Essential Living Fund

Due to an exceptionally large increase in applications to the scheme it may take up to 5 weeks for your claim to be finalised. Applications are being processed by a dedicated team and they will contact you when your application has been finalised and you will be expected to provide evidence where applicable.

Please do not chase the outcome of your claim, you will be notified as soon as possible.

Please note that the team are working through initial applications received since April 2024. If you have submitted a second claim for assistance with general living expenses, then there will be a further delay. This is whilst we process all initial applications.

This will ensure the budgets and applications are distributed to help as many residents as possible.

Please keep the phone lines (open 08:45 to 17:00 Monday to Friday) available for the most vulnerable and those that do not have internet access.

Wherever possible please apply online, using the links on this page.

How to apply for an Essential Living Fund grant

For information about the scheme operated if you live in the Thurrock area please see about the Essential Living Fund.

For information about the scheme operated if you live in the Essex County Council area see money, debt and benefits: Household Support Fund.

For information about the scheme if you live in the Southend area please read the section ‘About the Southend Scheme’.

To make an application

  • if you live within the City of Southend-on-Sea use this online form
  • if you live within the Thurrock Borough use this online form
  • if you live in any other part of Essex use this online form

Frequently asked questions

visit our frequently asked questions page which includes information on how to track a submitted application amongst other things.

About the Southend scheme

Help under the Household Support Fund

The Household Support Fund (HSF) is there to help low income households, including families, pensioners, unpaid carers, care leavers and disabled people struggling with the cost of energy, food and hygiene products, sustainable white goods in some instances.

For more information on the Household Support Fund see Household support fund.

Help Under the Essential Living Fund

The Essential Living Fund (ELF) is primarily intended to help vulnerable people live as independent a life as possible in the community.

Its prime objectives are to:

  • help people establish in the community following a stay in an institution, Care Home, Local Authority Care, hostel, prison or similar - There must have been a substantial element of care or supervision involved in the stay at these types of institutions and the stay was for 3 months or more
  • help people remain in the community rather than enter an institution or Care Home in which they will receive care - the award would be to ensure the applicants independent life in the community will improve and the risk of admission will lessen
  • ease exceptional pressures on people or their families - being on a low income alone is not an indicator of exceptional pressure. There must be a circumstance that has applied greater pressure than normally associated with a low income, such as breakdown of a relationship, sudden domestic upheaval, deterioration in a disability
  • help people with certain travel costs - please see policy in downloads section for specific criteria covered by this objective
  • help people who are unable to meet their immediate short term needs either in an emergency in relation to some expenses or as a consequence of a disaster - this must be as a result of an unexpected disaster or emergency (unforeseen circumstance). It does not apply to people affected by the Government Welfare Reform Programme, people affected by delays to benefit applications or people whose money has been lost or stolen
  • help children with school uniform costs - please see policy in downloads section for specific criteria covered by this objective

For full details on each please see policy in the downloads section of this page.


To claim an ELF or HSF grant the applicant must be aged 16 or over and a resident in the City of Southend, on a low income or with little or no resources.

To see whether you qualify for the award you will need to answer questions about your income, earnings and savings. You also need to give proof of your financial situation.

Assessment will be made of all other help you have received or have available to you including any support you have already received via other support the Government have recently made available.

The scheme can cover applications for:

  • furniture
  • household furnishings
  • white goods
  • clothing and footwear - including School Uniform in exceptional circumstances
  • general living expenses - these are day to day living expenses such as groceries, nappies, toiletries and energy costs

If you are awarded the grant you will not be paid in cash or into a bank account. Instead it will be:

  • food parcel / food voucher
  • AllPay cards
  • high quality recycled furniture from reputable charity
  • white goods from a reputable local dealer

The maximum number of awards that can be considered for general living expenses between April 2024 and September 2024 is 2 awards.

For all other items only 1 award can be considered a year

After you have applied

You will be notified by letter if your application is successful. The letter will include all details on how your grant will be paid.

For furniture awards the letter will have more information on how to get the items and what you need to take with you to get your items.

AllPay cards

An AllPay card is similar to a Mastercard debit card and an amount of credit will already be loaded onto the card. The card can be used in any store that accepts MasterCard. The card should only to be used to buy the items you applied for.

You must not give the card or PIN to any other person as this will be classed as misuse of the card and you will not receive further assistance from the scheme. You cannot use the card in an ATM, to withdraw cash or receive cash back. The card will automatically be blocked if you do. You cannot use the card in petrol stations, off licenses or gambling establishments, nor can you attempt to purchase cigarettes, alcohol or petrol as the card will block and will prevent you from being able to claim from the scheme again. If you have been awarded for Groceries this is food (and hygiene products) for you and your family but must not be spent on takeaways or pet food. This would also be seen as misuse of the card. Please keep your receipts so you can add up what you are spending as you go along. It is a requirement to keep your receipts as you may be asked for these at a later date.

The card is only valid for 4 weeks. After 4 weeks the card will be cancelled and made invalid. Any money left on the card will be refunded back to the Essential Living Fund scheme.


You can request a review of your Essential Living Fund decision if you disagree with the outcome.

You can ask for a Tier 1 reconsideration by writing to us at:

Essential Living Fund, Southend-on-Sea City Council, Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS2 6ER

Or alternatively emailing us.

This must be done in writing within 1 month of the date stated on your notification letter.

You can ask for a Tier 2 reconsideration by using the above methods if you do not agree with the decision of the Tier 1

A member of the Benefits Management Team will then decide the final outcome. You cannot appeal against the final decision.

Further information

For more information please view the ELF policy.

Phone lines are open weekdays 08:45am to 17:00pm.

Contact ELF for Essex

Telephone: 0300 7900124

Most popular downloads - Essential Living Fund

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