Help with cost of living
We understand that many residents are facing a cost of living crisis with rising bills, if you’re worried about affording payments, managing debt and looking after you and your family’s wellbeing – there is support available.
Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly.
You may be able to get Universal Credit if you’re on a low income or need help with your living costs. You could be working (including self-employed or part time) or be out of work.
To claim you must:
- live in the UK
- be aged 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
- be under State Pension age
- have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments
You can use a benefits calculator to check what benefits you could get.
Essex Essential Living Fund
Anyone can apply for this funding. You will need to answer questions about your income, earnings and savings. You also need to give proof of your financial situation.
The Essential Living Fund can help pay for:
- household furnishings
- white goods
- clothing and footwear, including school uniforms in exceptional circumstances
- general living expenses such as groceries, nappies, toiletries and money for pay-as-you-go fuel meters
The Essex Essential Living Fund has replaced Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants.
You must live in Essex and apply through Southend Borough Council.
Help with energy bills
For information about grants, funding and support to help with paying energy bills, please visit our Energy Efficient Homes page.
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)
If you need extra financial help with your housing costs you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. You must be in receipt of either Housing Benefit or Universal Credit that includes a housing element to apply.
Find out more information and apply for discretionary housing benefit.
Short term benefit advance
Most benefits can be paid early. This is known as a 'short term benefit advance'.
You might be able to get your benefit paid early if:
- you’ve claimed a benefit and are waiting for the first payment
- your benefit has been increased but you haven’t had the new amount yet
- you’ve been told you won’t be paid on the usual date
A small amount will be taken off future payments to pay it back - usually for 12 weeks.
You can’t get a benefit paid early for:
- Housing Benefit
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Child Benefit
- Guardian's Allowance
- Tax credit
To ask for an advance, contact the DWP office that's dealing with your benefit claim. You can find their contact details on any letter or email you’ve had from them.
Council Tax Support
You can apply for Council Tax support if you’re:
- on a low income or claiming benefits
- paying rent to a housing association or private landlord
How much Council Tax support you might get depends on:
- your family circumstances
- your income and savings
- the people you have living with you
If you have savings and investments totalling more than £16,000 (apart from some pensioners on Guarantee Pension Credit) you are not likely to get Council Tax support.
Find out more aboutCouncil Tax Support.
If you’re struggling to pay for food, you might be able to qualify for food vouchers.
You’ll usually need a referral to access the food bank which can be obtained from Citizen’s Advice or another organisation currently supporting you such as our Housing or Benefits teams.
The following food banks are located in the district:
- St Andrew’s Church, Parsonage Street, Halstead, CO9 2LD – Monday 10am-12pm
- The Church, Bridge End Lane, Great Notley, CM77 7GN – Tuesday 10am-12pm
- St Paul’s Church, Hay Lane South, Braintree, CM7 3DY – Wednesday 10am-12pm
- Christ Church Methodist United Reformed Church, London Road, Braintree, CM7 2LD – Thursday and Friday 10am-12pm
- Witham Methodist Church, Guithavon Street, Witham, CM8 1BJ – Friday 10am-12pm
Offices are manned by volunteers and days/times may vary. Please call before you come so that your journey is not wasted.
- emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- calling 01376 330694
Essex ActivAte – Holiday Activity and Food
Essex ActivAte is the name for the Holiday Activity and Food (#HAF2022) programme across Essex, run by Active Essex, Essex County Council and Thurrock Council, on behalf of the Department for Education. Additional funding is provided by Essex County Council to extend the offer to low income working families who also require support during the school holidays. This programme takes place during the Easter, summer and winter holidays.
The programme aims to support the physical and mental wellbeing of primary and secondary school children, through engagement in a wide variety of activities, and provision of a nutritious, school standard meal.
Working with a network of trusted local delivery partners, Active Essex run these FREE face to face clubs during the school holidays for children and young people who are eligible for benefits based free school meals, as well as those from low income working families who would benefit from this extra support. We are also able to extend this support to children and young people who may be vulnerable to inactivity or social isolation, on a case by case basis, please speak to the club provider to discuss if this is an option.
Each Essex ActivAte club will deliver a variety of fun physical and enrichment activities, fun food education and a nutritious meal. Alongside this you can access family support and fun activities to keep children active and entertained at home. Check out our Family Support page below to get started!
Community fridges take surplus food from supermarkets and businesses for people to take for free – helping to reduce food waste and provide fresh food to people who need it. You don’t need to qualify to use it, you can simply help yourself, leaving something you don’t need yourself or a donation towards the running costs if you can.
The following community fridges are available in the area;
- Witham Community Hub, The Grove Shopping Centre, Witham, Essex CM8 2YT
- Halstead Community Fridge, Halstead, CO9 1ET
- First Stop, 29 Bocking end, Braintree, Essex, CM7 9AE
- Great Bardfield Community Fridge, Town Hall, Dunmow Road, Great Bardfield, Essex, CM7 4SA
Healthy Start Vouchers
If you're at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.
To get the free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers you must also be claiming either:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance - but only if you're pregnant
- Child Tax Credit - and your household earns £16,190 a year or less
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit - and your household earns £408 a month or less
If you get Child Tax Credit you can’t get the vitamins and vouchers if you also get Working Tax Credit - unless you get the ‘run-on’ payment. Working Tax Credit run-on is the payment you get for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.
If you’re under 18 and pregnant, you can still get vitamins and food vouchers even if you don’t get any of these benefits.
Ask your midwife or health visitor for an application form. You can also call the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and ask them to send you a form.
Calls cost up to 9p a minute from landlines and up to 55p a minute from mobiles. It should be free if you call from your mobile and have landline calls included in your contract.
Meal Planning and Food Budgeting
Making a meal plan for the week can help you save money in the long run, only buying what you need and helping you to stick to a list when going to the supermarket and reducing return trips where you might buy more.
Find advice on ways to lower your food bill at Money Saving Expert.
Love Food Hate Waste
The average family of four can save just over £60 per month by reducing their food waste.
For help and advice to eat better and waste less visit the Love Food Hate Waste website.
Interest free loan for essentials
You might be able to get what's called a 'budgeting loan' for essentials like clothing or a washing machine if you claim certain benefits.
You might be eligible if you get:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
The loan is interest-free, so you'll only have to pay back what you borrow. You'll usually need to pay back the loan within 2 years.
If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs and can’t afford your repayments, contact the DWP’s Debt Management contact centre.
- Telephone: 0800 916 0647
If you’re struggling to afford the cost of school uniform, your child’s school may be able to help. Speak to them to see if they run any schemes such as a school uniform exchange or provide grants towards uniform costs.
Alternatively, you may find old uniforms in charity shops or via Pay it Forward Facebook pages.
Low cost clothing can be bought from:
- Budget high street shops
- Charity shops
- Facebook Marketplace
- Car boot sales
Or you may be able to find a local clothing exchange or swap in your local area, or why not organise one among friends or neighbours?
Sometimes clothes or children’s clothes are listed on local Pay it Forward Facebook pages too.
Household Items and other supplies
If you need new or replacement household items, there are a number of websites where people list items for free they no longer need.
- Pay it Forward Facebook pages
- Facebook Marketplace
- Garage sales
If you have an item that needs repairing, why not take it to a repair café? A Repair Café runs at Cornerstone Church in Black Notley. Find more about Cornerstone Church.