Why is this important? The information we provide differs between countries. To get information for your country, please select from the dropdown.

Help with health, education and legal costs

Help for people on a low income

This information is about help that you may be able to get towards health, education and legal costs if you are on a low income. You may also be able to get benefit to help with your living costs, your rent or other housing costs and your Council Tax.

For more information about the other benefits that you can claim, see Help for people on a low income – Income Support.

If you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with health costs, legal costs, court fees and school meals. This help may mean that the cost is reduced or you do not have to pay at all. Because you do not receive any money directly, this help is known as 'benefit in kind’.

If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you will usually be able to get this kind of help without having to apply. If you are on a low income but not receiving one of these benefits, you may still qualify for some of this help.

Back to contents

Help with health costs

Healthy start vouchers

Some people on low incomes can get healthy start vouchers which can be exchanged for free milk, fruit or vegetables.

You can get healthy start vouchers if you are at least ten weeks pregnant and you're getting:

  • Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit but are not getting Working Tax Credit and your income is low enough
  • Working Tax Credit for an extra four weeks after stopping working or reducing your working hours to fewer than 16 per week.

If you are a member of the family of someone who is on these benefits, and you are pregnant you can also get healthy start vouchers. A member of the family in this case is an opposite sex partner, same-sex partner or dependent child of the person who is getting one of these benefits.

You can also get healthy start vouchers if you're under 18 and pregnant, regardless of how much income you or your family have coming in.

Any of your children who are under four are also entitled to healthy start vouchers if you're getting:

  • Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit, if your income is low enough, and you are not able to get Working Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit for an extra four weeks after stopping working or reducing your working hours to fewer than 16 per week.

If your child is under one, you can get additional vouchers.

If you are an asylum seeker getting government asylum support, you cannot get healthy start vouchers, but if you are pregnant or have a child under three, you will get an extra payment for milk or infant formula.

To claim healthy start vouchers, you should fill in a claim form and have it approved by a healthcare professional – for example, a midwife. The form is in the leaflet Healthy Start, which you can get from your midwife or doctor or from the Healthy Start website at www.healthystart.nhs.uk.

If you think you are entitled to healthy start vouchers and don’t receive them, or you have any other problems with healthy start vouchers, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

Free vitamins

Some people on low incomes are entitled to free vitamins. You can get free vitamins if you are at least ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four. You must also be getting Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. You would also qualify if you are on Child Tax Credit (and not entitled to Working Tax Credit) and your income is low enough.

Other help with health costs

Other kinds of help with NHS health costs which you may be able to get if you are on a low income include:

  • free prescriptions (all prescriptions are free in Scotland)
  • free dental treatment and check-ups
  • free eyesight tests
  • vouchers for glasses or contact lenses (optical vouchers)
  • travel costs to hospital.

For more information about help with health costs, see Help with health costs.

Back to contents

Help with education costs

Free school meals

Your children can get a free school meal if they attend a local education authority maintained school and you get one of the following benefits:

  • income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • in England and Wales, the guarantee part of Pension Credit
  • support for asylum seekers under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Child Tax Credit, but only if you are not also getting Working Tax Credit (WTC) and your income is below a certain amount. However, if you are in the four week run-on period for WTC after stopping work or reducing working hours, then you may be eligible for free school meals.

There are special rules which apply if you are a foster carer, or in Scotland a kinship carer, and you should check with your local authority .

For more information about fostering, see Children and local authority care

If you are aged 16-18, you are still at school and you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit in your own right, you will also get free school meals.

In England, from September 2014 all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools will be eligible for free school meals. This includes infant pupils in maintained infant and primary schools, free schools, academies, schools for pupils with special educational needs and pupil referral units

For more information about free school meals, see Help with school costs.

School clothing grants

Some local education authorities will give help with the cost of school clothing for pupils whose families are on a low income. Applications should be made to the local education authority.

In Wales, children who are entitled to free school meals may get a school uniform grant.

For more information about help with school clothing, see Help with school costs.

Education Maintenance Allowance

If you're aged 16-18 and staying on at school or college, you may be able to get Education Maintenance Allowance. However, Education maintenance Allowance will be closed to new applicants in England from January 2011.

In England, for more information about Education Maintenance Allowance, see Financial help for students aged 16-19.

In Wales, for more information about Education Maintenance Allowance, see the website of Student Finance Wales at www.studentfinancewales.

In Scotland, for more information about Education Maintenance Allowance, see Help with the costs of education for school pupils.

Back to contents

If you are on a low income and you need advice from a solicitor, you may qualify for legal aid under Legal Help. This is called legal advice and assistance in Scotland and the green form scheme in Northern Ireland.

For more information about Legal Help in England and Wales, see Help with legal costs.

For more information on the green form scheme in Northern Ireland, see Help with legal costs.

For more information about legal advice and assistance in Scotland, see Help with legal costs.

Back to contents

Citizens Advice

Rate this page Give feedback