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How to get help with energy bills

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Are you struggling to pay your gas and electricity bills? Find out what support is out there, including government energy support schemes, help from your supplier and other organisations.

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The first place to go to for help with your electric bill (and gas bill if applicable) is your current energy supplier. Energy regulator Ofgem has set rules that means your supplier must offer help if you’ve fallen into energy debt. If your problems are temporary, you can ask your supplier to help you by:

  • Reviewing your current payment or debt repayment plan
  • Offering a temporary payment break or reduction
  • Extending the deadline for paying your latest bill or any outstanding money you owe
  • Paying your energy bill or debt directly from any benefits payments you receive (Fuel Direct)

In all these circumstances, you're still expected to pay for your ongoing energy usage. The amount you owe continues to rise as you consume more gas and electricity.

If you’re on a prepayment meter and run out of credit, you can receive temporary credit. This may be added automatically when your meter runs out of credit, but it depends on your supplier. Contact it to find out. Any temporary credit is paid back from future prepayment card top-ups.

See if you're eligible for energy hardship funds

All but 1 of the big six suppliers also offer hardship funds. These provide grants to those on low incomes who are struggling to repay their energy debts:

Priority Services

The Priority Services Register offers additional help to vulnerable groups, including the disabled and those over the State Pension age. Aside from offering priority support during emergencies, those on the register also get help accessing and reading meters.

If you’re on a low income and receive either tax credits or some form of benefits, you may be eligible for additional energy bill support. Government energy support schemes include:

Warm Home Discount

  • Type: One-off payment designed to help with higher energy costs over winter.
  • Worth: £150 (2023-24 figure).
  • Who can receive it:
    • Anyone in the household who receives the Guarantee Credit portion of Pension Credit
    • Those with higher energy costs who receive the Savings Credit portion of Pension Credit, Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.
  • Check your supplier: Most, but not all have signed up to this scheme. Check GOV.UK to verify your supplier is on the list.
  • How to claim: You should receive this automatically as a credit against your electricity bill by the end of March each year. Prepayment meter users should expect to receive a top-up voucher.

Find out more about the Warm Home Discount here.

Winter Fuel Payment

  • Type: An annual tax-free payment to help cover heating costs in winter.
  • Worth: £250-600 (2023-24 figure).
  • Who can receive it: Households with 1 or more people over the State Pension age who receive the State Pension and who were in the UK during a qualifying period (typically the week beginning the third Monday in September).
  • How to claim: This should be paid automatically into the same bank account as your State Pension or other benefits in November or December each year.

Learn more about the Winter Fuel Payment here.

Cold Weather Payment

  • Type: One-off payments during periods of extreme cold during winter to help with heating costs.
  • Worth: £25 for each 7-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March (2023-24 figures).
  • Who can receive it: English, Welsh or Northern Irish households receiving Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit, or Support for Mortgage Interest. You may also need to receive the disability or pensioner premium or be responsible for very young or disabled children. Scottish residents can find out more about an alternative scheme - the Winter Heating Payment - which pays a single lump sum (£55.05 in 2023-24) to low-income benefits at the mygov.scot website.
  • How to claim: This is paid automatically into the same bank account as your State Pension or other benefits in November or December of each year.

Support from councils

While the government no longer offers Cost of Living payments, you may still be eligible for financial support from your local council. The Household Support Fund has given local councils access to a £500 million pot of money to support the most vulnerable with essential bills. Energy bills are included, but funding ends in September 2024. Contact your local council to find out more and see if you’re eligible. If you live in Scotland, you might be able to get support through a Crisis Grant. Welsh residents should investigate the Welsh Government’s Discretionary Assistance Fund.

Even if you don’t qualify for help from your supplier or government schemes, you may still be able to access support from other organisations.

Fuel vouchers

These top-up vouchers are designed to help those on low incomes with prepayment meters. Unlike emergency credit top-ups from your supplier, you won’t need to pay these back:

  • Worth: £49 per voucher.
  • Who can receive it: It depends on where you live. Typically, you need to meet 1 or more of the following criteria:
    • Be on income-related benefits
    • Have no access to cash savings
    • Be deemed vulnerable - through children in your care or being disabled or of pensionable age
  • How to claim: You need a referral from a local specified organisation, typically your local council, food bank or Citizens Advice. You get the voucher as a code by email, letter or text message. Your supplier can add the voucher online to a smart prepayment meter or through your local PayPoint or Payzone outlet.

Citizens Advice

You might be able to get help from a Citizens Advice adviser - including access to financial support - for 1 of the following:

  • Paying for alternative fuels like oil, wood, LPG, biomass (including wood pellets) or coal.
  • Securing discounts from government schemes when you pay someone else for your energy, such as a landlord or heat network supplier.
  • Repaying energy debts by mediating between you and your supplier.

Energy Bill Discount Scheme

Government relief schemes exist to help landlords and heat network suppliers with their energy bills. These discounts should be passed on automatically to you if your landlord pays your property’s energy bill or you’re on a heat network. If they’re not, Citizens Advice has information on how to challenge both your landlord and heat network supplier.

Oxygen Concentrator rebates

If you use an oxygen concentrator for a health condition or disability, you can get a rebate on your electricity bill courtesy of the NHS. This is paid automatically every 3 months, and your installer should have provided you with details of claiming it. If it didn’t, then get in contact with:

Royal British Legion

The Legion offers a grant scheme to veterans and their families on benefits that pays up to half their energy costs (maximum £200 per month). Other, smaller grants are available to those not on benefits based on their income. Grants come in the form of prepayment gas and electricity top-up vouchers and a virtual credit card for paying utility bills.

National Energy Action (NEA)

This charity specialises in fuel poverty and energy efficiency. You can contact its free support service for help and advice. Similar organisations exist for Scotland (Home Energy Scotland) and Northern Ireland (NI Energy Advice).

The best way to get help with your energy bills is to investigate ways of permanently reducing your consumption. This helps cut your bills and ensures you don’t waste unnecessary energy heating and powering your home.

When it comes to improving energy efficiency in your home, there are several schemes that can help:

  • Energy Company Obligation: The Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation portion of this scheme legally requires energy suppliers to help vulnerable, low-income and fuel-poor households heat and insulate their homes more effectively.
  • Great British Insulation Scheme: If your property has an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of D or lower and is in Council Tax bands A-D (England) or A-E (Scotland or Wales), you can apply for funding to help insulate your home or upgrade your boiler. Visit GOV.UK for more details and to see if you’re eligible.
  • Home Upgrade Grant: This grant is available to households living in homes with no gas boiler and with an energy efficiency rating of D or worse. You also need to have a household income of £36,000 or less depending on where you live. Your home is surveyed to work out how to make it more energy efficient. Your local council then organises and pays for any agreed improvements.
  • Boiler Upgrade Scheme: Offers financial support to help you switch from a fossil fuel boiler (including gas boiler) to a heat pump or biomass boiler. Applies in England and Wales only.
  • Demand Flexibility Service: To help balance electricity demand, suppliers are offering rewards when customers cut their energy use at specific times. Check your supplier for details.

There are many ways in which you can cut your energy costs.

  • Switch tariff and supplier: First, check to see if you can save money by finding a cheaper supplier and tariff. Get started by comparing energy deals now.
  • Switch to a smart meter: If you’ve not already done so, installing a smart meter lets you keep an eye on your gas and electricity usage. Use this to help cut your consumption.
  • Cut electricity consumption: See where you're unnecessarily using energy and take steps to cut your usage down.

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