Getting extra financial help
Caring often brings unexpected costs and it can be difficult to make ends meet, especially if you have had to give up work or reduce your hours to care.
There are organisations and schemes that can offer grants to carers who are facing particular financial difficulties. They could vary from enabling you to purchase certain disability equipment to taking a much needed short break away.
Frequently asked questions on grants
Grants are non-repayable funds or products given by the government or an organisation for a particular purpose. Throughout the UK, there are thousands of grants and schemes available to help people facing financial hardship, many of which are issued by trusts and charities.
Grants can be given for all sorts of reasons. Here are some examples:
- You need help with home repairs and moving home.
- You need help with buying disability equipment or day-to-day
living costs that can’t be covered by any benefits you have.
- You need help with the cost of a holiday.
- You need help with replacing essential appliances like a fridge or washing machine.
- You need help with costs relating to childcare (eg, school uniforms).
- You have an unexpected cost to meet such as a domestic bill.
The criteria for each one will vary but often, the grant provider will want to ensure that you have applied for any government schemes and claimed all the statutory benefits that are available to you first.
You will also need to show that you have a low income and no or low savings available to you. Most charities will judge applications on a case-by-case basis so don't be afraid of something that seems unusual. Grants can be awarded for a wide variety of circumstances to help someone going through a tough time.
Many grants are administered by charities or trusts. There are many different kinds and most will have specific qualifying rules. This makes it almost impossible for us to list them all.
It might be helpful to consider the following when seeking financial support:
What’s available locally?
There are many local charities and trusts that help people within certain geographical locations. It might be worth asking your local carers’ centre or local Citizens Advice Bureau if they know of any grants that are local to you.
Charities that focus on a particular illness or disability
There are many different charities that focus on a particular illness or disability – here are some examples:
- The Multiple Sclerosis Society can sometimes award grants for disability equipment, short breaks and support for families.
- Macmillan Cancer Support can sometimes award small one off grants to help with some of the additional costs that a cancer diagnosis can bring.
To find charities that focus on a particular illness or disability, you could search online or you could contact our Helpline team, who could have a look for you, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupations in the family
Your own occupation, or any you have had in the past, can open up a range of grants to apply for – from being a doctor, engineer, entertainer, retail worker, etc.
Has someone in your family worked in the Armed Forces or do they continue to? Have they worked in a certain sector like nursing (including healthcare assistants), the civil service or the education sector? There are many different charities that were specifically set up to aid the families of people within a whole range of professions.
Being a member of a certain body
This may also mean you are eligible for certain grants eg, The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys has a benevolent fund for its members.
Consider what you need the grant for
If you need a specific item of equipment or a holiday, that might affect who you can apply to for assistance.
If you need help to adapt a home to meet the needs of someone with a disability or illness, you might consider a Disabled Facilities Grant. This is a local council grant to help towards the cost of adapting a home to enable someone with a disability or illness to continue living there.
Try out a grants checker
The benefits charity Turn2us has a website that includes a dedicated ‘grants checker’ specifically to help you find grants, based on your individual circumstances. They also have a free ‘grants checker’ helpline (0808 802 2000) that you can call and who will then run a grants search for you.
Turn2us also has its own occupational charity called the Elizabeth Finn Fund. This is worth exploring as it covers a wide range of professionals who can direct you to other sources of support even if they themselves cannot help you.
Support schemes in England
Your local council may have a local welfare assistance scheme (sometimes this has another name like Local Support Scheme). If you are in urgent need or in emergency circumstances, this is designed to offer support. Each local council will have its own scheme, and some offer vouchers to pay for food or essential items. You can see what is available in your area via your local council, or you can search via the CPAG website.
Support schemes in Wales
In Wales, there is a single national local welfare assistance scheme called the Discretionary Assistance Fund. This fund has two types of grant. One is called Emergency Assistance Payment (for urgent essential costs) and the other is called Individual Assistance Payment (to help you or someone you care for remain independent). For more information to see if you qualify and for details on how to apply visit the Welsh Government website.
Support schemes in Scotland
In Scotland, there is a single national Scottish Welfare Fund. This fund includes crisis grants that may be able to help after a disaster or if you are in an emergency situation. It also offers community care grants to help people in need of financial help to live independently. For more information on applying or finding out whether you’re eligible, visit the Scottish Government website.
Support schemes in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, there is a service called Finance Support that may be able to support you in times of financial crisis and need. This service includes a dedicated free phone service where you can apply for a form of support called Discretionary Support – offering help at a time of crisis when you or your immediate family’s health, safety or wellbeing are at significant risk.
If you are eligible for Discretionary Support it can take the form of a loan or a grant. In times of financial crisis, you may also be eligible to receive an advance payment called a Short Term Benefit Advance or face-to-face help. You can find out more by visiting the nidirect.gov.uk website.
