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Broadband deals for low income families — how to get a social tariff on universal credit

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Written by Max Beckett, Content Editor - Broadband

25 May 2022

Find out which providers are offering broadband social tariffs for customers receiving Universal Credit or other government financial support.
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A strong, reliable broadband connection is now as essential to families as almost every other household utility. It’s crucial for children to be able to learn from home, it's extremely useful for job hunting, and helpful for getting shopping done and keeping in touch with loved ones.

To help customers receiving financial support afford a broadband connection and get access to the same opportunities online as others, some providers offer bespoke deals, known as 'social tariffs', at much lower prices.

And with the cost of living crisis and broadband price hikes driving up everyone's bills, it's never been more important to see if you can reduce your monthly outgoings.

Read on to see which providers offer a broadband discount for low income households, and find out how you can check your eligibility for them.

What are social tariff broadband deals?

Low income broadband deals are offers that are much cheaper than the standard monthly rate for the service. They are reserved for customers who receive financial support, such as Universal Credit, and can’t afford the usual monthly price of a broadband connection.

They’re still usually the same speed, quality and other home broadband deals. The only difference is the price.

Uswitch recently found that two-thirds of financially vulnerable households are unaware that low-income broadband tariffs exist. That's a rough total of ten million homes that could save up to £234 a year — or nearly £20 per month — on a cheaper broadband contract*.

So if you're receiving Universal Credit, the social broadband tariffs in this guide could well be yours for the taking.

Can I get free broadband?

While the UK doesn't offer free broadband, Universal Credit receivers can qualify for heavily discounted broadband deals from a number of broadband providers.

In fact, TalkTalk recently announced a collaboration with Jobcentre Plus to offer six months of free broadband to those that are eligible. If you're not eligible but still on Universal Credit, your best bet would be to choose a specific low income broadband deal offered by a UK home broadband provider, such as BT or Virgin Media.

You can read more about those below and read more about TalkTalk's deal here.

So even though there's no free internet for Universal Credit customers, there are many ways you can make your broadband bill a lot easier to manage. Read on for a range of specific deals for low income customers.

Broadband social tariff deals for people on Universal Credit

Some providers offer a significantly cheaper broadband deal so customers on a low income can afford a strong, reliable internet connection.

Browse the following options to see which providers offer discounted broadband deals for families on low incomes.

Broadband social tariffs available in the UK

Updated 29 April 2022
ProviderDealSpeedPrice
BTHome Essentials 136Mbps£15pm
Virgin MediaEssential15Mbps£15pm
HyperopticFair Fibre 5050Mbps£15pm
BTHome Essentials 267Mbps£20pm
SkyBasic36Mbps£20pm
NOWBasic36Mbps£20pm
HyperopticFair Fibre 150150Mbps£25pm

Read more about each deal below to find out if you’re eligible for your chosen deal.

BT broadband Universal Credit deals

bt logo

BT offers a near-half-price fibre broadband deal that millions of low-income customers who receive government financial support can get.

BT Home Essentials

BT Home Essentials offers superfast fibre broadband speeds of 36Mbps, but for a much cheaper monthly price of £15 per month. The regular deal, which is called BT Fibre Essential, usually costs around £28 per month.

If you’re looking for a low income phone and internet service, BT Home Essentials also includes 700 minutes of calls as part of the package. And if you would like an even faster BT deal, you could upgrade to BT’s 67Mbps Fibre 2 deal for the heavily discounted price of £20 per month (usually around £33).

On the launch of the new half price deal, CEO of BT's Consumer Division, Marc Allera, said:

"BT's purpose of Connecting for Good is at the heart of all we do, and a huge part of that is going above and beyond to support people who need it most. That's why we're launching BT Home Essentials, our low-cost fibre package that will now include all customers on Universal Credit, to provide a potential 4.6 million families across the UK with half-price fibre broadband and calls.

"BT Home Essentials will be available at half the price of our standard fibre package because fast, reliable connectivity to access vital online services – and keep in touch with loved ones – is more important than ever. It is a big step towards creating the connected, digitally inclusive UK we all want to see."

Am I eligible?

You can qualify for BT Home Essentials if you are on any of the following:

  • Universal Credit

  • Income Support

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Employment and Support Allowance

  • Pensions Credit

Sky broadband universal credit deal

sky logo

Sky recently launched its first social tariff for people who claim Universal Credit and Pension Credit.

The discounted broadband deal, called Sky Basics, plus its sister company NOW's package, NOW Basics, costs £20 per month for 36Mbps broadband speed. Both plans also come with pay-as-you-go landline calls.

36Mbps is enough to handle most of a family's internet demands, which includes a couple of screens streaming while other family members scroll social media or listen to music. But at £20 per month, it's slightly more expensive than other social tariffs out there for similar internet speeds.

