Cash in a crisis

Find out how to get help and support with essentials if you've had a sudden drop in income.

This page has been updated following the coronavirus outbreak

Benefits and help with rent

Make sure you claim all the benefits you can. Use the entitledto benefits calculator to see what you could claim.

You may be able to get help with your rent and living costs from universal credit.

Universal credit may not always be the best option. In some cases you may be able to:

  • get statutory sick pay
  • claim other benefits if you're self employed
  • still get paid if your employer has told you not to work - for example, because of the coronavirus outbreak

Find out more about how to get help with rent.

Universal credit advance payments

When you make your first universal credit claim, it'll be at least 5 weeks before you get your first payment.

If you need money quickly, you can apply for a universal credit advance. You'll have to pay this back through deductions from your normal payments over the next 12 months.

Emergency financial help

Your council may have a local welfare assistance scheme for people in extreme hardship. This can help with the cost of essentials like food, bills, clothing and household items.

Use our postcode lookup tool to find details of your council's scheme:

If your income is affected by the coronavirus outbreak, your council may be able to offer you extra financial support or help with essentials. Check their website for details.

Help with council tax

Check if you qualify for a:


Coronavirus update: beware of scams

Use trusted sources of information about coronavirus like the government and the NHS.

Don't reply to emails about coronavirus from people you don't know. Don't click on any links or provide personal or financial details.

Citizens Advice have more information on how to check if something's a scam.

Support with free food

Contact your local food bank if you need help with food. If you regularly use a food bank, contact them to check if the coronavirus outbreak means there are any changes to how you can access their support.

You can search for your local food bank and find out about support available during the coronavirus outbreak on the Trussell Trust website.

If the NHS has contacted you to say you're extremely vulnerable to coronavirus because of a serious health condition, you can register for help with essentials like food or care if you need to.

Free school meals

Your child may be able to get free school meals if you get certain benefits. Find out how to apply on GOV.UK.

Coronavirus update:

Some parents have received an email stating 'As schools will be closing, if you're entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we'll make sure you're supported.' This is a scam email, so delete it and don't give any details.

Your child should still be able to get help with food during the outbreak through their school if they qualify for free school meals. Contact your school to see what help you can get.

Help with bills during the coronavirus outbreak

If you’re struggling to pay gas and electricity bills because of the coronavirus outbreak, speak to your supplier immediately. You could get support such as reduced bills or debt repayments, or more time to pay.

If you have a pre payment meter, they could, for example:

  • arrange for someone else to top up your meter
  • add credit to your account automatically
  • send you a pre loaded top up card

Other help

You may be able to get a short term loan from a credit union.

You can apply for a budgeting advance or budgeting loan if you get certain benefits and need help with things like appliances, furniture or moving costs.


Last updated 08 April 2020 | © Shelter

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