Welfare grants

Statutory sources

There are a lot of funding opportunities available to individuals from the state. The exact details of these sources are different in different countries in the UK, and in some instances amongst different local authorities. Full details should be available from government departments such as benefits agencies and social services, as well as many of the welfare agencies listed on this site.

The Department for Work and Pensions website (www.dwp.gov.uk) also has a comprehensive list with full information on who is eligible and how they can apply.

Disaster appeals

If there has been a large unexpected hardship which is beyond the scope of being relieved from statutory or charitable sources, then one possibility is to establish a disaster appeal. These are commonly established as a public response to a well-publicised disaster, such as the Hillsborough football disaster in 1989, where the public wish to show their support. They can also be established in response to a personal misfortune. The Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund, for instance, was established by the parents of a talented rider killed during the Burghley Horse Trials to support injured riders. Appeals can also be established to aid a particular individual if they have needs which gain high levels of public sympathy and little time to apply for statutory or charitable sources, such as the appeal for Cheshire childcarer Louise Woodward in the 1990s. Disaster appeals can be to relieve an epidemic rather than an individual case, or to leave a lasting legacy.

There are many issues concerning the relevance of a disaster appeal, and whether it can claim charitable status. For an appeal to be charitable, it must be for the public benefit, not just for the benefit of an individual or a collective. Generally speaking, it must be possible for people to become eligible in the future for an appeal to be charitable, and it must be to relieve a financial need.

Receiving charitable status for the appeal will make tax benefits available to the appeal itself and its donors. It would also make the appeal more enticing to corporate donors. However, any charity in England and Wales fundraising over £1,000 in any single year has to register with the Charity Commission or it is committing an illegal act (this may change if the proposed Charity Bill is passed). This means that any trustee raising £1,001 and putting it to good use is actually breaking the law if it has not registered with the Commission. This situation is not particularly helped by the Charity Commission itself, which rejects half of all applications for registration, often for administrative reasons rather than because the application is not charitable.

Disaster appeals are only really relevant in extreme circumstances, and after much thought or enquiry. For further information please see CC40 available on the Charity Commission website, or telephone their helpline on 0870 333 0123. The British Red Cross have their own disaster appeal helpline offering advice, which is 020 7201 5027.


Many employers are unhappy to see former members of staff, or their dependents, living in need or distress. Few have formal arrangements but a letter or telephone call to the personnel manager should establish if help is possible.

Most large companies give charitable grants, although most have a policy of only funding organisations (possibly because charities have more ways of publicising this support than individuals do). Many that will support individuals have their own charitable trusts, and therefore are included in this guide.

A growing trend is the recent rise in water companies setting up their own charitable trusts, which give to individuals who are struggling to pay their utility bills to the organisation. This provides much relief to the individuals involved, lessening the financial burden upon them, and ensuring that no legal action will be taken against them for non-payment. However, questions could be asked about who the major beneficiaries of this practice are. The water companies are using the tax incentives attached to giving to reclaim bills that could not otherwise be paid. Whilst many have recently started supporting organisations providing debt advice, it appears this could be seen as another strategy to improve the ability of the less-well-off to afford their prices.

Community foundations

A relatively new trend amongst grantmaking circles is the development of community foundations. These are community groups which are generally countywide (although Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own countrywide foundations, and the spread throughout England is currently uneven). They consist of many small trusts, which have pooled their resources to gain maximum levels of income whilst retaining their independence in considering applications and policies. Whilst most of these trusts only support organisations, many of them also have funds available for individuals and therefore are included in this guide. Community Foundation Network have a list of exisiting and emerging foundations on their website (www.communityfoundations.org.uk).

Vicars, priests and ministers of religion

There may be informal arrangements within a church, mosque etc. to help people in need. Church of England vicars are often trustees of local charities which are too small to be included in the guide or which we have missed.


Most hospitals have patient welfare funds, but they are little known about even within the hospitals and so are little used. It may take some time to locate an appropriate contact. Start with the trust fund administrator or the treasurers department of the health authority.

Local organisations

Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs and Round Tables etc. are active in welfare provision. Usually they support groups rather than individuals and policies vary in different towns, but some welfare agencies (such as Citizens Advice) have a working relationship with these organisations and keep up-to-date lists of contacts. All enquiries should be made on behalf of the individual by a recognised agency.

Masonic and Buffalo lodges, Foresters Associations and other organisations exist for the mutual benefit of their members and the wider community. Spouses and children of members (or deceased members) may also benefit, but people unconnected with these orders are unlikely to. Applications should be made to the lodge where the parent/spouse is or was a member.

Hobbies and interests

People with a particular hobby or interest should find out whether this offers any opportunities for funding. Included on this website are a number of county bowling and football associations which exist to relieve people who are in need. There may be many more which are not registered with the Charity Commission, or have less than £500 a year to give, but are of great value to the people they can help. It is likely that other sports and interests have similar governing bodies wish to help their members.

Charity shops

Some charity shops will provide clothing if the applicant has a letter of referral from a recognised welfare agency.