Coronavirus: council service information and advice

Information about changes to council services as a result of coronavirus  

Do you have money worries but aren't sure where to go for advice and support?

You can find out what free help is available face-to-face, online and by phone.

Lots of us worry about money, but often we avoid doing anything about it - if you're worried, don't ignore it, and don't be afraid to ask for help.


  • Use the information on this page to help you get back in control of your money.
  • Budget to make your money go further - you'll be surprised what a difference this can make
    • See if you can save money on your energy bills by using the council's price comparison site
    • Get advice from the free services available in the city
    • Check our financial hardship - directory document to see what's available for free, or at low cost

The directory includes information on:

  • Short term advances for daily living costs when you're waiting for your first benefits payment, and other hardship payments from DWP
  • Low cost items in the community such as furniture and white goods
  • Grants or loans that may be available to help with essential items
  • Foodbanks for emergency situations when you can't afford to buy food

Finally, getting into work, or better paid work can help to increase your income. Have a look at Portsmouth's free employment support, to help you find the right job for you.

Do you know how much all of your outgoings come to each week, and how much you have left to spend?


You may be surprised when you write all of these down for the first time.


Take our one month challenge

Write down every penny you spend in a month, including all the payments you have to make (all your bills, including rent or mortgage, Council Tax, gas and electric, water etc and all your shopping for food, toiletries clothes etc).


Write down all the money you have coming in (including wages, benefits, pensions etc), or use Money Advice Service's online Budget planner, which lets you save or print out your budget, so you can update it as your situation and spending changes.


Have a look at what you've found. Do you have enough money coming in to match what is going out? Don't panic if you don't - here's what you might be able to do:

  • Check you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to using a confidential benefits calculator
  • Find areas where you can save money (for example, could you get a cheaper mobile deal or TV package?)
  • Think about cheaper ways of shopping (for example, by weekly menu planning and shopping around)
  • Think about areas where you can cut back (for example, making your own food rather than buying convenience food)
  • Visit the Money Advice Service page about tips and tricks to save money when shopping. Impartial advice on saving money can also be found on Money Saving Expert
  • If you're regularly paying bank charges or overdraft fees, or if you've been refused a current account, you might need a basic bank account which can help you to avoid most of these charges. (There may still be some charges, so check what you can be charged for).
  • Set a savings goal so you have a safety net for emergencies. Save up for Christmas through the year to take the stress out of it - Hampshire Credit Union offer a simple and secure Christmas savings club.
  • Before you think about borrowing money, make sure you know how much it will cost you to pay it back. Avoid expensive options such as payday loans by using this guide to look for alternatives to payday loans.

If you are struggling with unmanageable debt, you're not alone. You might feel like you don't want to talk about it, but getting help to manage your debts can make you feel a whole lot better, and let you take back control of your finances.


So the sooner you seek support the better - check the list of advice services further down the page to find out who to speak to, and you can also follow the tips below.

  • Work out what you owe on each of your debts
  • Work out which debts are a priority (the Money Advice Service explains how to prioritise your debts)
  • Use a Budget Planner to make sure you know what money you have coming in, and what you are spending it on
  • Work out what you can afford to pay, and speak to the people you owe money to
  • Make sure your plan to clear your debts is realistic and one that you can stick to. The Money Advice Service has lots of information and tips to help you regain control of your debts.
  • If you're not sure how you will afford your debt repayments, come to one of our free debt advice services in the city (see below). They're confidential and impartial, they can negotiate with your creditors, and they'll explain your options so you can decide what's right for you.

Reduce the cost of gas and electricity

  • Make sure you get the best deal for your gas and electric, by using the council's price comparison energy switch site - many people are paying too much and some could save hundreds of pounds a year, and switching is now quick and easy.
    • If you need help to switch, contact the Local Energy Advice Programme (LEAP). A specialist energy adviser can visit you at home and give you advice on how to switch. They also offer other help to reduce your bills.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated - poorly insulated homes lose warmth and cost you money (more information, including where to find help, is in the 'Fuel poverty and affordable warmth guide' in the Energy documents section below).
  • Make small changes which will save money - such as turning lights off and not leaving items on standby when they are not in use. Get lots of other advice and tips on saving energy. Information is also available from the Energy Saving Trust website


Private sector tenants and homeowners

If your landlord is not doing enough to maintain your home, or if you own your own home but cannot afford to bring it up to a decent standard - contact the Private Sector Housing Team for help and advice.


Electric heaters can be loaned for short term emergencies (but these are expensive for households to run so should only be used in an emergency). Phone 023 9268 8369 or email


Help for council tenants

If you are struggling to keep your home warm, or to meet the cost of your energy bills, contact your local housing office, who can check whether any improvements are needed in your home, and give you advice about your bills.


Housing association tenants

Contact your housing association customer service team and ask about help to make your home more energy efficient.


Local Energy Advice Programme

Under this service, which is free to Portsmouth residents who meet any of the eligibility criteria, a specialist energy adviser can visit you at home and make changes that will save you energy and reduce your bills. To request a visit, visit the Apply for LEAP website or phone 0800 060 7567. Or, if you have a support worker or housing officer, they can refer you using the online referral form.


