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Published 10 April 2024
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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 finding it difficult to pay your energy bills and owe money to your supplier, you’re not alone. 

The cost of energy has rocketed over the past couple of years and, though prices are now declining, many families are still struggling to afford their gas and electricity. The Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), which limited the unit cost of energy, has now come to an end but reduced energy price caps are sending bills downwards.

Even so, the price cap remains considerably higher than the roughly £1,000 level it consistently hovered around before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 exacerbated the effect of already rising gas prices. As such, it is no surprise that some households continue to struggle with energy bills.

Importantly, the energy price cap cannot limit your total bill, but instead limit the unit cost of energy. So the more energy you use, the higher your bills will still be.

There is extra financial support available for eligible parties, including Cold Weather Payments and the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

Read on to find out more about the energy bill support available.

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 £250 and £600, to be paid in November or December.

This sum included a ‘Pensioner Cost of Living Payment’ of between £150 and £300 in winter 2023 to 2024. The payment does not affect your eligibility for other benefits.

Any household with at least one person born on or before 22 September 1958 is eligible for this payment in the winter of 2024-25, regardless of income. You will also need to live in the UK or live in an eligible country and have a link to the UK such as having previously lived or worked there. The amount applicants receive is determined by their circumstances during the ‘qualifying week’, which usually starts on the third Monday in September.

You will get this payment automatically if you receive the State Pension or another benefit (excluding Universal Credit, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction). 

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 the 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

You could receive £150 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme to cut your electricity bill (or if you’re eligible and your supplier provides both gas and electricity, you may get a discount on your gas bill).

The money won’t be paid directly to you, but will be taken off your energy bill by the latest round of payments, which ended on 31 March 2024. The scheme usually opens each year in September or October and runs until the end of March the following year.

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.

The Warm Home Discount Scheme is available in:

  • Great Britain to anyone who receives Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit only)
  • England and Wales to workers on a low income who have high energy costs 
  • Scotland to anyone on a low income who qualifies under their energy supplier’s criteria 

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.

In England and Wales, if you’re on a low income and receive certain qualifying means-tested benefits or tax credits, you should have had a letter about the discount.

In Scotland, if you’re on a low income and get certain benefits, you need to apply for the scheme directly through your electricity supplier. Exact details on eligibility will vary between suppliers, which only provide a limited number of discounts, so find out more information directly from your energy company.

You can stay up to date by checking on the Gov.uk website or with your energy supplier.

Northern Ireland doesn’t offer the Warm Home Discount Scheme, but it does have the Affordable Warmth Scheme instead.

Cold Weather Payments

You could receive one-off payments when the temperature drops to zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days. This is based on average temperatures in your area. These payments are only available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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.

You can’t get a Cold Weather Payment in Scotland, but you may be able to get a £55.05 Winter Heating Payment. This payment has the same eligibility requirements as the Cold Weather Payment, but whether you get paid doesn’t depend on the temperature.

British Gas Energy Trust

The British Gas Energy Trust aims to help householders who are financially disadvantaged and find it difficult to pay their energy bills. It isn’t just for British Gas customers, so you could 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 from a local advice centre beforehand. You can find your nearest centre on the British Gas Energy Trust’s website. 

To be eligible for a grant from the trust’s Individuals and Families Fund, you will need to:

  • live in England, Scotland or Wales
  • owe money to your gas and/or electric supplier
  • be experiencing or approaching fuel poverty
  • not have received a grant from the trust in the previous two years
  • have received professional advice for your financial situation
  • use a prepayment meter

You must be applying for the grant to pay off outstanding debts to your current gas or electricity supplier in your home.

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 the organisation you went to for professional advice.

Additionally, customers of  Eon, Eon Next, EDF, Scottish Power, OVO, Boost, SSE and Octopus are instructed to apply for financial assistance directly from their supplier. This is because each of the listed suppliers has its own support fund, and the British Gas Energy Trust seeks to prioritise applicants who cannot access such help. 

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.

As a last resort, your supplier may ask you to have a prepayment meter installed if you’re not already using one. Some suppliers also have the ability to install a prepayment meter without a customer’s permission, though they must check the household’s circumstances before doing so.

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 or debts, including rent and water, through third party deductions schemes. 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, £4.55 per week will go towards paying off your debt each time your benefits are paid.

Organisations you owe money to can ask for deductions to be made from your benefits in order to pay the debt, but this will only be approved if they have tried other methods of receiving the money. You can ask to pay for your ongoing gas and electricity through additional deductions from your benefits. You will need to contact your supplier in order to set this 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?

Image source: Getty Images

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