Young girl eating at a table, with her mother and sibling in the background

Cost-of-living crisis: Where to get support if your family is struggling

We know that the cost-of-living crisis is making life harder and harder for families. So, if you’re struggling to afford the essentials, here is where you can get support.

Young girl

From batch cooking to washing clothes on a lower temperature, there are plenty of small ways you can try to make your budget stretch further. Read advice and useful resources on healthy eating on a budget from our experts.

But, for many families this winter, we know that cost-cutting simply won’t be enough. 

Between soaring food and energy costs, many of our budgets are being pushed to the brink. So, if you or someone you know is struggling with poverty, here are a few places where you can get support. 

We know it can be difficult to ask for help, but there’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. No family should have to go cold or hungry. 

Whoever you reach out to - whether it's your food bank, energy supplier or even your local council - they should always treat you with kindness and respect. 

Where you can get support 

Beds and bedding

If you need help with beds and bedding there may be charities local to you who can help you get what you need.

Zarach are a charity that help families specifically with beds and bedding. Visit Zarach's website to find out more about the help they offer.

You may also be able to get help from your local authority. End Furniture Poverty have a search tool to help you find welfare assistance from your local authority.

Food banks 

Food banks offer food and support to people who can’t afford the essentials. There are over 2,000 food banks across the UK, and most are run by a charity called The Trussell Trust. 

If you’re struggling, a food bank can provide you with a food parcel to help you get by. This will contain enough food for you and your family for a few days.  

Each food parcel contains tinned and dried food that’s been donated by the local community. So, this might include items such as:  

  • cereal 

  • soup 

  • rice 

  • pasta 

  • lentils, beans and pulses 

  • tinned meat and vegetables 

  • tea and coffee 

  • biscuits 

  • fruit juice  

  • UHT milk 

They may also provide toiletries and hygiene products, if they can.  

Food banks offer support to people in need. So, in order to get help, you’ll need to be referred by a local organisation or professional.  

This could be something your doctor, health visitor, social worker, local council or Citizen’s Advice could help with.  

Speak to them about your situation, and they may provide you with a food voucher, which you can exchange for a food parcel at a food bank.  

It varies from place to place but some food banks are also part of the ‘Fuel Bank scheme’.

This means that, depending on you live, your food bank may also be able to give you a fuel voucher. This has enough money to top up your prepayment metre for a week or two.  

Citizens Advice  

When you’re dealing with financial struggles, it can feel intimidating, confusing and nerve-wracking. No one should have to face these problems alone – and this is where charities, such as Citizens Advice, can help.  

Whether you need help budgeting, managing debt, or want to check what grants and benefits you may be eligible for, Citizen’s advice can offer you impartial, confidential advice. Their teams can refer you to a food bank, if needed, too. 

Energy suppliers  

We know that as energy bills soar, many families are struggling to keep their homes warm. 

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, the first step is to speak to your supplier to figure out a way you can pay them. They’ll help you come to a solution. So, negotiate a deal that works best for the both of you.  

It’s also worth asking if they offer any grants to help pay off any energy debt you may have.  

If your supplier doesn’t offer a grant, don’t worry. You could also see if you can apply for a grant from: 

It can take a while to apply for a grant and you’ll need to provide detailed information about your financial situation. It might be worth getting a helping hand from a friend, family member or Citizens Advice.  

Your local council 

If you need urgent help, you should get in touch with your local council. They might be able to help you pay for your energy and water bills, food, or essential items such as clothes or an oven.  

This support is often called ‘Welfare Assistance’ or the ‘Household Support’. What support is available varies from place to place. So, get in touch with your local council to see if they run their own scheme.  

Depending on your circumstances, your council may be able to reduce your council tax bill too.  

Community fridges 

Community fridges were originally set up to tackle food waste. However, more and more people are turning them for everyday essentials as the cost-of-living rises. 

The Hubbub Foundation is a charity that offers over 300 community fridges across the UK.  

People and businesses donate fresh food, which would otherwise go to waste. So, you might find items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, unopened fruit juices or sealed packaged foods. 

Anyone in the local community can access this food. So, you don’t need a referral. They simply ask that you only take what they need, so that there’s enough to go around.   

Community meals  

Across the country, there are hundreds of community kitchens, which provide nourishing meals to those who need them.  

Food Cycle is a charity that offers three-course meals to local communities, using food that would otherwise go to waste.  

The meals are vegetarian, completely free and you don’t need a referral or voucher. Because these meals are hosted in community spaces, it also gives you a chance to chat and connect with your local community.  

Mental health support 

Financial worries can take a toll on your mental health. So, if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, please don’t struggle in silence.  

If you need to speak to someone right now, you can call Samaritans, on 116 123. If you prefer to text you can contact Shout on 85258.

Both helplines provide free, anonymous, mental health support if you want to talk about what you’re going through.

We have online mental health resources providing adults and young people you with tips and advice for taking care of yourself in difficult times.

Financial support at school

If you are looking to access free school meals, or potential hardship funds, you can get in contact with your child's school's business manager if they have one.

It may be that the school reception staff can also answer some of your questions about this, or put you in touch with the right person in the school.

How we’re helping families

Young boy and mum holding groceries

  • We’ve helped struggling children and families by providing them with emergency support such as beds, access to food, and support with their mental wellbeing. 

  • We’re working with children, young people and their families when they’re having trouble accessing food banks, or when the supplies at food banks don’t meet their needs.  

  • Our holiday clubs are lifelines for families who rely on free school meals, providing nutritious food for children and somewhere for them to learn and have fun during the school holidays.

No child should grow up in poverty

Find out more about how we are supporting children across the UK this winter and what you can do to help.

Supporting young people

Learn about the support we offer young people with training, accommodation and support with their mental health.

Who are we

Learn more about Barnardo's, what we stand for and the work we do across the UK to support children, young people and their families.