Grants to Help With Your Gas and Electric
If you’re finding it difficult to pay your energy bills, you may be eligible for government grants or support from your energy supplier. Find out what schemes are available to help you pay for your gas and electricity.
If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills and owe money to your supplier, you’re not alone.
In December 2020, research from Citizens Advice showed that 2.1 million households were behind on their energy bills. And this number is likely to have grown with the rising energy prices over 2021, and the end to the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in October 2021.
To help families who are finding it difficult to pay their energy bills, there are a number of grants and schemes available. You may be able to ask for help from your energy supplier, but there are also government grants that could help with your heating costs over winter.
Find out what you can do if you can’t afford your energy bills and if you are eligible for any support grants.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off payment from the government that aims to help people with their heating costs in winter. You could receive between £100 and £300, to be paid in November or December.
Any household with at least one individual born on or before 26 September 1955 is eligible for this payment, regardless of income. You will also need to have lived in the UK for at least one day in the ‘qualifying week’, which in 2021 was 20 to 26 September.
If you don’t qualify for an automatic payment but are eligible to receive the Winter Fuel Payment, you can make a claim by phone or post. Once you’ve submitted a claim for one year, you should receive the payment automatically in following years unless you move abroad or have deferred your State Pension.
The amount you qualify for will depend on when you were born, whether you get certain benefits, and whether you live with anyone else who qualifies for the Winter Fuel payment. Find out more on Gov.uk’s page on how much you can apply for.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
The Warm Home Discount Scheme is available to anyone who’s receiving Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit only), or anyone on a low income who qualifies under their energy supplier’s criteria.
You could receive £140 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme to cut your electricity bill. This amount won’t be paid directly to you, but instead will be taken off your energy bill between October and March.
If you’re on a prepayment meter, your energy supplier will tell you how the discount will be applied. For example, you may receive a top-up voucher you can use for your meter.
You can apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme from 18 October 2021.
If you’re eligible for the discount because you receive Guarantee Credit, you should get a letter with more information about when they will make the deduction.
If you’re on a low income and receive certain benefits, you can apply for the scheme through your energy supplier (as long as they participate in the scheme). Exact details on eligibility will vary between suppliers, and they will only be able to provide a limited number of discounts, so find out more information direct from your energy company.
Cold Weather Payments
These are one-off payments you could receive when the temperature drops to zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days. This is based on average temperatures in your area.
For every seven-day period when the temperature is below freezing, you could receive £25. This should be paid within 14 working days and will be sent to your bank account automatically.
These payments are available between 1 November and 31 March.
You may be eligible to claim a Cold Weather Payment if you receive one or more of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Support for Mortgage Interest
However, receiving these benefits won’t necessarily mean you are eligible for a Cold Weather Payment. Find out more about the criteria you need to meet on the Gov.uk website.
British Gas Energy Trust
The British Gas Energy Trust aims to help households that are struggling financially and finding it difficult to pay for their energy bills. It isn’t just for British Gas customers, so you may be eligible even if you are with a different supplier.
The Trust offers grants to help those in fuel poverty and anyone who is struggling with energy debts. To qualify for a grant, you will need to have received professional advice beforehand and show that you will be in a position to cope with your energy costs in the future.
To apply for a grant, you will need to meet the following criteria:
- Live in England, Scotland or Wales
- Owe money to your gas and/or electric supplier
- Be in fuel poverty, or close to it
- Have no more than £1,000 in savings
- Not have received a grant from the Trust in the previous two years
- Received professional advice for your financial situation
You need to use the grant to pay off outstanding debts to your current gas or electricity supplier. In exceptional circumstances, grants of more than £1,500 may be available.
When you apply, you will need to provide information such as your most recent energy bill, details about your debts, your income (including any benefits you receive) and expenditure, and the organisation you went to for professional advice.
Your energy supplier
Many energy suppliers may offer grants and support to their customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills. It’s worth seeing what schemes are available as they may be able to clear some, or all, of your debts, which can help you to get back on your feet and focus on improving your financial situation.
Even if you don’t qualify for a grant from your supplier, or your supplier doesn’t offer any schemes, you should still contact them if you’re struggling to pay your bills. Together, you may be able to work out a new payment plan, take a break from payments, or come to some other arrangement to help you pay off any debts and manage your bills.
In some cases, suppliers may move you to a prepayment meter if you’re not already using one.
Depending on your situation, it may be worth comparing energy tariffs and providers and seeing if you could find a cheaper option elsewhere.
» MORE: Guide to energy tariffs
Fuel Direct Scheme
If you’re receiving benefits and you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you may be able to use the Fuel Direct Scheme, which is also known as ‘third party deductions’.
Through this scheme, you can choose to have your energy payments taken directly from your benefits. You can also pay for other bills, including rent and water, through this scheme. The deductions will cover the outstanding debt you owe as well as your current usage.
This is only an option if you receive one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit (if you’re not working)
- Income Support
- Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
The amount that’s deducted from your benefits to pay your energy supplier will vary. If you’re on Universal Credit, 5% of your benefits will be deducted to pay off your energy bills.
If you receive other benefits, £3.70 will go towards paying off your debt, and Jobcentre Plus or Pension Service will decide how much is deducted to pay your current bills. If this amount is more than 25% of your benefits, you need to agree to it. If it’s below 25%, the deductions can be made without asking for your agreement.
You may be able to apply for this scheme by going through your energy supplier. Alternatively, you can contact Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service (if you’re on Pension Credit) to set it up.
Think carefully before choosing to pay your energy debt this way and consider seeking professional advice to help you decide whether this is the right option for you.
If you have any debts, whether they’re with your energy provider or someone else, you may qualify for the Debt Respite Scheme, also known as a breathing space. This can temporarily stop costs building up on your debts, although it’s not a payment holiday. You will need to see a debt advisor to help you determine if this is the right course of action for you.
» MORE: How can debt charities help?
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Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more