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

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 vital for job hunting, it can be incredibly helpful to get shopping done online, and helps us keep 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 low-cost internet service, and find out how you can check your eligibility for them.

What are social tariff broadband deals?

Social tariffs are a way to get broadband for customers receiving Universal Credit and other types of financial support. They're much cheaper than the standard monthly rate for the service and are reserved for these customers to help them 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.

Providers to verify customers for social tariffs

From August 2022, providers themselves will be able to confirm which customers are eligible for social tariffs, removing the need for customers to prove their own eligibility.

According to research, less than 2% of eligible customers were taking advantage of social tariffs, so this move is expected to make it easier for millions of people to cut down on their bills.

Those who qualify for cheaper plans will still need to give their permission for their contract to be changed, but this means they will no longer have to seek the verification themselves.

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 11 November 2022
ProviderDealSpeedPrice per month
VodafoneEssentials38Mbps£12
Community FibreEssential10Mbps£12.50
Virgin MediaEssential15Mbps£12.50
BTHome Essentials 136Mbps£15
HyperopticFair Fibre 5050Mbps£15
SkyBasics36Mbps£20
NOWBasics36Mbps£20
Virgin MediaEssential Broadband Plus54Mbps£20
BTHome Essentials 267Mbps£20
HyperopticFair Fibre 150150Mbps£25

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

BT social tariff 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 universal credit broadband

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 tariffs

virgin media logo

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

For a monthly fee of £12.50, 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.

If you're looking for a faster speed, Virgin also offers a 54Mbps 'Essential Plus' package for £20 per month. The same conditions apply - 30-day rolling contract and no mid-contract price rises. 54Mbps is a much more suitable speed for larger families where multiple people will be streaming, working or gaming at the same time.

You should also keep in mind that these are broadband-only connections, 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 own site.

Vodafone Essentials broadband

vodafone logo on a white background

One of the most recent providers to announce a social tariff is Vodafone.

With Vodafone Essentials, you get access to 38Mbps internet speeds for just £12 per month, making it one of the best-value social tariffs out there. Plus, it comes as a shorter 12-month contract, with no mid-contract price rises and no early exit fees, so you get a lot of flexibility when deciding how long you need the connection for.

The low-income deal is available to all existing and new customers, provided you are eligible for the service.

Am I eligible?

Vodafone says you need to be in receipt of "specific government benefits" to qualify for its Vodafone Essentials broadband social tariff. The financial support schemes that qualify for this offer are:

  • Universal Credit​

  • Disability Allowance​

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance​

  • Personal Independence Payment​

  • Employment and Support Allowance​

To sign up for the deal, you first need to check you are eligible by completing a registration form. Vodafone will then run an eligibility check, and then call you if it succeeds to process your order. This should take about one week to happen.

Hyperoptic social broadband tariffs

hyperoptic logo

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

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre 50

Hyperoptic offers an entry-level Fair Fibre Plan to eligible 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.

Community Fibre social tariffs

logo of uk full fibre broadband provider community fibre

Full fibre broadband provider Community Fibre is the latest brand to announce a social tariff for its customers. And unlike other providers, it doesn't have any eligibility criteria to meet if you want to sign up for it.

Community Fibre Essential

The Essential package from Community Fibre offers 10Mbps speeds for just £12.50 per month. It's the cheapest broadband deal on offer in this article, but it also offers the joint-slowest broadband speed.

10Mbps is great for very small households who don't use the internet for much more than social media scrolling or a bit of Netflix streaming on the TV. But if you live in a household of three or more, you will likely need a faster connection.

Am I eligible?

Community Fibre won't ask you to prove that you're on any income support in order to get this deal, which essentially means that anyone can choose it if they wish.

The main factor that determines whether you're eligible is whether you can actually get this broadband package at your home. It's supplied by Community Fibre's full fibre network, which is primarily based around London for now, and to only a limited number of properties there.

If you're already a Community Fibre customer, this shouldn't be much of an issue. But if you're looking to choose this deal as a new customer, you'll have to make sure your property can access it.

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 on the broadband market.

Instead of being basic or limited plans, most of these offers are full packages with the usual bells and whistles you get with 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.

And 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.

Broadband providers in the UK have also recently started waiving early exit fees for any customer who wants to move onto a cheaper tariff. So if you're looking to cut down on your current broadband bill, you won't be charged for doing so.

See more 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?’ The 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 months x 10.3 million people = £2.4 billion potential saving on broadband.

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