Cash in a crisis

Waiting for benefits or wages can leave you short of money to pay your rent, food and utility bills. Find out what you can do and about the practical help available to get you through a cash crisis.

Short-term benefit advance

If you have claimed benefits, you may be able to ask for an advance payment of benefits, also known as a short-term benefit advance.

You can ask for this if there is a delay in processing your benefit claim which isn’t your fault, or you are waiting for an increase in your benefit payments due to a change in your circumstances.

To be eligible, you must be claiming an income-related benefit such as jobseeker’s allowance, income support or employment & support allowance. You need to prove that you are experiencing financial hardship.

You usually have to repay the benefit advance within three months, but in some circumstances you have up to six months to pay back the money.

If you have applied for Universal Credit and don’t have enough to live on while you wait for your first payment you may be able to get a Universal Credit advance.

Hardship payments

If your benefits have stopped because of a sanction, you might be able to apply for hardship payments.  You will need to prove that you or your partner will have problems paying for essential living costs. If you’re homeless, pregnant, a single parent or vulnerable (perhaps because of an illness), you should be able to get a hardship payment straightaway.

You don’t usually have to repay a hardship payment.

Discretionary Assistance Fund

In Wales, you may be able to get help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF). (This fund replaced social fund community care grants and crisis loans, which no longer exist.)

The DAF provides urgent grants to people as a last resort, and can include awards for certain electrical white goods, such as fridges and cookers, in addition to household items such as beds, bedding, curtains and kitchen items. Grants do not need to be paid back. There are 2 types of grant:

Individual Assistance Payments

In some urgent situations, IAPs can help if you are trying to move house or stay in your current home. There are some qualifying conditions and, to be eligible, you must be:

  • entitled to, and in receipt of, Income Support, income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Pension Credit; or
  • due to leave an institution or care home within 6 weeks, and likely to be entitled to receive one of the above benefits on leaving.

Emergency Assistance Payments

EAPs can help meet expenses as a result of an emergency or disaster and might be able to help pay towards heating your home in the event of extreme weather.

Anyone over the age of 16 can be considered eligible for these payments.

The EAP is a small, short-term grant available to cover the immediate emergency needs and can be awarded towards essential needs such as food, gas, electricity, essential clothing and emergency travel. There is no requirement to be in receipt of any benefit, but the DAF is a fund of last resort, supporting the most vulnerable.

For more information on the DAF, included a link to apply online, have a look at the moneymadeclearwales website. You can also apply by ringing 0800 859 5924.

The Child Poverty Action Group has details of the type of thing a grant from the DAF might cover.

Get advice if your application for a DAF is unsuccessful. A benefits adviser may be able to persuade them to offer you some help or be able to help you access other sources of help.

For information on the DAF in welsh, see here.

Food banks

Food banks provide boxes of food to people in need. They are often run by church or community groups. There are over 300 food banks across the UK.

Some food banks offer a hot meal and advice service when you go to collect your food box. If you live in a rural area and cannot afford to travel to collect your box, some food banks offer a free delivery service.

You need a voucher to use a food bank. You then exchange this at the food bank for three days’ worth of food. You can get food bank vouchers from local charities, doctors’ surgeries, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice and other welfare advice centres.

Budgeting loans and budgeting advances

Budgeting loans are interest-free loans available only to people claiming certain income-related benefits.

There are two types of loan, depending on which benefits you are claiming:

  • budgeting loans – if you claim income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance or pension credit
  • budgeting advances – if you claim universal credit.

For more information, see our page on budgeting loans.

Help to pay your rent or council tax

You may be able to get help from the council with the costs of renting your home. Local councils can provide help through:

You can also contact your council’s housing options or homelessness services for advice. Your local council may be able to offer financial help to help prevent you becoming homeless.

Get advice immediately if you already have rent arrears or mortgage arrears.

Credit unions

Rather than getting a bank overdraft or spending money on your credit card, credit unions are a more affordable option if you need to borrow money for a short time. Credit unions won’t let you borrow more than they think you can pay back and the interest rates are low.

Try to avoid bank overdrafts, spending money on your credit card and borrowing from payday loan companies. These are very expensive ways to borrow money, especially if you don’t repay them in time.

Other benefits

Have a look at our page on other benefits or find out what other benefit help you might be able to claim by using the entitledto Benefits Calculator.

If you are struggling to pay your debts then seek advice immediately. Click here to find details of our free, specialist, independent, confidential debt advice service surgeries across Wales.

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

This page was last updated on: September 5, 2018

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.