How to Get Help With Your Energy Bills
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.
The cost of energy has rocketed over the course of 2021 and into 2022, and the continuing rise shows no sign of abating. The Energy Price Guarantee has limited the cost of energy from 1 October 2022 until 1 April 2023, but energy prices have still increased.
This is a major blow to many families who are already struggling with the rising cost of living, but there is some help available.
Recognising the devastating impact that the energy and cost of living crisis is having on households across the UK, on 26 May 2022, the then Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced some extra support to help families that are struggling financially. These are in addition to, or, in some cases, replacing some of the support measures that were previously available.
Read on to find out about the support that’s available to see if you are eligible for any of the government energy grants.
Energy Bill Support Scheme
All households in Great Britain will receive £400 to help with their energy bills. This won’t need to be repaid.
Direct debit and credit customers will have the money credited to their account by their supplier. Customers who use a prepayment meter will receive a voucher or will have the money applied to their meter.
The money will be paid from October 2022 over the course of six months. A discount of £66 will be applied to bills in October and November, and £67 will be deducted over the next four months.
This £400 payment replaces the £200 discount that was previously announced in February 2022, which householders would have been required to pay back over five years via their energy bills from 2023.
Northern Ireland will receive comparable funding to support its domestic energy customers.
Council Tax Rebate
In England, all households living in council tax bands A to D are eligible to receive £150.
If you pay your council tax by direct debt, you don’t need to apply for the rebate as local authorities will automatically pay this to eligible households. If you don’t pay by direct debit however, the council should contact you to arrange payment.
This started getting paid out from April 2022, and all payments should be made by 30 September 2022 at the latest.
You don’t need to pay back this council tax rebate.
The government estimates that this rebate will help around 80% of households in England.
Local authorities will also receive £144 million in discretionary funding to help any households that are struggling to pay their energy bills but who aren’t eligible for the rebate, because they live in a higher council tax band for example.
In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, local authorities will receive funding so they can provide a similar level of support.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off payment from the government that aims to help people who are aged 66 or older 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 25 September 1956 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 is 19 to 25 September for 2022.
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.
As announced by the Chancellor on 26 May 2022, anyone who is eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment will receive an extra £300 in 2022. This payment is in addition to any other support households may get and won’t affect eligibility for benefits. You don’t need to apply for this as it should be paid directly to eligible households.
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 £150 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme to cut your electricity bill.
The money won’t be paid directly to you, but instead will be taken off your energy bill by 31 March 2023.
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 November 2022.
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.
On 3 February 2022 it was announced that the criteria for the Warm Home Discount would be expanded by almost one third. This means more households would be eligible to receive this payment.
You can stay up to date by checking on the Gov.uk website or with your energy supplier.
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.
Cost of living support package
With the cost of living on the rise, several one-off support measures were announced on 26 May 2022 to help those who are struggling to pay for basic necessities, including their energy bills. These include:
- £650 payment to everyone who receives means-tested benefits. It will be paid directly to those eligible in two lump sums, one in July and one in the autumn, with the date to be confirmed in due course.
- £300 payment to pensioners. This will go to pensioners that receive the Winter Fuel Payment, and is in addition to any other support they might already get. In most cases, this will be paid by direct debit.
- £150 disability payment. Individuals who receive disability benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment, will receive this payment. This would be in addition to the £650 payment if the individual receives other means-tested benefits.
British Gas Energy Trust
The British Gas Energy Trust aims to help householders who are financially disadvantaged and find 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 finding it hard to pay off their 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 is 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 each time your benefits are paid, 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, though it’s not a payment holiday. You will need to see a debt adviser 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