Broadband help packages - check to see if you could save £250 a year on a social tariff

Could you be one of four million households entitled to help with broadband via your provider's social tariff?

Mother and young son using tablet together
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If you are on low income and struggling to keep up with broadband price rises, then you may qualify for help with broadband costs via your provider's social tariff. It’s still little-known: only 55,000 out of the 4.2million who are eligible are signed up.

Social tariffs are available to households receiving financial support, such as Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance, who can’t afford the typical cost of a broadband connection. 

They can work out significantly cheaper than regular broadband tariffs, with consumer champion Which? estimating social tariffs can save eligible households an average of £250 a year (opens in new tab).But, social tariffs are not offered by all broadband providers. While BT, Vodafone, Sky and Virgin Media as well as smaller suppliers KCOM (opens in new tab), Hyperoptic (opens in new tab) and GNetwork (opens in new tab) offer them, 75% of those eligible are actually with a supplier that does not offer them. To switch to a supplier that does, there are high exit fees to pay. 

While groups like Citizens Advice have tried to promote the tariffs on social media there is still a lack of awareness.

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Nous, the free online service that offers guidance on household bills, and The Sun has launched a campaign calling on more suppliers to offer social tariffs (opens in new tab) - and to make them more easily available to customers via online. 

So how do these social broadband tariffs work, and what will they cost you?

Can I get free broadband?

While there are no entirely free broadband deals available in the UK, social broadband tariffs are a useful option if you are receiving benefits, and there are other support schemes in place which can help you get online for a period without having to pay anything.

Being able to connect to the internet is absolutely vital for most of us, yet it’s not always affordable to do so. According to Citizens Advice one in six households struggled to afford broadband during national lockdowns between March 2020 and January 2021, while research by Ofcom found that as of February 2022 around 5% of households struggle to pay for their fixed broadband service.

This is only likely to grow in the months ahead as a result of the current climate of soaring living costs and inflation.

What help can I get from Vodafone for broadband costs?

Vodafone is the latest provider to move into social tariffs. It's deal, known as the Voxi for Now (opens in new tab), is rather different from those of its rivals as it is a mobile broadband tariff. It offers unlimited 15G data, calls and texts for £10 for up to six months. 

Vodafone said the package is worth around £35 a month.

To qualify you have to be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, disability allowance, Personal Independent Payment, Employment and Support Allowance or employment-based Universal Credit.

How can Sky help me with broadband  costs?

Sky is another new entrant to the world of social tariffs with its Sky Broadband Basics package. It costs £20 a month and is for existing customers only. The tariff offers 36Mb/s broadband for 18 months, and usually costs £25 a month.

The sa,e deal is available if you have Now TV, as it is part of Sky, but is called Now Broadband Basics.

To qualify you have to be claiming Universal Credit or Pension Credit.

Help with broadband costs: what is BT doing?

BT’s social tariff comes in the form of its Home Essentials package (opens in new tab), which includes broadband at speeds of 36Mb/s and 700 minutes of landline calls for £15 a month. The usual deal costs around £28 a month. 

To qualify you have to be claiming Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pensions Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.

What is Virgin Media doing to help with broadband costs?

Virgin’s social tariff is its Essential deal (opens in new tab), which costs £15 a month and is for existing customers only. 

Unlike BT, its deal doesn’t include calls and its broadband is slower with an average speed of 15Mb/s - that’s half the average speed you normally get from fibre broadband. 

To qualify you have to be claiming Universal Credit or show you are facing financial difficulty. 

How is TalkTalk helping customers with broadband costs?

TalkTalk (opens in new tab) does not offer a social tariff, but has a separate scheme which offers free broadband for six months through a partnership with Jobcentre Plus. Jobseekers can claim six months of the provider’s Fibre35 broadband, which normally costs £22 a month, without an actual contract. Fibre35 provides average speeds of 38Mb/s.

To qualify you have to be claiming Universal Credit and have a work coach through the Job Centre. This is because the scheme is run in partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

To claim your free six months of free broadband you need to use your DWP referral code, which should be sent automatically. You can ask your work coach at the Job Centre if you struggle to find it.

Help with broadband costs: what is Hyperoptic doing?

Hyperoptic (opens in new tab)offers two social tariffs for low-income households. Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 50 costs £15 a month for broadband at 50Mp/s and you can opt to pay an extra £3 a month for a landline with free evening and weekend calls.

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 150 offers the same benefits but has a much faster broadband speed of 150Mp/s and costs £25 a month.

Hyperoptic is a smaller provider than the likes of BT, Virgin and TalkTalk so its broadband coverage is less extensive. You can check the broadband coverage map (opens in new tab) on the Hyperoptic website to see if its service is available at your property.

To qualify for Hyperoptic’s social tariffs you have to be claiming Universal Credit, Income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, housing benefit or Pension Credit.

What is GNetwork doing to help with broadband costs?

GNetwork’s Essential Fibre (opens in new tab) tariff offers broadband at 50Mp/s for just £15 a month.

Note that GNetwork is a London-only provider and its broadband coverage does not cover all of London, so you will need to double check if its network is appropriate for you.

To qualify you have to be claiming Universal Credit, Income Support, Income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit.

Help with broadband costs: what is KCOM doing?

KCOM’s Full Fibre Flex (opens in new tab) offers broadband at 30Mp/s for just £19.99 a month. The deal also includes 20 local calls and 60 minutes of calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers.

Note that KCOM only covers south-east Yorkshire, so it won’t be an option for everyone.

To qualify you have to be claiming Universal Credit (with zero earnings), Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Pension Credit. 

You can also apply for the tariff if you are a care leaver, or a care home resident if you are referred via social services.

Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities.  Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.