Advice and Support
What to do if you are struggling with your energy bills
April 2022 saw the energy price cap soar by 54%, following a period of high wholesale gas prices. This meant that anyone reliant on a standard variable or default tariff or coming to the end of their fixed term will have seen a huge increase in their energy bills. 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. You might also want to look at our Additional Help page for support available from other organisations and our wide selection of resources and guides.
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 £150 credit on your electricity bill. We await more details on the 2022 scheme but we know that for those who are eligible this money will be automatically credited to customers accounts October and March.
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.
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.
Cost of living support package
The Government has announced a series of one-off measures to help households with the high cost of energy this winter, as well as a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to raise £5bn. These are:
- Low-income Cost of Living Payment: People on lowest incomes/means-tested benefits – 8 million households – will receive a one-off ‘cost of living payment’ of £650, to be paid in July and Autumn directly to bank accounts.
- Pensioner Cost of Living Payment: Pensioners who are in receipt of Winter Fuel Payment will receive a one-off pensioner cost of living payment of £300.
- Disability payment Disabled people in receipt of non-means-tested disability benefits will receive a one-off disability payment worth £150.
- The previously announced £200 ‘heat now, pay later’ rebate will be doubled to £400 and has been changed to a grant, which means it does not need to be paid back.
- Household Support Fund will be extended by £500 million from October and there will be legislation to extend it to all devolved nations.
- Council Tax Rebate: The Government has introduced a £150 council tax energy rebate for householders in bands A to D in England, payments will be made between April 2022 – September 2022.
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.
Make your home more efficient
Making your home as energy efficient as possible is the best way to reduce your costs and keep your home feeling warmer. There are some low-cost actions you can take yourself such as:
- Draught-proofing can be a cheap way of making your home warmer, products are available at your local DIY store.
- Radiator reflectors behind your radiators can help keep more of the heat coming into the room.
- Use thermal underlay beneath carpets and close curtains at dusk to keep more heat in.
Loft and cavity wall insulation can also make a big difference to bills and comfort, as can replacing an old inefficient boiler. You may be eligible for free or discounted insulation or heating measures – contact your energy supplier and see if you qualify for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) or your local authority and ask about any energy efficiency schemes operating in your area.
For more information on what grants might be available visit www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/grants
If you rent your home, then by law landlords must ensure it is safe and habitable. If you are worried your privately rented accommodation is not safe or habitable, contact your local authority’s Environmental Health team who can assess the property for health and safety hazards and require your landlord to make improvements out of their own funds.
Change the way you use energy
Making small changes to the way you think and use your energy can often have a big impact on bills but it is important that you use the energy you need to keep warm, safe and healthy at home. Take a look at our leaflet ‘Electricity Consumption in the Home’ to see how much appliances might be costing you and how you might be able to cut costs or visit Energy Savings Trust 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.