Priority Services Register

If you are of pension age, or have a long term disability or health condition, or could be vulnerable for any other reason, advise your energy company and ask to be added to their free Priority Services Register. If you are a homeowner and you are registered for Priority Services, or if you have children under five and are receiving certain benefits, you should also be eligible for a free annual gas safety check. Contact your gas supplier to request one.


Warm Home Discount

This is a one-off payment of £140, made each winter, towards your electricity bill or meter. Find out on the Gov.Uk website if your electricity supplier is part of the scheme, and if so, whether you will receive this automatically, or if you are eligible to apply for it. If you need to apply, do that as soon as possible, as there is a limited amount of funds available.


Help to pay your water bills

If you are struggling with your bills from Portsmouth Water or Southern Water, there is a range of help that they can offer, including the Social Tariff to reduce your bills. To find out more, visit the support pages for Portsmouth Water and Southern Water.

  • Visit the Money Advice Service for free, independent and unbiased advice on money matters including a free money health check and other useful tools, calculators and resources
  • Up-to-date information about money and benefits is available from the Gov.Uk website
  • You can use a confidential, online benefits calculator to check what you are entitled to, how to make a claim and how your benefits will be affected if your circumstances change

All of the advice services listed below are free, confidential and impartial. A debt adviser will:

  • treat everything you say in confidence
  • never judge you or make you feel bad about your situation
  • always be happy to talk to you, however small or big your problem is
  • suggest ways of dealing with debts that you might not know about
  • check you have applied for all the benefits and entitlements available to you (they will need details of your current income, any savings, housing costs and Council Tax)
  • give advice about better ways of managing your money


Advice Portsmouth

Advice Portsmouth, funded by Portsmouth City Council, is for anyone who lives or works in Portsmouth.

They provide advice and support, including debt, welfare benefits, housing and employment. They also run a family law advice clinic.

  • Phone  023 9279 4340
  • Visit 116 Kingston Crescent, North End
  • Drop-in Mondays to Wednesdays 9am - 5pm, Thursdays 1pm - 7.30pm or Fridays 9am - 4.30pm


Citizens Advice Portsmouth

Citizens Advice Portsmouth provides a free, confidential and impartial debt advice centre at Ark Royal House, Winston Churchill Avenue, PO1 2GF (opposite Central Police Station).


Age UK Portsmouth

For people aged 50 and over, Age UK Portsmouth offers a range of advice and support including free benefits checks and help with application forms. They can also offer information and advice to help keep fuel bills down.

  • Phone  023 9286 2121
  • Bradbury Centre, 16-18 Kingston Road, Portsmouth PO1 5RZ
  • Drop-in Monday to Thursday 8.45am - 5pm, Friday 8.45am - 4.30pm


Portsmouth City Council tenants

Tenants are able to access help with tenancy matters, including debt advice, budgeting and welfare benefits. If you run into difficulties that might affect your tenancy, contact your housing officer who will work with you to understand your circumstances and explore options and things you can do to improve your situation so you can manage your tenancy.


Your housing officer has access to expert support in relation to debt management, budgeting and welfare benefits. So if you are struggling or worried about money, contact your housing office to find out about the help available.


The Family Information Service

The Family Information Service provides a range of advice for families including benefits checks, and also information and advice on paying for pre-school and childcare.


Follow the link for much more information on the Family Information Service.


Financial Assessments and Benefits team

The Financial Assessments and Benefits team is a visiting team for adult social care clients - it offers a full welfare benefits advice service to clients, their carer(s) and family members living in the same household.


The team works in partnership with the local pension service, is accredited to assist clients with form completion and will support adult social care clients in all areas related to welfare benefits.

  • Phone  023 9268 8199


Hampshire Credit Union

Hampshire Credit Union is a local community-based credit union which can provide affordable loans, current accounts and saving accounts for its members. If you have to borrow money, it may offer a more affordable alternative to some of the high cost loans available.

  • Phone 023 9282 7980 - Monday - Friday, 9.30am - 4.30pm
    • Visit 97 Fratton Road, Portsmouth, PO1 5AG - Monday - Friday, 10am - 2pm

Child maintenance (sometimes called child support) is about providing help with a child's everyday living costs. This includes things like food and clothes, and helping to provide a home for your child or children.

Child maintenance is usually money that the parent without the main day-to-day care of a child pays to the other parent. However, sharing the care of your children and buying things directly for them can also be included in a family-based child maintenance arrangement, if both parents agree to it.

Child maintenance is not counted as income for means-tested benefits, such as Income Support or Housing Benefit, or for Tax Credits. This means that any child maintenance you receive will not reduce your benefits, so it will be extra money in your household income to meet your child's everyday living costs. 

You won't have to pay any tax on child maintenance payments you receive. 

Child Maintenance Options is a free, national service that provides impartial information and support, to help separated parents make decisions about their child maintenance arrangements. Visit their website or ring them on 0800 988 0988 (lines are open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 4pm Saturday).

Child Support Agency (CSA) arrangements ending

All child maintenance arrangements made through the Child Support Agency (CSA) will be ending by 2017. To help you understand how this could affect you, or what to do if you get a letter about this, visit or Child Maintenance Options for more information.