Advice and Support
What to do if you are struggling with your energy bills
April 2022 saw energy bills soar by 54%, as the price cap was raised following a period of high wholesale gas prices. NEA estimate that another 2 million households were tipped into fuel poverty by this unprecedented crisis. Below are actions you can take if you’re struggling with your energy bills.
Contact your energy supplier
When you’re having any issues paying your energy bills or you’re worried about falling into debt, the first step is always to get in touch with your energy supplier. If they know you’re having problems, they are required to work with you to find a solution. For example, they can help you to set up an affordable debt repayment plan and or change your payment method to better suit you. To find out who your electricity supplier is contact your network. For your gas supplier you can use the Find My Supplier search tool.
Maximise your income
If you’ve been finding it difficult to afford your energy bills, it’s essential you access all the financial support you’re entitled to. Make sure you are claiming the correct benefits – this could increase your income as well as make you eligible for other types of assistance. You can check your entitlement yourself using a free online benefits calculator, or take advice from your local Citizens Advice or call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 (textphone users call 18001 0808 223 1133) (call charges may apply).
Depending on your circumstances, the Warm Home Discount rebate could give you an extra £140 credit on your electricity bill. The money is not paid to you – it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill, between October and March.
- You will get it automatically if you’re on guaranteed Pension Credit (even if you get Savings Credit as well).
- If you’re on low income you may also get it but only if you apply each year. Look out for application windows as it varies depending on the supplier.
- Contact your electricity supplier (details on your energy bill).
- Note that eligibility is changing for next winter, but the government has not yet confirmed how
The Winter Fuel Payment is an annual payment of between £100 and £300 to help older people with the cost of keeping warm in winter. Payments are automatic between November and December to older people who have claimed it before or are in receipt of State Pension or other specific benefits. Other older people will need to apply for it. For more information call the Winter Fuel Payments helpline on 03459 151515 or text phone 0345 6060285.
The Cold Weather Payment is paid to eligible households on means tested benefits in areas where ‘exceptionally cold weather’ is forecast or has occurred. Automatic payments amount to £25 per qualifying week between 1 November and 31 March.
Council Tax Rebate and Discretionary Support
In England, if you pay Council Tax are your home is in Bands A-D you will receive a one off payment of £150 from your local authority for help with your energy costs (called a rebate). If you pay by direct debit, this will be automatically paid into your bank account in April. If you do not pay by direct debit your local authority will be in touch to organise payment so it may take longer to get the payment to you.
You can still receive the payment even if you receive Council Tax Reduction, including full Council Tax Reduction. If you receive the Disabled Band Reduction on your Council Tax then you will also receive the rebate if your home is in Band E.
If your home is not in Bands A-D but you are on a low income, you may still be able to apply to your local authority Household Support Fund for discretionary assistance.
In Wales, the Welsh Government has announced a package of expanded support to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis. This includes:
- a £150 cost-of-living payment for households in Council Tax bands A-D, and to all households who receive support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (irrespective of Council Tax band);
- a £200 ‘Winter Fuel Support Scheme’ payment which will be made later this year (via local authorities) to help towards your energy bills, whether you pay by credit or prepayment meter. It is understood eligibility will be expanded to reach more low-income households including pensioners eligible for Pension Credit, alongside those in receipt of working-age, means-tested benefits.
In addition, emergency payments may available under the Welsh Government’s Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF). This includes help to top up gas and electricity prepayment meters, or oil and LPG. Visit gov.wales/discretionary-assistance-fund-daf to find out more.
£200 ‘Heat now, Pay later’ scheme
The £200 payment, announced by Government, is due to be automatically credited to peoples energy accounts in October 2022. It is likely this will be credited to electricity accounts although the detail is yet to be confirmed. You cannot opt out of receiving this payment.
The £200 will then start to be repaid from April 2023 through a levy on bills at a rate of £40 per annum for 5 years.
Sign up to the Priority Services Register
The Priority Services Register is a system that energy companies use to make sure the correct support is given to their most vulnerable customers. You can sign up to it to receive extra help from your energy supplier as well as from the company that operates the local energy distribution network. You’re eligible to receive the services available if you’re a pensioner, are disabled or suffer from a long-term medical condition. You also qualify if you have a hearing or visual impairment or additional communication needs.
Each energy supplier and network operator maintains its own register and a wide range of support is available including:
- Information provided in accessible formats
- Advance notice of planned power cuts
- Identification scheme
- Password protection and nominee scheme for a family member or carer on behalf of the customer
- Priority support in an emergency
- Arrangements to ensure that it is safe and practical for the customer to use a prepayment meter
- Meter reading services
Contact your gas/electricity supplier and distribution network operator for more information and to register. If you are not sure who your network operator is, you can use the Energy Network Association handy search tool.
Make your home more efficient
Blocking draughts can be a cheap and simple way of keeping the heat in – DIY shops will have various draught blocking products. Close your curtains at dusk to keep the heat in and use thermal underlay on any carpets. Install radiator panels to reflect heat back into rooms. If you have some savings then loft and cavity wall insulation can also make a big difference, as can replacing an old, inefficient boiler. You can find more ways to make your home more energy efficient through Simple Energy Advice and the Energy Saving Trust.
You may be eligible for free or discounted insulation or boiler replacements. The Energy Company Obligation can provide a range of free or low cost insulation and heating measures to some households on a low income. There may also be local schemes available in your area; contact your local authority to see what is available.
If you rent your home, then by law landlords must ensure it is safe and habitable. Contact your local authority environmental health department and request an inspection.
Change the way you use energy
Changing the way you think of energy and how you use it are excellent ways of becoming less wasteful. It is really important that while trying to reduce your energy costs you still maintain a good level of warmth in your home. A cold home can have severe health impacts. Below are a few ideas for how you can save on your energy use:
- Only boiling enough water in your kettle for your needs can save you £7 per year
- Use pan lids when cooking to reduce steam (which can lead to condensation) and it’s quicker and cheaper too
- Economy settings (such as 30°C) on washing machines use 40% less energy than higher temperature settings
- Heating controls help you use your heating system in the most efficient way
- Don’t leave appliances on standby – on average UK households waste £30 per year powering appliances left on standby
Also, remember to:
- Keep bedroom windows closed at night
- Wrap up well with thin layers rather than one thick layer when going outside
- To reduce condensation forming on outside walls, keep temperatures in all rooms above 15°C in colder weather
- Keep your home ventilated – make sure vents and air bricks are not covered or obstructed
Take a look at our Electricity Consumption around the home leaflet for more useful tips.
Other useful resources
Our Additional Help page has a range of other support organisations which may be able to help you. Please also take a look at our advice leaflets which are available in a range of languages.