Four ways struggling families can get FREE cash to help pay for food this Christmas

FAMILIES struggling to get by can get FREE cash and vouchers to help them pay for food this Christmas using a number of government schemes.

The holidays can be an expensive time of year, and households could be paying even more for their festive supplies this year.

Families will be paying an average £27.49 for their Christmas feast this year as the price of turkey goes up by 3.4%.

That's on top of rising food prices, with Brits paying up to 20% more for fridge staples like apples, pork sausages and magarine.

It means that a helping hand can go a long way – and there are ways to get free cash and vouchers to get you by.

We explain four schemes available that struggling Brits can apply to – and who is eligible.

Healthy Start vouchers

Parents and mums-to-be can make the most of the Healthy Start scheme.

You can claim vouchers to put towards milk, vegetables and other fridge essentials.

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The standard value of vouchers went up in April from £3.10 to £4.25 – which means if you claim one voucher per week, the total amount you would get over the year would be £221.

To apply for the help, you need to be receiving any of the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit (only if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
  • Universal Credit (only if your family’s take-home pay is £408 or less per month from employment)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (but only if you are over 10 weeks pregnant)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on (this is the Working Tax Credit you receive in the 4 weeks immediately after you have stopped working for 16 hours or more per week)

You are also eligible if you are under 18 and pregnant or you claim Employment and Support Allowance and are over 10 weeks pregnant.

You can apply online for the help, and you'll need a number of personal details including your National Insurance number, your baby's due date if you are pregnant, and your benefit award letter.

Household Support Fund

Families can get up to hundreds of pounds in vouchers for food under the £500million Household Support Fund.

Under the scheme, Brits can apply to their local council for free cash and vouchers to cover the cost of their food, energy, clothing bills and more.

What you can get depends on your personal situation and also who your local council is.

Councils have their own schemes and decide what help they will give out to struggling Brits in their areas.

For example, those who live in the North Yorkshire County Council area can get a £125 voucher for buying food this Christmas if they apply by by December 17.

Families in Manchester can get up to £100 in free cash for Christmas, while  Spelthorne council is offering up to £80 to residents in the Surrey district.

To apply, you will need to check what help your local council is offering under the Household Support Scheme for more information.

Each council also has its own application process for the scheme – and different eligibility criteria in some cases.

You can find who your local council is by using the council checker tool.

Welfare assistance scheme

Another scheme Brits can apply to for much-needed cash and vouchers for food is the welfare assistance scheme.

Under this scheme, you can get up to £1,000 to help pay for furniture, bills, food and more.

For example, East Riding of Yorkshire offers £1,000 in free cash for families to pay for essential bills, including food.

But an investigation by The Sun revealed that families are facing a postcode lottery when it comes to what help they can get.

Some councils are not as generous in offering help, while others don't even have a scheme in place at all.

Welfare assistance schemes are usually set up to help low income Brits get the help they need.

But as each council runs its own scheme, the eligibility criteria varies depending on where you live.

You can find out who your local council is by visiting the website and get in touch with them about whether help is available in your area.

Free school meals

Free school meals will not be available for the majority of families during the Christmas holidays – these are only funded during term term.

But thousands of lucky parents will continue to get the help if they live in North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire.

These councils have agreed to give £15 a week food vouchers to around 20,000 kids in need this Christmas, the BBC reports.

But parents will be able to make the most of the £220million Holiday Activities and Food programme over the festive break.

Councils have been given funding to offer free clubs and activities to children who are eligible for Free School Meals over the Christmas holidays.

While this isn't a food parcel or voucher, free food is provided at many of these holiday clubs.

Check your local council website to find out what is available in your area over the school holidays and how to sign up.

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