I'm a Universal Credit expert – how to get over £1,200 in freebies and discounts | The Sun

KNOWING what extra help you can get if you claim Universal Credit can be tricky – here's how to check you're not missing out on HUNDREDS.

With a cost of living crisis crippling budgets, those on low incomes are being hit the hardest as bills spiral.

Energy bills are set to soar to £3,615 on average in October, affecting 24million customers.

Prices are set to rise even more frequently after the energy price cap will now be reviewed four, instead of two, times a year.

While food and fuel prices are on the rise too due to rocketing inflation, as the Bank of England warns rates will hit 13% – the highest for 42 years.

As finances are being walloped, hard-up households need all the help they can get to get by, Turn2Us benefits expert Anna Stevenson said.

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That's why those claiming Universal Credit should get clued up on freebies and discounts they can claim to ease the squeeze.

"There's a complicated mix of help you can get on Universal Credit," said Anna.

"There are so many different schemes covering different people – so knowing exactly what you can get is tricky."

She explains the top five schemes you can apply to for help.

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£100s off water bills

A little-known benefit you could apply for if you're on Universal Credit is a social tariff for your water bill.

If you're on a low income and claim Universal Credit, you could qualify for the help.

"A lot of water companies have social tariffs – it depends how much you are spending on water and your circumstances, but you can get very large amounts off your bill," Anna said.

Support ranges from a cap on prices to discounts of up to 90% but you need to meet your local provider's eligibility criteria.

With the average water bill in the UK at around £410, according to industry group Water UK, that could be a saving of £369, depending where you live.

Customers typically need to have a household income of less than £16,500, excluding benefits, to get these tariffs.

"Different companies have different approaches to offering the help – so check with your water company and ask about the schemes available," Anna added.

£100s off broadband

Another scheme that Universal Credit claimants may not know they are eligible for is cheaper broadband deals.

Recent research from Which? indicates that millions are overpaying by an average of £250 a year.

That's because they are missing out on social tariffs that can be significantly less expensive.

"This scheme might not be as well known as it could be," Anna said.

"It's well worth checking if you can get the right broadband service for you on a cheaper social tariff.

"BT and Virgin are some of the biggest companies offering social tariffs, but make sure it's the right service for you.

"So check with your provider and shop around."

Healthy Start vouchers – up to £442

Struggling families can get hundreds of pounds worth of food vouchers under the Healthy Start scheme.

What you can get depends on your circumstances – but you could get up to £442 worth of food over the year.

Each Healthy Start voucher is currently worth £4.25 a week, and over a year that adds up to £221 – but it's worth double this if you have a child under the age of one, which totals £442.

"If you’re pregnant or have children under four, check if you can get Healthy Start vouchers – especially as food bills are so high."

School uniform – up to £200

With kids set to return to school for the new term soon, families might be worried about the cost of kitting them out with new uniform.

"Uniform costs can be a really big concern but there are different schemes in different areas to help you – check with your council," Anna said.

For example, there are school uniform grants offered by local councils to hard-pressed families.

The Sun found that councils were offering up to £200.

For example, in Essex you'll just get £62 – but in Wales, you can get £200.

Apply for a grant through your local council – use the government's finder tool to see who yours is.

If you're not eligible for the help, then there are other schemes you might be able to apply for.

"It's worth looking at your local council's Household Support Fund or the welfare assistance scheme," she said.

Free school meals

"Make sure you’re signed up for free school meals ready for term," Anna said.

You're eligible if you claim a number of benefits – Universal Credit being one of them.

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You can still claim for free school meals over holidays too – you can claim vouchers to use at the supermarket that will be the equivalent of what your child receives at school.

For example, households in Sutton can claim £90 per child during the summer holiday – equating to a payment of £15 per week.

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