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Social tariff broadband and cheaper broadband deals for people on benefits

The cost of living crisis has hit us in so many ways. Unfortunately, broadband has been added to the list of soaring bills. Many internet service providers now hit their customers with a mid-contract price rise every April as standard. This is bad news if you’re stuck in a lengthy contract and the only way out is an expensive exit fee.

Rest assured, help is available if you're struggling to pay your bills.

Unfortunately, there aren't really options for free internet for those on benefits or free internet for the disabled (although TalkTalk offers temporary free internet for jobseekers). But, there is discounted broadband for low incomes as well as broadband discount for disabled customers, if you’re receiving benefits such as:

  • Universal Credit
  • Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Housing benefit
  • Disability allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment

These discounted deals are known as 'social tariffs'. A broadband social tariff lets you set up an internet connection with the same level of service as any new or existing customer, but at a lower monthly cost.

There are even some broadband social tariffs that include entertainment options.

Let’s investigate the options for getting cheap home broadband on benefits. 

We'll also cover some cheap deals that anybody can get and show you a few ways to get free internet access.

Broadband on benefits: the key points

  • There are cheap broadband deals (or 'broadband social tariffs’) exclusively available to people receiving benefits.
  • Deals are restricted to specific benefits (internet deals for Universal Credit), and providers will likely carry out an eligibility check.
  • Some packages may have unusual limitations that could make them unsuitable for your requirements.
  • Some regular broadband deals may be cheaper than a benefits offer.
  • TalkTalk offers six months of free broadband to jobseekers, via a voucher scheme.

Which broadband providers offer social tariffs?

Summary of broadband providers who offer social tariffs
  Broadband provider
Universal Credit BT, 4thUtility, EE (via BT), Hyperoptic, KCOM, NOW Broadband, Plusnet (via BT), Sky Broadband, Shell EnergyVirgin Media, Vodafone, YouFibre
Income Support BT, 4thUtility, EE (via BT), Hyperoptic, KCOM, NOW Broadband, Plusnet (via BT), Shell Energy, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, Vodafone, YouFibre
Jobseekers allowance BT, 4thUtility, EE (via BT), Hyperoptic, KCOM, NOW Broadband, Plusnet (via BT), Shell Energy, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, Vodafone, YouFibre
Employment and support allowance BT, 4thUtility, EE (via BT), Hyperoptic, KCOM, NOW Broadband, Plusnet (via BT), Shell Energy, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, Vodafone
Pension Credit BT, 4thUtility, EE (via BT), Hyperoptic, KCOM, NOW Broadband, Plusnet (via BT), Shell Energy, Sky Broadband, Virgin Media, Vodafone, YouFibre
Attendance Allowance Hyperoptic, KCOM, YouFibre
Care Leaver's Support Hyperoptic, KCOM
Housing Benefit Hyperoptic, YouFibre
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Hyperoptic, KCOM, Vodafone, YouFibre
Care Home residents and Lifeline customers (Social Service referrals) KCOM
Reduced Earnings Allowance Vodafone
Disability Allowance Vodafone

Cheaper broadband deals for people on benefits

The broadband packages we're going to look through on this page are all aimed at people receiving specific benefits.

Your provider will need you to prove you receive benefits. Because of this, you'll need to give some additional information, such as your National Insurance number.

If you're not an eligible customer, you won't be able to sign up for a social tariff package.

If this is you, and you're searching for help to cut down on your monthly broadband bills, read on. We've also included more information on other cheap broadband deals you can sign up for. 

BT broadband social tariffs: low-income internet deals

BT Home Essentials

BT Home Essentials is a low-cost broadband on benefits option. It also provides those on low incomes with an affordable phone package.

The Genie

Genie Tip...

BT Home Essentials social tariff is available to switch over to if you're an existing BT, EE or Plusnet customer.

There are two 12-month plans to choose from:

The BT 'Home Essentials - Unlimited Fibre Essential Plan' is priced at £15 a month for those on Universal Credit with included line rental and unlimited UK calls. Else, this is priced £20 per month for other benefits on a broadband only basis and offers average speeds of 36Mb.

