Universal Credit Flexible Support Fund – how you can get help with travel and childcare costs that you don't have to pay back

VULNERABLE Brits who's financial hardship is stopping them from getting a job may be entitled to some extra cash from the Flexible Support Fund.

The money is issued on top of other benefits and can be used to help cover the costs of things like childcare, uniforms or work tools as long as they help you get a job.

The Government's flagship benefit system is already designed to get people back into work but a string of serious issues with the system has actually left millions worse off.

That's why The Sun has launched the Make Universal Credit Work campaign, calling for a number of changes that will benefit hard-up claimants.

In the meantime, there's the Flexible Support Fund. It's been around for eight years now but not much is known about it.

This is because it's only supposed to be issued if all other help has been exhausted – but that's not to say that you're not entitled to it.

We've done some digging around so that you can find out whether you're eligible for extra support.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

Universal Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.

What is the Flexible Support Fund and what can I use it for?

The Flexible Support Fund (FSF) is a sum of money that has been put aside by the Government to help you with the costs of getting a job.

The fund is managed The funds are managed by local job centres.

It was introduced in 2011 and replaced schemes like the Deprived Areas Fund, the Adviser Discretion Fund and the Travel to Interview Scheme.

The ideas behind the payout is to give job centres more freedom to offer support to individual cases in local areas.

The money can be used to cover the costs of:

  • Training for a job, up to £150,
  • Travel to interviews,
  • Childcare,
  • Tools for work,
  • Cost of medical evidence required by a disabled person,
  • Clothing and uniforms to start work,
  • Support for single parents in financial emergencies in the first 26 weeks of starting a job.

If you've already paid for the items, such as a suit for work or upfront childcare costs, then you are unlikely to be awarded FSF as a back pay.

How much will I get and do I have to pay it back?

There no set maximum amount that can be awarded and it will vary from case to case.

Unlike an Advance Payment, the money you receive is a grant rather than a loan, so you will not have to pay it back.

You can choose to either be paid in cash or have it directly transferred into your bank account.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:

Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.

Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.

Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.

Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.

Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

Once you've received the money, you'll have 14 days to provide the job centre with receipts for any goods and services that you paid for using the grant.

You can receive the fund more than once, but the second application will be subjected to more rigorous checks to prove that the money really will help you get a job.

Who can get one?

The fund is available to anyone who receives help from the job centre, from the moment that you start a claim.

You're not eligible for the extra cash if you're already getting help from the Work Programme, Work Choice or any legacy benefits that provide the same support.

You may also be entitled to the payout if you're not on benefits in certain circumstances, such as if you only receive Carer's Allowance or are working less than 16 hours a week.

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