Budgeting Loans are another form of financial support you could be entitled to. These are an extra amount of money some people can receive on top of their benefits to help pay for essential items like furniture, clothes or moving costs. Budgeting loans are interest-free, so you only pay back what you borrow. You have to be receiving certain benefits to apply for one. You can find out more on the GOV.UK website (for England, Wales & Scotland) or on the NI direct website (for Northern Ireland).
You may be able to get financial support through a grant if you have a disability or physical or mental health condition and need support with this for your employment.
This could help pay for:
- BSL interpreters, lip speakers or note takers
- adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work
- taxi fares to work or a support worker if you cannot use public transport
- a support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace.
See the UK Government's Access to Work page to find out about the criteria and what's involved.
A Disabled Facilities Grant is a local authority grant to help towards the cost of adapting your home (or the home of the person you look after) to enable the person you look after to continue to live there.
A grant is paid when the council considers that changes are necessary and appropriate to meet their needs, and that the work is reasonable and practicable. In Scotland, a similar scheme is in operation but is not called a Disabled Facilities Grant. However, for ease of reference, we have retained the term.
A Disabled Facilities Grant can be used for a variety of uses to meet the needs of the person you are looking after including:
- access to the property from outdoors and access to a garden
- access inside the property such as widening doorways for a wheelchair or installing a stairlift
- installing better washing facilities or adapted bathroom
- adaptations to a kitchen such as lowering work tops
- improving heating systems (not in Scotland).
Financial help will not usually be available for building an extension to your home. But it depends on the reason you need the extension and the arrangements in your local area. An exception would be if the extension was the only way to provide a ‘standard amenity’, such as a bathroom or kitchen.
The person you look after may apply if they have a disability. You can also apply if you care for a disabled person who is living with you in your own home. In either case, it doesn't matter if you are an owner-occupier or tenant.
Landlords can also apply on behalf of their disabled tenants. If you require an adaptation and live in private rented housing in Scotland, you can apply directly for a grant, although you must have your landlord's consent to the works.
In all cases, it’s a requirement that the property is the sole or main residence for the disabled person and that they intend to live there for at least five years after the work is completed, or for a shorter period if there are health or other special reasons.
The maximum grant that can be given is £30,000 in England, £25,000 in Northern Ireland and £36,000 in Wales. The local authority has discretion to increase the maximum amount if it’s not sufficient to cover the planned works. In Scotland, there is no maximum amount.
The grant is subject to a means test so the amount which is given will depend on the savings and income of the disabled person. The rules are as follows:
- Only the financial resources of the disabled person (and their spouse or civil partner) are relevant. Your own financial resources as a carer are not relevant even if you own the property.
- If the disabled person is under 19 there is no means testing at all.
- A calculation is used to determine how much the grant will be and to calculate how much would need to be contributed by the person applying for the grant.
- If the person you look after is in receipt of certain social security benefits, they are likely to be entitled to a full grant.
- There is no upper capital limit which will prevent a grant being made but set amounts on any capital over £6,000 will be taken into account.
- In Scotland, the mandatory grant is 80% but, if the person you care for is in receipt of certain social security benefits, they will be entitled to a full grant. If the person you care for only qualifies for an 80% grant, councils have the discretion to top up this amount.
In the first instance, contact your local authority or your trust in Northern Ireland. Disabled Facilities Grants are administered by your local housing department rather than social services. Contact the housing department to apply.
You must apply for a grant before you start any work as you won't normally get any grant if you start work before the council approves the application.
Once they have received an application, the housing department should consult with social services and normally arrange for an assessment by an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist will consider the needs of the disabled person and also whether or not the adaptations are reasonable or practical given the age and condition of the property.
A Disabled Facilities Grant will usually only be paid if the work is carried out within 12 months of the date of when the application is approved. In some cases, the grant will be paid in instalments; in other cases it may be paid as one lump sum once the work is finished. You will need to show invoices and receipts for the work.
If, after the application has been approved, the disabled person's circumstances change before the works are completed, the local housing department has a discretion as to whether to proceed with paying for all, part or none of the works. It must however take into account all the circumstances of the situation before deciding how to proceed.
You can watch our 'Share and Learn' video led by Carers UK advisers Liz and Priya to find out more about Disabled Facilities Grants and the disability benefits that are available.
If you live in England, an alternative is to use a Home Improvement Agency to help you apply for a grant and to manage the work. There are approximately 210 home improvement agencies in England. However, there can be costs involved in using an agency. Find your nearest home improvement agency online or phone Foundations on 0300 124 0315.
There are similar organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
For Wales: Care & Repair Cymru 029 20576 286 www.careandrepair.org.uk
For Scotland: Care & Repair Forum Scotland 0141 221 9879 www.careandrepairscotland.co.uk
For Northern Ireland: please see here: Northern Ireland housing executive.
The housing department must give their decision in writing within six months of the date of application for the grant. If you are unhappy with the decision, you could use the local authority’s complaints system. A further complaint could be made to the Local Government Ombudsman (Scottish Public Services Ombudsman in Scotland) if you are not satisfied.