Everybody falls on hard times now and again. But for some people making ends meet even if they are in employment can be incredibly difficult. In some cases, events may get out of hand, and paying for even the most essential things like food and electricity can be out of reach. This can often come hand in hand with a reduction in government-based benefits due to sanctions or other punishment.
If this is a situation you find yourself in, then don’t despair. The government has the scheme to help people out just like you. It’s called the hardship allowance.
What Is a Hardship Allowance?
Hardship allowance, or hardship payments, are mainly paid to people getting Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, or Universal Credit, whose benefits have been stopped and who need money to afford basic essentials like food or heating. It can also be given to those who are vulnerable or care for people who would be at risk.
Most people apply for hardship payments if their benefits have been stopped because they have been sanctioned for not keeping to the terms of their claim or missing important interviews or appointments.
Hardship payments can also be paid if you are waiting for a benefit payment, are in severe need, and aren’t able to claim an advance payment or short-term benefit advance.
In some cases, employers may offer hardship payments to staff. This is sometimes offered if the hardship has been partially caused by the employee’s role, for example when a person is forced to relocate or take a reduction in hours. Hardship payments of this type are incredibly rare.
Can Anyone Receive a Hardship Payment from the Government?
No. As mentioned above, hardship allowances from the government are normally limited to those on benefits who have been sanctioned and face a stop in their payments. You usually can’t get a hardship payment if you are simply short of money or need to pay for an urgent expense.
That doesn’t mean that those in employment can’t receive a hardship allowance. Many workers in low-paid jobs receive Employment and Support Allowance and/or Universal Credit. If they do, they will be allowed to apply for a hardship payment. Anybody in this situation, however, will have to prove that they are in dire need of the money and not just short of cash.
Do I Have to Be on Benefits to Receive a Hardship Allowance?
To get a hardship payment from the government you need to be receiving one of the following:
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
If you are trying to receive a hardship payment from an employer that operates such a scheme, you will need to check the criteria for such payment with them.
Can I Get a Hardship Payment If I Or Others in My Household Are Working?
Yes, you can. Although, as mentioned previously, it is much less likely that the government will agree to such payment. If you’re getting income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance because your household income and savings are incredibly low, you may qualify for a hardship payment if you can show you are in severe need of money.
If you’re getting either contributory or new style benefits, you household income and savings will be means tested. If this is considered too high, then you won’t be eligible for a hardship allowance.
How Do I Know if I’m Eligible for a Hardship Allowance from the Government?
To be eligible for a hardship payment you must be unable to pay for essentials, and 100% of the benefits you receive must have been cut for any reason.
Payments are usually only granted to people aged 18 or over, although 16 or 17-year-olds could be eligible in certain circumstances.
You will need to prove the reason why you need a hardship payment and show that you don’t have any access to other money or savings. The government will also check that you are not able to borrow from family or friends and have tried to get other support first, such as help from your local council or charitable organizations. You will need to be prepared to supply as much supporting evidence as you can to show you will be in severe need.
Is A Hardship Allowance A Loan and Do I Have to Pay It Back?
At the moment, if you’re claiming Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance you don’t have to repay any hardship payments received.
If you’re on Universal Credit, you will be asked to pay back the money. After any sanctions end, money will usually be taken out of Universal Credit payments until the total hardship allowance has been repaid.
How Much Is a Hardship Allowance?
People receiving Employment and Support Allowances, or Jobseekers Allowances can usually receive up to 60% of their benefits. These are means-tested benefits and are only available if your household income and savings are low. Your household income and savings will be checked to see if you meet the conditions for getting payment and at what rate this should be.
Those who receive Universal Credit can usually receive up to 60% of their usual Universal Credit payment. Again, the household income and savings will be means-tested before any hardship allowance is given.
If the reason for applying for a hardship payment is particularly severe, the applicant could receive up to 80% of their normal benefits. Circumstances in which you might receive a higher payment could be because you or your partner is pregnant or seriously ill.
If your application is successful, you’ll be able to receive hardship payments for as long as your benefits sanction lasts.
What Evidence Do I Need to Apply for a Hardship Allowance from the Government?
You’ll need to supply evidence when you apply for a hardship allowance. This could include:
- Birth certificates of any dependants
- Evidence for disabilities or health problems you or your dependents may have
- Evidence that proves that you’ve explored other avenues to obtain the money you’re asking for – like asking friends, family, or charities for financial help
- Proof that you have been making an attempt to reduce your non-essential costs – e.g., canceling subscriptions or cutting back on shopping
Finding yourself in a tight spot with finances can happen to anyone. But for those who find paying for even the most essential things a constant difficulty, the hardship allowance can go some way to helping them out.