Hardship and money matters

Dealing with your money

Budgeting

When someone starts to care or has been caring for a while they may have to take a drop in income and this can make budgeting hard. We have put some information together to help people find ways of saving and managing money. Some of the savings may seem small but collectively getting money off here and there can make quite a difference.

I have just had to give up work to care and am really worried about money 
My energy bills are so expensive. Is there any help out there?
Is there any help with my water bills? 
What about phones and broadband
Are there any discounts for carers and disabled people?
What about concessionary travel?
I am struggling to pay for food. Where could I get help?
I am on a low income. Can I get help with prescriptions and other NHS charges?
Vat exemptions for disabled people
Help from your local council
I am on means tested benefits and need some essential household items
I am falling behind on paying my utility bulls. Are there any grants to help with this?

I have just had to give up work to care for my mum and am really worried about money

Get a benefit check done, through Citizens Advice Bureau, to find out what you and the person you care for may be able to claim. Or your local advice centre may be able to help. As well as offering benefits advice, some advice centres also help with other money matters, including debt and energy advice.

Money Saving Expert is a well-known website that deals with all kinds of money matters and has lots of tips to help with household savings.

My energy bills are so expensive. Is there any help out there?

It’s often possible to get a cheaper deal but it can be time consuming to do the research and look around. If you are short of time you may find Uswitch helpful as they can do some of the research for you and help you identify better deals. Talking Money a Bristol based charity has an energy advice team who can offer advice about accessing grants and making your home more energy efficient.

Is there any help with my water bills?

The Citizens Advice Bureau has information about how you may be able to get help with water bills. The Watersure scheme helps people who have to use a large amount of water for essential reasons, for example, people who have to do a lot of washing because of incontinence. To benefit from the scheme you will need to have a water meter fitted and be getting certain benefits.

Both Bristol Water and Wessex Water have schemes to address arrears and lower your water bills.

Your local advice centre may also be able to help with applications.

What about phones and broadband?

It can be worth shopping around to try and get a cheap deal, but this can be time consuming. There are websites that can help you compare the market Uswitch and Money Saving Expert have sections on this.

Are there any discounts for carers and disabled people?

Yes, there are many places that offer discounts locally, through our Carers Emergency Card discount scheme. You can get discounts on a day out, getting a treatment or for shopping.

The CEA card allows a carer to accompany a disabled person to the cinema free of charge.

Carers Trust has a section on their website about places offering discounts to carers and the person that you care for on days out. They also have a section on your legal rights to getting free entry to visitor attractions.

If in doubt it is always worth asking about any concessions or discounts. It’s probably best to ask in advance and to take proof of any disability benefits, carers emergency card or carers allowance award letters with you. Many places don’t ask for proof, but they may do.

What about concessionary travel?

Take a look at our Days Out travel section to find out about discounts for travel.

I am struggling to pay for food. Where could I get help?

There are a network of food banks in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. You will need a voucher to obtain food from them. You can find your nearest food bank through the Trussell Trust. You will need to contact your local food bank to find out where to collect a voucher and will need this before your food parcel can be issued.

I am on a low income. Can I get help with prescriptions and other NHS charges?

Many people on a means tested benefit will be entitled to free prescriptions, free dental care, free eye care, wigs and fabric supports and help with travel health care costs. Other people who are on a low income may get help through the NHS low income scheme, whilst others are exempt from paying NHS charges. If you have to pay for your prescriptions, and you have four or more prescription items in three months (or 13 or more in a year), you can save money with a Prescription Prepayment Certificate. Ask your pharmacist for an application form.

There is information about the different ways to get help with health costs on the NHS website.

Vat exemptions for disabled people

Disabled people can claim VAT exemption on certain eligible items (equipment that has been designed exclusively for disabled people or which has been adapted for their use) and some building work to adapt the home where the disabled person lives.  You can find out more about this on the government website.

Help from your local council

If you are on certain benefits or you are on a low income, you may be able to get help from your council. When you apply make it clear that you are a carer. Local welfare assistance could help with essential items and the help is usually in the form of a voucher that you can spend in a named place.

In South Gloucestershire you can apply to the Welfare Grant Scheme.

In Bristol you can apply for an emergency payment.

I am on means tested benefits and need some essential household items

If you are getting certain means tested benefits you could apply for a ‘budgeting loan’. A budgeting loan is paid from the Social Fund and would need to be paid back but is an interest free loan. You can find out more about budgeting loans on  the government website.

If you have tried all other avenues for getting help, you may be able to apply to a charity or trust for a grant.

I am falling behind on paying my utility bills. Are there any grants to help with this?

Several of the energy companies have funds that can help people who are struggling to pay their fuel bills and have fallen behind. You can apply directly to the funds but they all recommend that people get money advice from an organisation first. An advice agency may be able to help with the application and offer other support and advice. Your local advice centre may be able to give advice on this.

You can find out about the individual grant funds available from the energy companies. Some of these funds can also help with buying energy efficient white goods, or boiler repair and replacement. Some also help with fees for bankruptcy or for a debt relief order.

British Gas Energy Trust
Eon Energy
Npower Energy Fund
EDF Energy Trust

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Grants and trusts

Many carers struggle to make ends meet. Perhaps you have had to reduce your working hours or give up paid employment. You may have been caring and on a low income for some time so your savings have been used up. It can be hard to meet the cost of something unexpected or for something that would really help in your caring role.