The 'Home Essentials - Unlimited Fibre 2 plan' will set you back £23 a month. For this, you receive average speeds of 67Mb, which will be fast enough for internet browsing, gaming and streaming TV. This is broadband only, but you can add the following call plans:

  • Pay As You Go - £2 per month
  • Unlimited Minutes Calls to UK Landlines and Mobiles - £10 per month

Once the 12 months are up, you’ll be subject to another eligibility check.

To get BT Home Essentials, you must be receiving any of the following benefits: 

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit).
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related).
  • Universal Credit (all claimants).

The quickest way to start a switch to BT Home Essentials if you're on benefits is by calling one of these numbers:

BT Home Essentials Contact Numbers
Provider Telephone Number Opening Hours
BT Customers 0800 800 150 Monday-Friday 8am-9pm
Saturday-Sunday 8am-8pm
EE Customers 0800 079 5122 Monday-Friday 8am-9pm
Saturday-Sunday 8am-8pm
Plusnet Customers 0800 432 0200 Monday-Sunday 8am-8pm

Community Fibre's cheap broadband deal

Community Fibre Essentials

You won’t need to prove any eligibility for Community Fibre’s Essential 35Mb fibre broadband. This will be good enough for all basic web browsing, email and streaming.

The best thing is, it’s £12.50 a month, on a 12-month contract, rising by £2 when you're out of contract. Just be aware, you’ll have to pay a £14.95 set-up fee, although you’ll get a good quality Wi-Fi router with this deal.

EE discounted plans if you're on benefits

EE doesn't advertise its own social tariff. However, if you're receiving any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit).
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related).
  • Universal Credit (all claimants).

You will be able to move your service over to BT Home Essentials, even if you're still under contract with EE.

For more help with this, you can call 0800 079 5122 between 8am-9pm on weekdays, or 8am-8pm at the weekend.

Hyperoptic social tariff deals

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre

Hyperoptic offers discounted price plans for those on certain benefits.

With Fair Fibre, you can get a 50Mb broadband service for £15, or a superfast package of 150Mb for £20. Both are on a rolling monthly contract.

Fair Fibre is available to both new and existing Hyperoptic customers, although if you're on the following benefits, you'll need to call 0203 318 3209 to check your eligibility.

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Care Leavers' Support
  • House Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment

Meanwhile, you can check online for eligibility if you're signed up to any of the following:

  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre is one of the best value deals available to people on benefits, as it’s much faster than other services. 

But the availability of Hyperoptic services is very limited. It uses a different network than most other providers. Because of this, only a small percentage of homes will be able to sign up.

You can use our deals checker to see if Hyperoptic is available in your area:

Broadband Genie deals checker

KCOM broadband on benefits deals

KCOM Flex Social Access Package

If you live in Hull and East Yorkshire (postcodes HU1 to HU17), KCOM offers cheaper Flex packages and internet support for low income families and customers who meet the eligibility criteria. 

Flex is KCOM's social access package. The 30Mb Lightstream Full Fibre broadband package is available for £14.99 on a rolling monthly contract. 

KCOM offers Flex to eligible households who receive any of the following: 

  • Income Support.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Job Seeker's Allowance.
  • Housing Benefit.
  • Personal Independence Payment.
  • Attendance Allowance.
  • Universal Credit, with zero earnings.
  • Care Home residents and Lifeline customers who are referred via Social Services.
  • Care Leavers
  • Employment and Support Allowance (EAS) (income related).

Hull is the only area of the UK not served by the BT network, so KCOM Flex is the equivalent of BT Basic or BT Home Essentials for Hull residents.

NOW Broadband social tariff broadband

NOW Broadband Basics

If you receive:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-based Employment Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Support

you can sign up for NOW Broadband Basics. This provides a 36Mb NOW Fab Fibre service for a reduced price of £20 per month.

