Thousands on Universal Credit missing out on little-known scheme to get free cash for travel and childcare

VULNERABLE people whose 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 such as childcare, uniforms, or work tools as long as they help you get a job.

The extra financial support could come at a crucial time for many households across the UK amidst the cost of living crisis.

Energy bills have soared in recent months, with the chancellor Rishi Sunak announcing a giant support package for millions of households last month.

For those who may need extra support though, there's the Flexible Support Fund (FSF).

What is the Flexible Support Fund?

The FSF is a government fund introduced in 2011 and controlled by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

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It replaced other initiatives such as the Deprived Areas Fund, the Adviser Discretion Fund and the Travel to Interview Scheme. 

Funding which comes from the government is offered by local Jobcentres at the discretion of Jobcentre Plus advisors. It is supposed to be for those receiving unemployment benefits to gain employment.

The cash awarded to you is a grant so there's no need to repay it. This is different to Universal Credit, which is a loan you have to repay through your benefits.

Even though it's been around for 11 years now not much is known about the fund.

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.

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Who can get the Flexible Support Fund?

The FSF is available to anyone who already receives help from the jobcentre and is claiming one of the below benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Pension Credit

The FSF can also be used to support anyone eligible for Work Preparation Support, such as lone parents, partners and carers.

Advisors may also be able to allocate the fund to support other unemployed people they are working with depending on the circumstances.

If you are claiming Universal Credit, you may even be able to get help with the first month of childcare costs from the FSF.

What costs can the FSF help with?

The FSF aims to help with extra costs associated with finding a job, including:

  • Travel expenses
  • Training courses
  • Clothing for interviews

There is no set amount of money you can be given as it depends on your situation, circumstances and needs.

The FSF is unlikely to fund anything you have already paid for.

How can I apply?

You should contact your local Jobcentre if you feel you may be eligible for the FSF.

You can find your nearest Jobcentre by using the Department for Work and Pension's locator.

Unfortunately, claimants don't have an automatic right to receive the help as it's up to the discretion of the Jobcentre advisor.

Before issuing the cash, advisors will need to see evidence that you really can't pay for the items yourself.

You will also need to tell them specifically what you will be spending the cash on.

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The advisor will also need to get approval from a colleague, who will also check through the evidence that you've provided.

If you can't provide enough evidence for your meeting, you'll be advised to contact Universal Credit when you do.

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