Cost of living

The cost-of-living crisis continues to hit families with disabled children and young people particularly hard. Research shows that two thirds of carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or the Carer element of Universal Credit cannot meet their monthly expenses, and families with seriously ill and disabled children pay almost twice as much as the average UK household on energy bills. 

Read on to check you’re getting every bit of help you can, from organisations across Brighton & Hove and East Sussex, as well as national organisations and government support. 

Benefits and grants

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit for children under 16 with a disability or health condition.  
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit for people aged 16+ who face extra challenges carrying out everyday activities or getting out and about. 

These benefits are also passports to other sorts of financial help. 

You can find plenty of DLA and PIP information and advice on our website to help you put together the best application you can, including downloadable fact sheets, or you could attend one of our free DLA and PIP workshops. 

In some cases we may be able to offer extra help with your application, for example if you have a disability or additional needs yourself, or speak English as an additional language. Call 01273 772289 or email Amaze’s SENDIASS service.

Carers Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is a weekly cash payment for anyone who spends at least 35 hours a week looking after someone who gets the care component of DLA at the middle or higher rate, (or either rate of the daily living component of PIP) but is not paid to do this.

Household Support Fund

This is a fund to help people who are struggling with food, water, heating or lighting costs. It was created as a temporary fund to help people during the pandemic, initially due to end in March 2022, but it has been extended several times since then. 

You apply for this fund through your local council, but when each council’s allocation of funds runs out they will stop accepting applications, so don’t delay. For more information and eligibility criteria, visit the following websites: 

Discretionary help from your council

Your council provides emergency help with accessing food, utilities and other essentials to people in certain circumstances. This will not usually be provided as cash, but instead as vouchers or food. Local Discretionary Social Fund (Brighton) | Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme [DESSS]

Disabled Facilities Grant

These grants enable you to make adaptations to your home and assist hospital discharge. In Brighton & Hove you may be able to access discretionary help for a wider range of support, including a warm, safe homes grant, and a relocation grant. These are all non-repayable grants with a simple application process. Disabled Facilities Grant (Brighton) | Disabled Facilities Grant (East Sussex)

The Family Fund

The Family Fund gives grants to families across the UK who are raising a disabled or seriously ill child or young person aged 17 or under. The grants can be used for things like family breaks, computers and tablets, clothing or household items. They focus on families on low incomes so you will need to be in receipt of benefits or tax credits (see full eligibility online). If you have already received a grant from the Family Fund, you can reapply after 24 months. 

They have also recently launched their Emergency Essentials fund, for children and young people who are facing exceptionally difficult circumstances – please note, you must be referred by a professional to get support from this fund.

Cost of living payments

Since 2022, the government has provided cost of living payments each year to people in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits, as well as an additional disability cost of living payment for people on disability benefits like DLA or PIP. If you are eligible, you should receive these payments automatically. The final payment is due to be paid from 6 February 2024. 

Energy grants

Energy grants can help if you are struggling with your energy bills. Energyworks provides an energy grant to people who meet their eligibility criteria, and you can find information on their website about other providers offering energy grants.

Other benefits

The charity Contact provides information on their website about different benefits you may be entitled to. 

They also have a benefits calculator you can use to check your entitlement.

Debt help

Money Advice Plus

This charity offers specialist debt and benefit advice, casework and support in Brighton & Hove and East Sussex. Some of their services have eligibility criteria, and you may need to be referred by social services or another professional. See the Money Advice Plus website for more information, alternatively call 01273 664000 (Brighton) or 01323 635999 (Eastbourne). 

They have recently launched their Lift Up project for people in Brighton & Hove who are ‘just about managing’, who need help to get by on the money they have, via a combination of grants, specialist debt and benefit advice, and financial capability coaching.

Moneyworks (Brighton & Hove only)

This is a free service in Brighton & Hove, provided by a partnership of community advice agencies across the city. They can help with a wide range of money issues, including:  

  • fuel bill payments and vouchers  
  • debt and benefits help   
  • foodbank referrals  
  • getting a bank account  
  • getting online  

Call their advice line on 0800 9887037 – you can find their opening hours here: Moneyworks advice line

HARC (East Sussex only)

Hasting Advice and Representation Centre (HARC) offers free benefits advice and support for East Sussex residents, from application through to appeal tribunal, as well as access to specialist money and debt advice.  

Call their Benefit Helpline on 0333 344 0681 or the HARC Advice Line on 01424 428375. They are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.


This is a national debt advice line. Contact them free on 0800 138 1111 or use their online debt advice service. There is also a wealth of information available on the Stepchange website.

Citizen’s Advice

Free money and debt advice is available through Citizen’s Advice. For help from Citizen’s Advice East Sussex, call 03444 111444, or for Citizen’s Advice Brighton & Hove, call 08082 787815.

St Luke’s Advice Service (Brighton & Hove only)

St. Luke’s advice service is a charity offering free advice, information and help with form filling in relation to money and benefits. Contact them on 01273 549203.

Utility bills

Contact your supplier

  • Ask to be added to their Priority Service Register. Each energy supplier offers a bespoke level of support depending on needs.
  • You may be eligible for a discount on your bills, or other kinds of help. Check their website for information about help they offer to customers who are struggling to pay their bills. For example: Southern Water | South East Water
  • Apply for an energy grant through the British Gas Energy Trust. The process can be convoluted but you do not have to be a British Gas customer to apply.


Energy Works

Energyworks is a partnership project between Citizens Advice Brighton & Hove and Brighton & Hove Energy Services Coop (BHESCo). They provide energy advice and grants to Brighton and Hove residents experiencing fuel poverty.

