The 12 ways of Christmas

Young woman in a toy shop wearing a Santa's hat and Christmas jumper, wrapping up a toy

Times are tough for many, but help is on hand – from support with household bills and energy costs, to food and childcare. We can all play our part, too: keeping an eye out for vulnerable people and volunteering at local charities can all make a big difference. Here, we’ve gathered 12 ways in which you can access support, plus how you can help others, if you’re able – all in one handy guide

How we can help you

1 Stay warm in winter

As the weather gets colder, make sure you’re using your energy in the most effective way possible. Islington Council’s Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE) can give advice on saving energy, accessing grants for heating and insulation, and support with bills and energy debt.

Visit the SHINE page on the council website or call 020 7527 2121

2 Claim what you’re entitled to

The council’s income maximisation team (IMAX) can help you get the benefits and tax credits you’re entitled to. Contact them on 020 7527 8600 or send an email to

3 With money and debt

If you’re struggling to manage your money or are in debt, there’s lots of free and confidential advice available. Depending on your situation, you can get help to pay your rent, with childcare costs, broadband and phone packages, energy bills and much more.

4 With food and fun in the school holiday

Islington Council’s Lunch Bunch scheme will provide free food and activities for children and young people from 2 to 5 January this school holiday. So, if your child attends a school in Islington and receives benefits-related free school meals, or fulfills other criteria, they can attend all sorts of activities – from sport to arts and crafts, all served up with a free healthy lunch. You need to register your child and book a place.

Find out more about Lunch Bunch

5 With childcare costs

The council subsidises childcare at a range of nurseries, so that fees depend on household income. You could also be eligible for free childcare for two to four-year-olds. From April 2024, eligible working parents in England with a child aged two will have access to 15 hours’ free childcare.

Find out what you’re entitled to: contact the Family Information Service on 020 7527 5959 or email For more info, visit the Childcare Choices website.

6 With food

Food hubs in Islington can help you get the essential supplies you need, as well as a free, cooked meal. To find support, visit the Islington Food Partnership website or get in touch with IMAX on 020 7527 8600 or send an email to

How you can help

7 Give a child a gift

At Christmas, The Toy Project provides new toys to vulnerable families and children in need – last year, they treated nearly 1,000 children! They’re asking for donations of new toys to support this, especially Lego sets, Playmobil and crafts stuff. If you’d like to support their work year-round and are able to, consider setting up a regular donation. All of the money will go towards facilitating access to play, both through providing toys to those in need, and free and inclusive play-based sessions.

Visit The Toy Project website or call on 020 7503 9590

8 Provide a family with a healthy meal

In partnership with Bright Start Islington, Miracles charity delivers food boxes stuffed with fresh, healthy ingredients – along with child-friendly recipes, supermarket vouchers, treats and activities – to families in Islington at the start of the school holidays. Help them reach more families by donating what you can.

Visit the Miracles website or email for more information.

9 Help run activities

Mental health charity Stuart Low Trust (SLT) is looking for volunteers to help run their free events on ad-hoc Friday evenings in December at Jean Stokes Community Centre.

Hargrave Hall Community Association is also after people to help set up, prep and serve food, and chat to residents at their Friday social club over winter. They particularly welcome extra pairs of hands on Friday 22 December, for their Christmas party. Donations of arts and crafts, books and men’s clothes and hygiene products would also be gratefully received.

Email or call 020 7713 9304 for SLT. Email for Hargrave Hall, or pop in one Friday, 4–7pm.

10 Donate to support local projects

Islington Giving works with local organisations across Islington to improve the lives of residents. They do this by raising funds for local projects, involving local people in decision-making and creating community connections. But they can’t do it without our support.

Donate online, email or call 020 7288 6940

11 Keep hands and hearts warm

Hornsey Lane Estate Community Association is hosting a winter festival on 16 December and warm rooms throughout the holidays. They’re looking for volunteers to help run the space and provide activities such as games, cooking and film afternoons. They’d also appreciate donations of non-perishable items.

Call Irene on 020 7272 5938 or email

12 Donate a laptop

Hillside Clubhouse is a mental health charity offering practical help around housing, debt and employment. To do this, they need the right tech! If you’re able to donate a working laptop, contact Anna: email or call 020 7700 6408

These aren’t the only charities that need support. Contact your local community centre to find out what you can do. Find a community centre online.

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