Grants and Trusts
Key facts when applying to a charity or trust
Are there any local charities I can apply to?
Are there any grants available from my local council?
Do any charities award grants for holidays?

Grants and Trusts

There are charities and trusts that you could apply to for help. Most have quite specific criteria and are aimed at people on low incomes with little or no savings. Demand is high and often there is a wait for an application to be processed but applying for a grant could be worth trying.

Carers UK has a section about grants for carers.

Carers Trust has put together a factsheet for carers about charitable grants and trusts they can apply to.

Turn 2 Us is a website where you can search for grants. You can personalise your search by adding information about your individual situation to find the most appropriate fund.

Where you or the person you care for have worked in the past can open doors to getting help with money and other support, for example:

SSAFA the Armed Forces charity helps individuals (and their families) who are serving or have served in the armed forces. They provide debt advice, can help with grants and offer other practical and emotional support. Their phone number is 0800 731 4880. They are open every weekday 9.00am – 5.30pm

The Royal British Legion do much the same for people who have served in the forces. Their phone number is 0808 802 8080, 7 days a week from 8am – 8pm.

If you have previously worked in retail, the retail trust has lots of information.

These are just a few ideas, you can use the Turn 2 Us website to look for charities supporting people who work or have worked in many different occupations.

Key facts when applying to a charity or trust

  • some charities help people with a particular health condition or disability.
  • charities often help people from certain disadvantaged groups, for example, carers.
  • you may be able to get help from a charity connected to your job or occupation even if you no longer work in that sector.
  • some charities help people in a specific location, for example people living in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
  • you may need to apply through a third party, for example an organisation that supports you and knows your situation.
  • you will usually need to provide detailed financial information to the charity with evidence of income and savings. Most charities only help people on a low income with limited savings.
  • you will need to tell the charity or trust about your situation and give some personal details. It will help if you can build a picture of the problems you have and how a grant or award would help.
  • you may need to provide quotes and prices for any items or services that you are asking for help with.
  • charities will usually expect you to apply for any benefits entitlement before awarding you a grant.

Turn 2 Us has produced guidance to help individuals wishing to apply for a grant.

Are there any local charities I can apply to?

Bristol Charities has a special fund that carers can apply to.

St Monica’s Community Fund may help with a one off grant or a regular gift. They help people aged over 40 with a physical illness or disability so may be better suited to the person you care for.

There are other local charities that you can apply to. Use the Turn 2 Us website and enter your postcode to find them.

Are there grants available from my local council?

Grants from the local council tend to be paid to people suffering hardship and you will need to meet certain criteria to get support.

If you are on certain benefits or on a low income, you may be able to get help from South Gloucestershire council, through the Welfare Grant Scheme.

In Bristol you can apply for what is called an emergency payment.

Do any charities award grants for holidays?

Some charities provide grants for holidays and breaks for disabled people and their carers. The Carers Trust website has a section on holidays, including a section on grants that carers can apply to.

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Debt

For carers, it can be hard to make ends meet and this sometimes leads to problems with debt.

Money worries and debt can leave you feeling overwhelmed so the sooner you seek help the better. Problems can often be resolved if dealt with quickly and not left to spiral. If things are feeling out of control it’s never too late to get help and advice.

I am struggling with money and have got into debt
I am being bombarded by letters and calls about my debts
Can I apply for a grant to help pay off my debts?

I am struggling with money and have got into debt 

Being in debt is stressful and it can be hard to know what to do first – especially if you are receiving letters and calls from the different companies that you owe money to.

You might be thinking about taking out a loan to pay back money you owe, but this can make the problem much worse.  Seek advice as soon as possible. When looking for help with debt issues, avoid organisations that charge you as there is lots of free confidential advice out there.

If you live in Bristol or South Gloucestershire there are various organisations that offer free debt and money advice. You can look for your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau or find your nearest advice centre.

National charities that offer free advice by phone or online include:

National Debtline – Telephone and internet based advice from a national charity.

SSAFA the Armed Forces charity helps individuals (and their families) who are serving or have served in the armed forces. They provide debt advice, can help with grants and offer other practical and emotional support.

The Royal British Legion do much the same for people who have served in the forces.

A number of websites provide information about debt problems:

Citizens Advice Bureau has a section on debt.
Money Advice Service website is all about money matters.

I am being bombarded by letters and calls about my debts

Debts are either classed as priority or non-priority debts. It’s useful to know the difference as it can help you plan what you need to do.

Priority debts have the most serious consequences if you don’t pay them e.g. eviction, having your house repossessed or a court fine. Things like rent arrears, falling behind on your mortgage, not paying council tax or your gas and electricity are all priority debts and need to be dealt with before non-priority debts.

Non priority debts do not have such serious consequences if you are unable to pay them. They include things like credit cards, store cards and pay day loans. These creditors may put you under a lot of pressure, so get advice from a money advice organisation about how to respond. The Citizens Advice Bureau has a tool which helps work out which are priority debts and steps that you can take yourself. 

Can I apply for a grant to help pay off my debts? 

Very few grant giving bodies will award a grant to help pay off debts. A different approach is to see if you can apply for a grant towards an essential item which will prevent you getting further into debt. Some energy companies help with fees for bankruptcy and debt relief orders. and can sometimes help if you have fallen behind with your bills. See our Grants section.

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Wellaware database

The Wellaware database is the single most comprehensive online guide to health, wellbeing and community services and covers the counties of Bristol and South Gloucestershire.