There are a number of free voucher schemes in the UK. When approved for this type of assistance, the client may either be given a discount or in-kind items. The programmes are run in partnership with centres that participate in redeeming them, and that includes many food banks and energy suppliers. Or some vouchers, such as those that pay for fuel bills, can be a form of financial assistance in that a utility meter could be topped-up.
While voucher schemes can come and go, and also change over time, some of the most common ones are for parcels of food; fuel, energy, electricity bills; transportation for work; childcare; and clothing. They are income based programmes, meaning that families that are struggling or in crisis are usually given support. Free vouchers also sometimes target the most vulnerable, which would be an older person, child, or the disabled.
So what is a voucher? In general, it will be some form of paper or maybe a “card” given to the individual. It will allow the person to get either a discount on what they need for their home or financial aid to make it through a financial hardship. Or some vouchers, in particular for food parcels or clothes, can be exchanged for goods. This can be a parcel of groceries or maybe clothing for work or school.
The applicant will never be given cash. This helps ensure fraud will not take place in these schemes. Since there will not be money paid out, and there is less chance for scams, the schemes also tend to allow more families on a low income to be eligible as the aid is more widely disbursed.
Expenses and needs covered by vouchers
There are many forms of support given. It will often depend on who is running the scheme. As gas and electricity suppliers will off course focus on paying energy bills. Many charities only give free vouchers for a food bank, furniture, or clothes. So it will depend on the source of the aid. Some of the government programs, including for childcare, can save £1,000 per year or more. There are several types that are most common.
Children and students – If they are from a low income families or living in poverty, then vouchers can pay for school meals, clothing or the schoolwear they need, including uniforms. Generally the age limit is 16. The assistance is usually for people who do not receive the Working Tax Credit.
Energy needs, including electricity and gas – Free vouchers can top-up a pre-paid meter. The money is usually issued on a card or even mobiles phone to the customer. Some food banks even offer these, and locate fuel bank vouchers.
Free food parcel vouchers – These are the most common. Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK benefit from them, and vouchers can usually be redeemed at centres including churches, Trussell Trust, and other charities for parcels. Find how to apply for free food
Childcare vouchers – Some employers offer these schemes to employees in partnership with the government. The funds help pay for childcare costs for kids up to the age of 16 if the parent is employed.
Household goods – Vouchers can be used at hundreds of Furniture Re-use Network affiliated centres, and they are discounts that save low income families significant money. The Salvation Army often participates in this scheme.
Travel warrants – Local UK councils pay for them. There is discounted, or free travel for work reasons or unexpected crisis situations, including a funeral. Busses, trains, and other transportation can be covered by the free travel cards.
Welfare – Councils may issue vouchers, which are sometimes called grants, as part of welfare benefit schemes. The government will go over where and how to redeem them for assistance.
There may be other free voucher programmes as well. Agencies ranging from churches to not-for-profits or government centres participate to help the poor. There are some places to turn to learn about them. Contact a council office or Citizens Advice Network Bureau.
There will always be restrictions as to where these can be redeemed. All of the criteria need to be followed by the recipient. As some vouchers may only be used at certain energy suppliers (such as British Gas) or they may be approved for Trussell Trust food banks. The organisation issuing the card can answer any questions.