SCOPE – Disability Energy Support

This national disability charity offers advice and information through their Disability Energy Support advice line and can signpost and help with application forms. There is a form on their website to apply for help. If you have questions, call 0808 8010828 or email SCOPE 

Keep Warm and Well in East Sussex – Warm Home Check Service (East Sussex only)

This free East Sussex service offers East Sussex residents advice and support to keep their home warm. Get advice by telephone, or if you’re eligible, apply for a free home visit from their Warm Home Check Service. Call 0800 464 7307, text WARM to 80011 or complete their online enquiry form.

BHESCO advice, home visits and energy saving kit (Brighton & Hove only)

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Cooperative (BHESCo) can offer free advice on switching and energy consumption to residents who are struggling to pay their energy bills. They can also carry out free home visits to qualifying households to install energy-saving measures, help in dealings with energy suppliers and give guidance on efficient energy usage in the home. Contact BHESCo by calling 0800 999 6671 or fill out BHESCO’s energy advice contact form.

NEA – Warm and Safe Homes Advice Service (WASH)

National Energy Action is a national charity. They offer free impartial support and advice for vulnerable and low-income customers on energy bills and keeping warm and safe in your home, via their WASH advice service. 

The service can help with: 

  • support with gas and electricity accounts including fuel debt  
  • Warm Home Discount and Priority Service Register  
  • switching suppliers & tariffs  
  • energy efficiency and water rates  
  • trust fund applications  
  • benefits advice and income maximisation  

Contact the WASH Advice Service by calling 0800 304 7159, completing the WASH advice service referral form, or using the WASH webchat.

LEAP – Advice, home visits and energy saving kit

The Local Energy Advice Partnership (LEAP) is a free advice service helping people keep warm and reduce their energy bills.  Advisors can:  

  • fit a free energy saving kit in your home (such as lightbulbs and draught-proofing)  
  • check if you are eligible for insulation or a new boiler  
  • give practical advice on heating systems and saving energy  
  • help with switching providers or tariffs 
  • arrange a free money advice consultation to help with benefits, debt and other money problems  

To book a free energy advice phone call or home visit for yourself or someone else call free on 0800 060 7567, email LEAP, or fill out LEAP’s online application form.

Energise Sussex Coast

Energise Sussex Coast is a community benefit co-operative, aiming to help residents in East Sussex to bring down the cost of electricity, gas and water bills and also to save energy and carbon. They offer an Energy Advice Service – book a free appointment by ringing or texting them on 01424 390 062 (local rates) or filling in the Energise referral form.

Help with internet access

National Databank is like a food bank but for mobile data. They give away SIM cards preloaded with data to people aged 18+ who are from a low income household and meet one of these three criteria:

  • no or insufficient access to the internet at home 
  • no or insufficient access to the internet away from home 
  • cannot afford existing monthly contract or pay as you go (PAYG) 

ou do not need proof and they have a stock of SIM cards from three different providers so they can match you to the best option.

The National Databank provides these SIM cards through their partner organisations throughout the UK. In Brighton, you can access the scheme through Jubilee Library – go to the main desk and say you are there for the databank scheme. In East Sussex, you can access the scheme through Tech Resort, who run drop-ins in Eastbourne, Bexhill, Newhaven and Seaford.



Food banks

Useful info if you are struggling to buy food, including how to get help from a food bank: 

Free school meals

If you are on certain benefits, your child may be entitled to free school meals: Free school meals (East Sussex) | Free school meals (Brighton & Hove)

Holiday Activities and Food (HAF)

This programme is for those aged 4 to 16 who are in full-time education and receive benefits-related free school meals. During school holidays a programme of free activities is provided, along with a free meal: Holiday activities and food (Brighton) | Holiday food and fun (East Sussex)

Healthy Start vouchers

If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk from the Healthy Start scheme.

Wellbeing and leisure

Compass and i-go leisure discount cards

If you have a child with significant additional needs and haven’t applied for your Compass Card (Brighton & Hove) or i-go Card (East Sussex) yet, there’s no time like the present! The card is free, and gives you access to tons of great deals and discounts. 

If you already have a card, now’s a great time to go check out all the amazing offers on offer and make sure you’re making best use of your card. Don’t forget to like the Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss out on the latest offers and special deals: Compass Facebook | i-Go Facebook

Discount cards for carers

If your child has a Compass Card and you live in Brighton & Hove, you automatically qualify for a free Carers Card (Brighton & Hove). This is a discount card to help you look after your health and wellbeing. 

East Sussex parent carers can apply for a Carers Card (East Sussex) from Care for the Carers.

Looking after your mental health

For some families, we know the extra strain from the cost of the living crisis may feel like the last straw. If stress from debt or money issues – or anything else – is affecting your mental health, don’t be afraid to reach out for help: 

  • The Sussex Mental Healthline is a 24/7 telephone service offering listening support, advice, information and signposting to anyone experiencing difficulties with their mental health: call 111 and select the mental health option 
  • The charity Samaritans provides a confidential 24/7 helpline for anyone who needs to talk: call 116 123, email [email protected], or use the Samaritans online chat

Further info and advice

Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council both provide information for families who are struggling with the cost of living crisis: 

Brighton & Hove cost of living support | East Sussex support with the cost of living 

Citizen’s Advice can provide free, confidential advice on a wide range of topics: Citizen’s Advice (Brighton & Hove) | Citizen’s Advice (East Sussex) 

The government has created a website with information for families who are struggling with the cost of living crisis: Help for households