Millions of people across the UK have have noticed our food, energy and petrol costs rising and talk of further rises can be really worrying. Step Change have some great advice on how to help you now and how to be prepared for any further changes.
- Put together a budget and understand what bills are the most important
- See if you can increase the amount of money you’ve got coming in
- Look at ways to reduce your spending
New to Step Change? Get debt advice
They are here for you online 24/7. Or switch to phone – lines are open Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 8am-4pm. If you need to stop and come back later, that’s fine.
I don’t know what to pay first
If you are falling behind with important bills it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. Focusing on bills that could mean that you may lose your home such as your mortgage or rent, bills such as gas and electric that could leave you cut off from services or bills where essential items could be repossessed (taken back) such as car loans are good places to start.
Paying your rent if you are a Lewisham authority tenant
As a tenant you are responsible for keeping your rent payments up to date, otherwise you may lose your tenancy with the Council. If you are having trouble paying your rent, talk to your housing provider as soon as possible and let them know you are having difficulties.
- Paying your rent if you are a Lewisham authority tenant
- Lewisham Homes Income Team can be contacted on 0800 028 2028.
- Regenter can be contacted on 0207 635 1200.
- Lewisham also recommend you speak to Citizens’ Advice, who will advise you of your rights and options.
- You may be able to apply for housing benefit or Universal Credit,
Help with your energy bills
SELCE says “Around 18% of households in Greenwich and Lewisham are in ‘fuel poverty’ – which essentially means they have to make the financial choice between heating their homes or putting food on the table. Sadly, the number of people in fuel poverty in South East London is above average for the capital.”
SELCE can help you with:
- Energy advice by phone or at drop-in cafés: we provide one-to-one advice on reducing energy bills, energy bill debt, keeping your home warmer (or cooler) and accessing grants for home energy efficiency improvements. When social distancing allows we run energy advice cafes in five Boroughs across South East London: Lewisham, Greenwich, Bromley, Bexley and Southwark
- Home visits: this is more personalised advice for installing basic efficiency measures in your home. We can also help you access further support to keep your home warmer/cooler
- Workshops for community groups: these sessions cover energy saving, reducing bills and the dangers of living in cold homes
- Workshops for front line workers: giving guidance to carers who help to manage their clients’ energy bills
- General advice on home energy saving: we provide a package of support for reducing energy bills and making homes energy efficient.
If you would like to book a consultation call SELCE on 0204 506 6751 or 0808 169 1779 or get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding out if you’re getting all the benefits that you’re entitled to
Debt charity Turn2Us estimate that seven million people in the UK are missing out on approximately £15 billion of unclaimed benefits and 45% have never checked their benefit entitlement. Several organisations have benefit calculators which can help you find out if you are getting everything you’re entitled to.
Getting emergency help with money
If you are really struggling at the moment Step Change have a great Emergency Help page to help you out.
Getting help with food
More families than ever are needing help to feed themselves and their families, and many of those people are in work. You can find your local foodbank here.
To get help from your local foodbank you’ll need to be referred by one of the following:
- Jobcentre Plus
- A social worker
- Citizens Advice
- A children’s centre
- Your local authority
- Police or probation workers
- A GP, health visitor or other medical professional
You can also visit your local foodbank and they may be able to help you contact someone who can help you get vouchers for food, toiletries and small top ups for your fuel.
The Lewisham Household Fund
Lewisham Council received £2.6m to support residents with food, utility bills, and water rates. This was called the Household Fund and was distributed to the following groups;
- Families with children receiving free school meals;
- Families with children not receiving free school meals but receiving housing and/or council tax benefit;
- Single people/couples without children receiving housing and/or council tax benefit.
- Care leavers and special guardian carers.
They also set aside some funding to support households who, without support, would face homelessness for rent arrears.
They wrote to all those households entitled to receive support and advised them how to access the support. Schools also issued vouchers to parents of all children receiving free school meals. For those receiving support for children receiving free school meals, the vouchers would have been issued for the October and February half-term and the 2 week Christmas holiday period. If you have received confirmation that you are entitled to receive support but have been unable to redeem it online and need some help, you should forward your details to their dedicated support staff through the e-mail below;
If you are unable to access services on-line, please contact their dedicated help-line on 020 8314 3111. If you didn’t receive support vouchers but your children receive free school meals, please contact your child’s school directly.
Please note that the voucher you received had an expiry date of 31 March 2022. They have been able to get the expiry date extended but would suggest you redeem and use your voucher as soon as possible.
Healthy Start Benefits
Pregnant women and families with children under the age of 4 may be eligible for help to buy fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses and milk if they are on certain benefits.
Those who are pregnant and under 18 years old will qualify even if they don’t receive any benefits.
• £4.25 provided each week of pregnancy (from 10 weeks)
• £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year (per child)
• £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old (per child)
|Example of how the Healthy Start benefit can help families:|
|Pregnant women||£4.25 per week|
|Infant 0-12 months||£8.50 /child per week|
|Child 1-4 years||£4.25 /child per week|
|Example: A family entitled to the Healthy Start benefit with a baby aged 6 months and a toddler aged 3 years old, would receive £12.75 weekly or £51 per month|
There are over 1600 eligible families in Lewisham (January 2022) who are missing out on payments to buy vegetables, fruit, legume/lentils/beans and milk. For more information on the scheme and how to apply please visit the healthy start website.
I’m pregnant. What help is available?
During pregnancy you’re entitled to:
- Free NHS prescriptions
- Free NHS dental treatment
You can continue to receive both of these free for up to one year after you’ve had your baby. You can find out more about receiving free dental treatment during pregnancy on the NHS website.
I’m pregnant and already on benefits. Can I get more help?
If you or your partner receives one of the following benefits, and you’re expecting your first child, you may be eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
- Universal Credit
The grant helps towards the costs involved with having a baby, and you won’t need to pay it back. You can find out more about the Sure Start Maternity Grant, and check your eligibility, on the Government website. In Scotland, the same scheme is called the Best Start Grant.
Free School Meals
You could save up to £400 a year if your child gets free school meals and it will mean they get a healthy school lunch every day. Your child is entitled to free school meals if your combined annual household income is below £16,190 (as assessed by HMRC) and you get one of the following benefits:
- income-based: income support or jobseeker’s allowance (not eligible if on contribution based jobseeker’s allowance)
- income-related: employment support allowance (not eligible if on contribution based employment support allowance)
- universal credit
- income support
- the guaranteed element of state pension credit
- support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- child tax credit only.
Grants from Family Fund
If you’re raising a disabled or seriously ill child, Family Fund might be able to help. There are three things to consider when applying to Family Fund:
- Are your family eligible? We help families living in the UK on low incomes. Check our eligibility criteria to find out if this could be you.
- If you have applied to us before, check when you can you apply again.
- Is your child eligible? We use our own criteria to assess your child or young person’s additional support needs. Look at our child and young person eligibility criteria to see if we might be able to help.
- Get an application form. If you’ve read the information and think you would be eligible, you can get started right now and register to apply online, download an application pack or we can send a pack to you.
- We cannot provide an additional grant for a further child within the same family until 12 months have been reached since a previous grant was applied for. Please note that the time frame of an application for grants are family specific and not child specific.
(For example if you apply for a grant on 13/12/2021 for child 1, you cannot make another grant for any other child within the same family until 13/12/2022)
Applying for the first time? You can now register and apply online.