HOUSEHOLDS can claim thousands of pounds in free cash – as long as they know where to look.
There are plenty of schemes out there that you never knew about but may be eligible for to help you pay the bills.
Below, we take you through seven places to look for a cash boost, especially if you're struggling.
Forgotten Child Trust Funds worth up to £1,000
Millions of parents could be missing out on up to £1,000 stashed away in a Child Trust Fund in their child's name.
Children born between September 1, 2002 and August 2, 2010, were given a government bonus of £250 each through the tax-free scheme when they were born, and then another £250 when the child reached the age of seven.
While children born between August 3, 2010 and January 2, 2011 got £50.
Lower income families would receive double the amount – adding to up to £1,000 in savings.
If you don't know if your child has one, use the government's free online tool.
You’ll need a government "Gateway" ID to do this, although if you don't have one you can create one when you fill in the online form.
HMRC will then get back to you, usually within three weeks.
For inspiration, The Sun spoke to one mum who found £800 in her son's missing Child Trust Fund.
Healthy Start Vouchers worth up to £442 a year
The Healthy Start scheme is a Government initiative that provides vouchers for struggling families and expectant mums to put towards milk, vegetables and other foods.
They're worth £4.25 for one child per week or £8.50 for those who are eligible for two vouchers a week, which works out as up to £442 a year.
To get Healthy Start vouchers, you must be pregnant or have a child under the age of four and receive any of these benefits:
- child tax credits (if your family’s annual income is £16,190)
- income-related employment and support allowance
- income support
- income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- pension credit
- universal credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from employment)
- working tax credits (but only if your family is receiving the 4 week ‘run-on’ payment)
The vouchers can be spent in supermarkets, corner shops, greengrocers, market stalls, pharmacies, food co-ops and milk floats or vans.
Some supermarkets will top up the vouchers when you spend them in store, such as the Southern Coop which will add an extra £1.
Find out if you're eligible and how to apply by reading our guide.
Track down lost bank accounts and Premium Bonds worth £195 million
There's an estimated £850million lying in lost bank accounts alone, according to the Money Advice Service, and over £65million worth of unclaimed Premium Bond.
To track them down, you should start by contacting the bank or building society that holds the account, if you can remember.
You can use the free Policydetective.co.uk site to check if the company has changed its name, and to check for its contact details.
If you can't remember the details, or your bank or building society says it can't help, you can use the free My Lost Account tracing service.
There are over 70 providers signed up the scheme, including all major banks, all 43 UK building societies, and National Savings & Investments (NS&I) – including the old Post Office Savings Bank accounts.
You should get a response from providers within three months.
As NS&I is included, this means you'll find out if you've got any lost Premium Bonds too.
Once you know you've got them, you can use NS&I's free online prize checker tool to see if you've won any Premium Bond prizes.
You can reclaim wins all the way back to June 1957.
Missing benefits worth £5,320 each
At least seven million people in the UK are missing out on more than £15billion in unclaimed benefits, according to charity Turn2Us.
Although it varies depending on what benefit you’re applying for and your circumstances, the average amount people claim a year is £5,320.
Research by the charity found that the benefit most people are losing out on is council tax support, with roughly 2.8million people missing out on £2.6billion.
To tackle the issue, Turn2us has launched a new online benefits calculator that can help you check whether you’re eligible for benefits, and which ones.
It takes 10 minutes to use the calculator, and helps you kick start the application process as well.
You can request benefits to be backdated in writing to the Department for Work and Pensions, HMRC or your local council.
Tax-free childcare worth up to £2,000 a year
All working parents with children who are 11 or under can apply for the Government's tax-free childcare scheme.
The initiative could save parents £2,000 a year on childcare costs.
This goes up to maximum of £4,000 if your child is disabled.
The scheme essentially works like a savings account where for every £8 you save towards childcare costs, the government tops up an extra £2.
So if you put away £8,000 a year for one child, the government will give you £2,000 totally free.
The scheme launched in 2017, but one in five families could still be missing out on the cash because they haven't applied.
Find out if you're eligible with our guide to tax-free childcare.
Council tax discount worth up to £938 a year
Three million Brits are missing out on over £900 in council tax support, despite seeing price hikes to their bills this year, according to Turn2Us.
On average, that means eligible Brits are missing out on £938 each.
But as each council runs their own support scheme, you could get more – or less – than this.
It comes as thousands of households saw their council tax bill jump by up to 5% in April.
You could be eligible for up to 100% off your council tax bill if you’re on a low income or on benefits, including Universal Credit.
But how much your bill could be slashed by depends on where you live, as each council runs its own tax reduction scheme.
You may be able to get a council tax reduction in certain circumstances even if you’re not on a low income, Universal Credit or benefits.
A full list of circumstances that exempt you from paying council tax can be found on Citizens Advice.
Find out how to apply for a council tax reduction with our guide.
Find lost pension pots worth around £13,000 each
Around 1.6 million savers have lots their pension pots worth a collective £19.4 billion, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
That works out at around £13,000 in lost pensions each.
This could be because people have moved jobs and lost documentation or you may not have realised that you were enrolled onto a pension scheme.
Your employer should be able to tell you where your pension money is if you have been auto-enrolled onto a scheme.
Pensions providers are also supposed to send annual statements to scheme members so check old paperwork or emails.
If you still can't find your lost pots, you can contact the Pension Tracing Service.
This is a free government service that lets you find your own workplace or personal pension scheme or someone else's if they give permission.
You can search online by entering the name of your employer or old pension provider.
The service will tell you who managed your old company's scheme and you will then need to contact them.
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