get.
As each council runs its own scheme – and decides what help to dish out – some families can claim more than others.
While you could get up to £1,000 in some areas, some councils don’t even have a scheme that families can apply to at all.
The Sun asked 15 councils across the country about their welfare assistance schemes – including what help was on offer and how much you could get.
We can reveal that councils awarded a record number of grants to help cash-strapped Brits during the Covid crisis.
Suffolk County Council saw successful applications soar by 210% over the past year, helping 1,765 families in 2021. That compares with just 569 families who received help in 2020 when the Covid crisis began.
Birmingham council nearly doubled the number of grants it doled out. Grants awarded to families rocketed by 95% in the 2020/21 financial year, with successful claims jumping from 7,047 to 13,724.
Meanwhile, from the start of this year to September 1, Newham Council dished out grants to 1,458 families. That’s 98% more than were handed out during the whole of 2020.
StepChange head of policy Peter Tutton said: “Many councils, but not others due to severe resource constraints, have only been able to provide welcome temporary support because of dedicated Covid funding from central Government, against a backdrop of years of decline.
“What the pandemic has shown us is that schemes like these can be vitally important to people experiencing debt and hardship. They should be made permanent and subject to minimum standards.”
It comes as families face record-breaking rises in household bills including energy costs.
The energy price cap — which was brought in to limit how much consumers can be billed — was raised by £139 earlier this month.
But that’s at least £400 more than many families on the lowest tariffs – leaving millions of Brits in the cold this winter as they can’t afford to pay bills.
Plus, a hike in prices will help to drive up the cost of inflation, meaning a Brits could have to stump up an extra £1,800 by the end of the year just to get by, experts have warned.
If you’re worried about the mounting costs, we explain what you can get under the welfare assistance scheme – and how to apply for the help.
How much you can get
What help you can get varies depending on where you live.
Each council runs its own scheme, and decides what – and how much – it will help families in the area.
Our investigation found that you can get up to £1,000 in some regions.
Families in East Riding of Yorkshire can get a maximum of £1,000 to help pay for food, energy bills, rent, nappies for kids under three, travel costs and furniture.
You can only get one grant from the scheme every 12 months – though you could get even more than £1,000 if the council decides to offer more assistance.
The council awarded 475 grants last year – up nearly 50% from the previous year’s 323 successful applications.
Families who live in the Gloucestershire County Council area can get a grant of up to £800.
The local authority does not offer cash awards, but instead provides goods and grants worth up to this value.
The grant covers the cost of items such as carpets, large household appliances and furniture such as washing machines and sofas.
Separately, you can also get up to £150 in supermarket vouchers, energy bill top-ups, and essential clothing.
In Birmingham, meanwhile, you can get up to £90 to help pay for fuel costs if you’re a couple with five children or more, and up to nearly £300 to help cover the cost of household appliances and furniture such as bunk beds.
Elsewhere, iin Manchester, residents can get between £30 and £60 in free cash following an emergency or crisis.
Manchester City Council gave out a total of 3,845 grants in 2020 – up from the 2,235 awarded in 2019.
But two of the councils The Sun contacted did not have a scheme in place.
Nottingham City Council hasn’t had a welfare assistance scheme in place since 2017, and Southampton City Council says it funds volunteer organisations who help Brits in need.
Who is eligible for the help?
Welfare assistance schemes are usually set up to help low income Brits get the essential food and household items they need – as well as help towards bills.
You could be eligible for the help even if you don’t get benefits. You may be awarded help following an emergency or crisis, if you’ve moved because of domestic violence, or if you have health or care needs, for example.
Each council has its own scheme and criteria in place to help it dish out funds.
That means the council often decides on a case-by-case basis if you are eligible for assistance.
You can find out who your local council is by visiting the gov.uk website and get in touch with them about whether help is available in your area.
How to apply
Grants are given on a case-by-case basis and there will be a different application process depending on where in the country you live.
But you’ll have to put a claim in to get the help.
You’ll most likely have to provide some financial information to the council in order for it to assess whether to give you the help, such as whether you receive benefits.
You may also be asked questions about your financial situation, such as whether you work and what your income is.
If you can’t find the information online, visit the website’s “contact us” section, and either email or phone your council to find out how to apply in your area.
Here are six ways to cut your grocery bill as shoppers have been warned about supermarket price rises.
Here’s how to apply for the government’s new £500million Household Support Fund.
Martin Lewis also explains what to do about rising energy bills.
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