Am I eligible?

These social tariffs from Sky and NOW are only available to existing Sky and NOW customers, so you'll need to already be paying for a service from those providers in order to get your bill discounted.

You will also need to be claiming either Universal Credit or Pension Credit to qualify for the discount — the providers haven't detailed any other criteria for it.

Virgin Media Essential social tariff

virgin media logo

Virgin Media offers an Essential broadband service for customers who are facing financial difficulty or receiving Universal Credit. It comes with no fixed-term contract and no changes to monthly price while the customer continues to receive their Universal Credit payments.

For a monthly fee of £15, the Essential package supplies speeds of 15Mbps. With this speed, two people could stream HD video at once and there would still likely be enough bandwidth for social media scrolling at the same time. However, it’s still half the average speed you normally get from fibre broadband.

You should also keep in mind that this is a broadband-only connection, given that Virgin Media’s network doesn’t require a landline to work. So if you also need a landline to make phone calls to family and friends, this package may not be the right choice.

Am I eligible?

In order to access Virgin Media Essential broadband, you will need to provide evidence that you are eligible for Universal Credit. You will receive more information on how to do this after your application is submitted.

Learn more about Virgin Media Essential broadband on its FAQ page.

Hyperoptic social broadband tariffs

hyperoptic logo

Hyperoptic offers two discounted broadband deals at differing speeds speeds for low-income households.

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 50

Hyperoptic offers an entry-level Fair Fibre Plan to eligibile households for just £15 per month. It comes with a 50Mbps broadband speed, which is plenty of bandwidth for a small household.

The contract is available on a monthly rolling basis, which means you can cancel within 30 days if your financial situation happens to change. Installation is also free, and you'll have the option to add a £3 per month landline service with free evening and weekend calls.

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 150

This is the faster Fair Fibre option from Hyperoptic. You get all the same benefits as its Fair Fibre 50 plan, but instead a much faster broadband speed of 150Mbps.

If you have a household of five or more internet users, or there are people living with you who use the internet for heavy downloads and high quality streaming, this speed might be better for you.Fair Fibre 150 comes at a monthly price of £25.

Am I eligible?

The Hyperoptic Fair Fibre Plan is available to individuals who use one of the following financial support schemes:

  • Universal Credit

  • Income-related Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance

  • Personal Independent Payment (PIP)

  • Housing Benefit

  • Pension Credit

Hyperoptic's broadband coverage is less widespread than BT or Virgin Media's. So you'll have to make sure have access to its full fibre network before you seek one of its Fair Fibre plans.

Free broadband installation for those on universal credit

In a recent statement, UK broadband network Openreach has stated that it will install broadband for free to those households in the UK living on Universal Credit and with no other earnings.

Many major broadband providers operate on Openreach, including BT, Sky and TalkTalk, which means that they should be able to pass those savings on to new customers. This would save an estimated one million people up to £92, and would help those who have had to struggle without internet access to get connected.

A recent report from Ofcom revealed that some two million UK households struggle to afford internet services. And that as few as 1% of those on out-of-work benefits had signed up for low-cost broadband tariffs offered to those on low incomes. Hopefully the removal of an installation charge can help more households get online soon.

It’s worth noting, however, that broadband providers can choose how they pass on the savings to customers. This could be by removing upfront costs or lowering monthly fees over the length of the contract. And an Openreach spokesperson recently told the BBC that while it could not insist that the savings were given to customers, "clearly the right thing to do would be to pass it on".

Are there other cheap broadband deals available?

There are many low-cost broadband deals to choose from. They aren’t as cheap as the above deals, but they come with some of the lowest monthly prices you could find for broadband.

Instead of being basic or limited plans, most of these offers are full packages with the usual bells and whistles you get with a broadband service. Plus, you’ll have more flexibility to choose additional services should you wish to.

View our range of cheap broadband deals on Uswitch, press the ‘Sort by’ drop-down menu, select ‘Cost (low to high)’ and you will see the cheapest deals available on our site.

If you don't qualify for a Universal Credit broadband deal, but you're concerned your credit score might stop you from getting a broadband deal, take a look at our guide on how to get broadband with no credit check.

And given the expensive price rises we're seeing in our bills right now, if you're looking to pay less for your internet service you can browse our tips on how to save money on your broadband bill.

*Respondents in our study were asked ‘How much do you - or whoever pays your bills - currently spend on your household’s broadband/landline bill(s) every month?’ Average figure for people eligible for social tariffs was £34.50 (compared to £39 not eligible). Swapping to BT’s £15-a-month Home Essentials tariff is a £19.50 a month saving. £19.50 x 12 month x 10.3 million people = £2.4 billion potential saving on broadband.

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