Broadband Basics comes on a rolling monthly contract so that you can leave for free with just 31 days' notice.

4th Utility discounted broadband for those on benefits

4th Utility Social Tariff Plan

For £13.99 a month, 4th Utility's social tariff plan provides users with full fibre broadband on a rolling, 30-day contract. There aren't any extensive paper trails or credit checks. Those eligible include low-income households claiming:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseekers Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance

4th Utility is an independent ISP serving the London area, as well as many other postcodes across the country. Customers can expect an average download speed of around 30Mb.

Plusnet social tariff

Plusnet doesn't advertise its own social tariff. However, if you're receiving any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit).
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income related).
  • Universal Credit (all claimants).

You will be able to move your service over to BT Home Essentials, even if you're still under contract with Plusnet.

For more help with this, you can call 0800 432 0200 any day between 8am-8pm.

Shell Energy Broadband discounted plans

Shell Energy Essentials Broadband

At around half the price of its regular broadband plans, Shell Energy offers social tariffs for both its 11Mb Essential Fast Broadband (£15 per month) and 38Mb Essentials Fibre Broadband packages (£20 per month). For this, you’ll have unlimited data usage. You’ll also be able to call other Shell Energy Broadband and Phone customers for free on your landline.

To be eligible for a Shell Essential Broadband Social Tariff, you’ll need to be receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

It's been confirmed TalkTalk is buying out Shell Energy. TalkTalk doesn't offer a social tariff. If you're currently on Shell Essential Broadband, you'll be free to switch to an alternative social tariff without paying a leaving fee.

Sky Broadband social tariff

Sky Broadband Basics

You’ll need to already be a Sky Broadband customer to qualify for a Sky Broadband Basics social tariff. You’ll also need to be claiming one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-based Employment Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support

Sky Broadband Basics will cost £20 a month on an 18-month contract. However, if you need to leave before this contract ends, the termination fee is waived. This deal allows you to receive superfast broadband download speeds of around 36Mb. Alternatively, if fibre broadband isn’t available where you live, Sky Broadband Essential Plus is also an option (11Mb average download speed).

After the 18-month contract is over, the price will go back to the standard rate. You’ll be reminded of this, but will need to get in touch to discuss future options.

TalkTalk free internet for the unemployed

TalkTalk: free broadband for Jobseekers

TalkTalk doesn't have a social tariff. Instead, it offers six months of free unlimited fibre-optic broadband to eligible jobseekers.

As part of the Flexible Support Fund, TalkTalk supplies referral codes to the DWP which issues them according to need. 

The referral codes provide recipients with a 35Mb home broadband service completely free of charge.

There is no contract and no usage limit, and at the end of the six months, you have the option to cancel the service for free or continue on a standard TalkTalk contract.

Speak to your Jobcentre Plus advisor to find out if you qualify.

YouFibre social tariff broadband

YouFibre: You 50

YouFibre's 'You 50 Social Tariff' is available on a 24-month contract at £15 per month. It's a superfast package, with an average download speed of 50Mb (which the small print advises will be achievable by 50% of its users). To apply, you can call 0800 270 0100. 'You 50' is available to new and existing customers receiving any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Income-related Job Seekers Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Universal Credit

Virgin Media social tariff broadband

Virgin Media Essential

Virgin Media has opened up its Essential broadband and Essential broadband plus and Essential broadband plus with Stream packages to those receiving either:

  • Income-based Employment Support Allowance (I-ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (I-JS)
  • Income Support (IS)
  • Pension Credit (PC)
  • Universal Credit (UC)

Essential broadband is available for low-income customers for £12.50 per month on a 30-day rolling contract. It offers download speeds of 15Mb and an upload speed of 2Mb.

For £20 a month on a rolling 30-day contract, Virgin Media's 'Essential broadband plus' package has a download speed of 54Mb and upload speed of 5Mb.

