Cash in a crisis

Ask for help if you have a cash crisis and need help with rent, food and household items.

Advance benefit payments

An advance benefit payment can help if you:

  • haven’t received your first benefit payment
  • are waiting for a decision on your claim
  • have reported a change in circumstances that will increase your benefits

You can apply if you claim:

  • jobseeker’s allowance, income support or employment and support allowance
  • pension credit or state pension
  • carer’s allowance

You'll need to phone to apply for a short term benefit advance

You usually have up to 12 weeks to pay back the money.

Universal Credit advance payments

You can apply for a universal credit advance payment if you claim universal credit.

You have up to 12 months to pay back an advance of universal credit.

Free food from food banks

Food banks provide food parcels to people in need. They are often run by church or community groups.

Some food banks offer a hot meal and an advice service. Some have a free delivery service in rural areas if you can't afford to travel to a foodbank.

You need a voucher to use a food bank. You exchange your voucher for food at the food bank.

You can get food bank vouchers from:

Find your nearest food bank

Help to pay your rent

Find out if you can get help with your rent by applying for:

Housing benefit advance payments

You should get a payment on account if you’re a private or housing association tenant and your housing benefit claim takes more than two weeks to process. 

Universal Credit advance payments for housing costs

You can apply for a universal credit advance payment to help cover your rent while you wait for your Universal Credit claim to process.

Discretionary housing payments

You can claim for a discretionary housing payment from your council for extra help with housing costs such as:

  • a rent shortfall
  • a tenancy deposit
  • rent cover while you wait to start a new job
  • moving costs

You must already claim housing benefit or Universal Credit housing costs to be eligible for a discretionary housing payment. 

Help to pay your council tax

Your council may help with a council tax reduction if you receive benefits or have a low income.

Find out how to apply for a council tax reduction.

Budgeting loans and budgeting advances

You can apply for an interest free DWP loan for essential items, such as:

  • a cooker, fridge or washing machine
  • furniture such as a bed or a sofa
  • moving costs
  • clothes for a job interview or so you can start work

Find out how to claim a:

  • budgeting loan if you claim income support, jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance or pension credit
  • budgeting advance if you claim universal credit

Credit union loans

Credit unions provide short term loans.

Find out how to join a credit union and apply for a loan.

Local welfare assistance 

Some councils have welfare schemes for people in extreme hardship.

They may give vouchers and referrals for essential items such as:

  • food  
  • gas and electricity costs
  • furniture and household items such as a washing machine
  • clothing
  • emergency travel

Most schemes don't give cash.

Ask your council about your local scheme.

Furniture schemes

The Reuse Network has details of schemes which have free or cheap cookers, fridges, sofas and other household items.

Need more help

Get advice from a Shelter adviser if the council says it can't help with your housing or council tax costs.

A welfare benefits adviser may be able to persuade the council to help or direct you to other assistance.

Contact Citizens Advice for benefits help and information.


Last updated 08 Nov 2018 | © Shelter

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