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Where to get cost of living support

The cost of living crisis is challenging for everyone, but we know it is extremely difficult for autistic people and those who support them.   

This webpage provides advice on where to get help if you don’t have enough money to live on. You may be able to get help from the government or local council to afford essentials like bills and food.

Head straight to the section you want to read:


We have also created information for autistic young people on looking after your wellbeing during the cost of living crisis, and a blog post on managing your money


Receiving a cost of living payment 

You may be able to get a payment to help with the cost of living if you’re getting certain benefits or tax credits. 

You do not need to apply. If you’re eligible, you’ll be paid automatically in the same way you usually get your benefit or tax credits. The payments will be made separately from your benefit or tax credits. 

You may get a payment of £650 paid in two lump sums of £326 and £324 if you’re getting any of the following: 

  • Universal Credit 
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based) 
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related) 
  • Income Support 
  • Pension Credit.


Support available from your local authority 

Local authorities may have ‘Local Welfare Assistance’, also known as the ‘Household Support Fund’, which provides emergency financial support to help people on low incomes. Schemes vary from location to location, but you normally can only apply if you are receiving certain benefits including: 

  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related) 
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based) 
  • Universal Credit 
  • Pension Credit 
  • Income Support.


The amount you get (and indeed what you will receive) is entirely discretionary. You will not be able to claim cash, but you may be offered vouchers for food or clothing, and even furniture. Please note that not every council runs this scheme. 

The Children’s Society has a free tool that lists councils who participate in this scheme, as does Child Poverty Action Group


Checking your benefit entitlement 

There are organisations that can help you check whether you are receiving all the welfare benefits you are entitled to such as Turn2us, Entitledto, and Policy in Practice.

You’ll need information about your savings, income, pension, any disabilities for yourself, children or partner, childcare payments and any existing benefits (for you and your partner). You can also contact Citizens Advice to get benefits advice and support. To get help where you are, contact your local Citizens Advice

Some autistic children and young people are entitled to disability living allowance or a Personal Independence Payment

For people who are looking after children under 18 and do not have British or Irish nationality and are not eligible to get benefits in the UK, you can try Support for Migrant Families to find out what benefits and other help you can get.  


Support for people already on benefits 

Here you can find information on getting additional help if you are on benefits.  
Hardship payments  
If your benefits have not been paid you could apply for a hardship payment, which applies to:  


You must be able to prove you are facing financial hardship. Unless you are classed as being in a ‘vulnerable grouping’ you will not receive a hardship payment for the first two weeks after you submit a claim. 

The hardship payment money does not have to be repaid, except for payments made via Universal Credit.

Short-term benefit allowance
You can claim a benefit advance if you are in receipt of the following benefits: 


Those on Universal Credit can claim a short-term advance. Advances are for people who have already applied to claim a benefit. You must prove you are in financial hardship to claim, e.g. you cannot afford food or pay an energy bill without receiving the money.

To make a claim you need to apply to your local Jobcentre Plus. Approved payments are normally made the next working day. 

Budgeting loan or advance
A budgeting loan or advance is a short-term interest free loan which is made available from the Social Fund. It can be used to pay for certain essential items but must be paid back in full. If you are in receipt of certain welfare benefits, then you can apply for a budgeting loan (with those on Universal Credit being able to apply for an equivalent budgeting advance). 


Help with food

There is a network of local food banks that are administered by the Trussell Trust. Visit the Food Bank Finder tool to find your local food bank. To receive food from the food bank, you will need a voucher.

Getting a food voucher   
Each food bank works with different frontline professionals, such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, and Citizens Advice. These professionals will be able to refer you to a food bank and give you a food bank voucher if they think you need emergency food. 

The food bank and referral agency will use this voucher to gather some basic information about you. This will help them to understand why you need support and offer practical guidance, and the right emergency food. 

Once you have been given a voucher, you can exchange this for a minimum of three days’ emergency food at your nearest food bank centre.

Healthy Start card 
If you have a child, or are pregnant, you might be able to get a Healthy Start card to help you buy certain types of milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables.

To get the Healthy Start card you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old. You must also be getting either:

  • Universal Credit – but only if your household earns £408 a month or less
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (income based)
  • Employment and Support Allowance - but only if you're pregnant (income related)
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit – but only if your household earns £16,190 a year or less. 


With the Healthy Start card you’ll get:

  • £4.25 each week from week 10 of your pregnancy
  • £8.50 each week for children from birth to one year old
  • £4.25 each week for children between one and four years old
  • free vitamins. 


You can apply for the Healthy Start scheme on the NHS website.


Cost of transport 

You may be able to apply for a disabled person’s bus pass or railcard. Someone else can apply on your behalf if you need help with the application.

Find out if you're eligible and how to apply on the National Rail website.  


Help with school costs

If you're on a low income, you might be able to get help with some of the costs of sending your child or young person to school, including school meals, transport and uniform. 

Citizens Advice have information on how to apply for support with school costs.


Help for Households – discounts and offers 

Help for Households has listed the offers that are available from businesses to help with the cost of living. Learn more about the offers available


Further support
We have also put together resources on looking after your wellbeing and managing your money during the cost of living crisis. Find out more.