For a one-off £20 set-up fee, Essential broadband plus customers can upgrade to 'Essential broadband plus with Stream'. This device allows access to all the usual Freeview channels, but with the ability to add on other services such as Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Netflix and Disney +. These are then added on to your Virgin Media bill.

These Virgin Media offers are available to both new and existing customers.

Vodafone discounted broadband deals for those on benefits

Vodafone Essentials Broadband

Current subscribers on Vodafone's Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 packages (previously known as 'Superfast 1' and 'Superfast 2'), can move onto Vodafone Fibre 2 Essentials at £20 per month (66p per day). 

With average download speeds up to 73Mb, ou can leave the contract for free at any time and will not be affected by mid-contract price changes. After 12 months, you'll be moved onto a standard broadband plan (£30 per month), or leave without charge.

Who can get Vodafone Essentials Broadband? Those receiving:

  • Disability Allowance.
  • Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Jobseekers' Allowance.
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Universal Credit. 

To sign up, complete an application on the Vodafone site.

Do I need a social tariff? Is this the best option for me?

If you need to keep costs as low as possible, then you won’t find many deals cheaper than those listed above.

There are a few little quirks to social tariffs to bear in mind, though. Let's take a look at some of the common small print:

  • They may have data limits 

Broadband deals for benefits recipients can have monthly data usage limits, with some kind of penalty (typically a reduction in speed) if you exceed the cap. 

When possible, we always recommend an unlimited broadband package. If you have to choose a deal with a limit, you’ll need to monitor data usage and perhaps cut back on data-intensive activities (such as video streaming) when you're nearing your cap limit.

  • They will need a fixed-line

Most broadband packages require an Openreach (BT) network line. And even if the provider uses a different network (such as Virgin Media), some kind of fixed-line will almost always be necessary.

  • They may not include phone service

If a social tariff broadband deal needs a phone line to work, you can rest easy that line rental will be included in the price.

But some providers (such as Hyperoptic and Virgin Media) don't require a phone line. If you want to make calls, you'll need to sort this line rental out separately, and at an extra cost.

Not everyone will need or want a landline, but if this is important, you should check if this is an option. This is particularly important if the service is intended for vulnerable people, who may require a fixed line for emergency services.

This won't be a consideration for much longer, though. By the end of January 2027, the UK's copper telephone lines will be switched off and all UK calls will be digital. 

For more information on this, you can read our guide to the PSTN Switch Off.

  • The deal might not come with inclusive calls 

Most social tariffs that include a phone line will come with some call allowance. Although some benefits deals have a fairly generous call bundle, others can be quite limited.

An inclusive calls package can be worthwhile if you're going to use your landline frequently.

Alternatively, you could use a mobile SIM deal with inclusive calling minutes.

  • You might get slower broadband speeds

Customers on benefits may get slower speeds than those available with other deals from the same provider.

Some internet access is better than nothing, but just because you’re receiving benefits doesn’t mean you need to accept a disappointing broadband experience.

You should still try to get a broadband service that delivers suitable speeds for your home. Think about what the connection will be used for, and how many people will share the broadband connection. 

Cheap broadband deals available to anyone

If you don’t qualify for any of the broadband deals for benefit recipients, it doesn’t mean you can’t make savings. There are still plenty of options for cheap home broadband. 

Here are a few of the cheapest deals currently available: 

Dynamic deal panel

This is just a selection! Check out our full range of cheap broadband offers to see what else you could get. Enter a postcode to find out what’s available in your area, and use our filters and the table sorting to narrow down the options.

Many deals include free gifts which can make regular broadband packages cheaper than those offered to benefits recipients when you deduct the value of the reward.

It's important to check the terms and conditions so you know how to claim the reward. Keep in mind that you're still going to have to pay the regular monthly price.

Even if you're on benefits, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also take the time to compare regular broadband deals to see how they stack up. You should do this is you're concerned about any of the limitations of a broadband for benefits package.

Although there are some cheap social tariffs available, there may be other options that provide broadband without restrictions for a very similar cost.

