The past few months have not been a picnic for families struggling with a cost of living crisis.
And things will get even worse, with an impending energy cap peak coming in October. Inflation has driven up costs, leading to warnings of further price increases for essentials like food. Add fuel costs, increases in bus ticket prices and stagnating wages, and many households may need all the help they can get.
You may be eligible for assistance in the form of allowances, food stamps or support groups. Below are some ways to get help if you’re struggling with the cost of living.
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Zero-rated child care
For every £8 you pay into the government’s tax-free childcare scheme, you will receive an additional £2. So that’s £10 of childcare for the price of £8. If you qualify, you can get up to £2,000 a year under the scheme, or £4,000 for children with disabilities. This money must then be spent with a licensed child care provider. They include crèches, after-school clubs and nannies.
Eligibility depends on income, immigration status, age and status of children, and your employment status. Go here to check and apply.
Up to 30 hours of free childcare per week
Each parent of a child aged three or four is entitled to 15 hours of free childcare each week for a maximum of 38 weeks per year. But some can get 30. To qualify, you must work at least 16 hours a week and earn at least the national minimum wage.
Gov.uk adds: “You may be able to get free childcare for 52 weeks if you use less than 30 hours a week. Check with your childcare provider to see if this is something which he proposes.” Learn more here.
Parents and guardians can get child benefit for children under 16 and young adults under 20 who are in approved education or training. If your individual income or that of your partner exceeds £50,000 a year, you will not receive the full amount.
Child benefit is £21.80 per week for a first child, then an additional £14.45 for additional children. To check eligibility and apply for child benefits, go here
Healthy Start vouchers for food
If you are on certain benefits and have a child under the age of four, you are eligible for the Healthy Start program. It offers a prepaid voucher worth £4.25 a week to spend on healthy food.
Vouchers can be used to pay for items such as:
- plain liquid cow’s milk
- fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables
- fresh, dried and canned legumes
- infant formula made from cow’s milk
Go to the NHS website here to apply
Sure Start Centers and Children’s Centers
“Sure Start centers offer help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training and employment. Some offer early learning and full-time childcare for preschoolers,” says gov.uk.
You must apply through your council. Some councils manage or can refer you to similar services
Click on the links below to get information from your North East council on Sure Start and Children’s Centres.
Parent and baby groups
You can ask your GP or nurse for advice on parent and baby groups. These allow parents to share experiences and children to mingle with other children.
Still need help?
- Support, advice and information for parents of disabled children.
- Hotline: 0808 808 3555
- Website: https://contact.org.uk/
- Help from volunteer parents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Hotline: 0808 800 2222
- Website: www.familylives.org.uk
Family Law Group
- Support for parents and relatives of children involved in or in need of social services.
- Hotline: 0808 801 0366
- Website: www.frg.org.uk
- Help for single parents and equal families
- Hotline: 0808 802 0925
- Website: http://www.gingerbread.org.uk
If you’re really struggling
There are free organizations that will help you clear your debt if you are really struggling:
- Citizens Advice (0800 144 8848)
- Change of stage (0800 138 1111)
- National debt line (0808 808 4000)
Find a food bank
You could also see if you qualify for help from your nearest food bank. Go here to find yours.