In some cases, benefits deals may not beat the lowest price you could get with regular broadband offers!

Broadband without a credit check

Signing up for a broadband deal can mean passing a credit check, but some deals don’t carry out a credit check or have very low requirements. 

If you're worried about your credit score rating, some of the providers which offer broadband without a credit check include: 

Social tariffs may still require a credit check, though they might be more forgiving. For example, 'BT Home Essentials' requirements to pass are lower than its other broadband packages.

To find out more, and compare no credit check deals, read our guide to getting broadband without a credit check

What happens to the broadband if circumstances change and I stop receiving benefits?

Providers will verify that you receive a qualifying benefit when signing up. They'll also perform regular checks (typically at the end of each contract term) to see if you still qualify.

If you're no longer eligible, the provider will move you to one of their standard services. This will be the simplest option as it will not involve any disruption to your broadband service, but it might not be the best value deal.

If, after this happens, you find yourself struggling, make sure you get in touch with your provider as soon as possible. For more help, you can read our extra guide: 'What to do if you can't afford to pay your broadband bill'.

Always compare deals to see what else is out there; switching providers is easy and lets you take advantage of the best offers aimed at new customers.

Alternatives to home broadband: free and cheap ways to get online

Can’t get a home broadband deal? It doesn’t mean you have to be cut off from the internet. 

Here are a few other ways you can get broadband, some of which are free. 

Wi-Fi for people on benefits: public Wi-Fi hotspots
There are thousands of public Wi-Fi points all over the country in cafés, pubs, shops, restaurants, supermarkets, and many other locations.

You might need to pod out for a coffee to use them, but lots are free to access. 

Library computers
Public libraries have computers that anyone can use, making them a valuable resource if you do not currently have a computer or any other device which can access the internet. Many offer Wi-Fi access, too.

Smartphone tethering
If you already have, or can get a smartphone, then you might not need a separate home broadband service.

Smartphones can be connected to a computer over Wi-Fi, so you can use the phone’s data link to access the internet. This is known as 'tethering' and it's very easy to do. 

If you’re already paying for a mobile service, it may not cost any extra. You should check with your mobile network provider, as not all allow this.

If you plan doing this regularly, look for a mobile plan with a very high data cap (unlimited, if possible). If the plan isn't unlimited, you should monitor data usage to avoid extra charges.

BT Wi-Fi

BT Wi-Fi is a public hotspot network with access points around the UK.

BT Broadband customers get free access as a perk, but anyone else can use it by paying for a variety of flexible packages.

You can purchase it on a pay-as-you-go basis for as little as an hour at a time. Alternatively, you can sign up for longer-term access, which provides unlimited data for an unlimited number of devices (just £15 per month if you commit for a year).

If you'd like to see whether there are any hotspots near you, before you sign up, you can use this map.

Frequently asked questions about broadband on benefits

  • Can people on PIP get discount on broadband?

    There are many options for getting discounted broadband if you’re on PIP. However, not all the big name providers offer this. Those that do, include Hyperoptic, KCOM, Vodafone and YouFibre.

Expert Summary: social tariff broadband

If you're ever concerned about your finances, or struggling to make payments towards your broadband bill, it's important to get in touch with your provider. Have an honest conversation. If you're receiving benefits, you should ask them whether you are eligible to be moved onto a social tariff.

If you are on a low income, but not on benefits, keep an eye on cheap broadband deals. Sometimes, these can actually be more affordable than social tariffs. 

Check whether you're out of contract. If you are, you could get in touch with your existing provider to see if they can budge on your monthly bill. If you don't have any luck with this, then you should look into switching. It's a simple process, and it gives you the best chance to shave a bit off your monthly outgoings.

A full list of other broadband providers who offer social tariffs is available on the Ofcom website.

If you’re worried about internet service price rises in 2024, you can see a clear list of the current estimated cost increases, along with some more helpful tips and advice, in our guide: ‘Broadband price increases in 2024: price rises from BT, Virgin, TalkTalk & more’.

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.

Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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