Woman in a chair with a hot drink

Energy bills support – what’s available?

As temperatures fall and costs rise, what support can we claim for energy bills and how do we get it?

We’re all worrying about paying our energy bills this winter and it’s easy to get confused about what support is on offer and how we get it.

Quids in! understands that we don’t all have the time to check various websites to make sure we’re not missing out on anything.

This list rounds up the support that’s available and explains who might qualify. We’ll keep it updated as the energy crisis goes on, so be sure to check back in regularly.

Energy Price Guarantee

This caps the amount we have to pay per unit of energy. It doesn’t cap our bills, if we use more we’ll still pay more. The government has worked out that for a typical home a bill will be about £2,500 a year. The guarantee came in on 1 October 2022 and is due to end on 31 March 2023. After this the price we pay for our energy is expected to rise.

Energy Bills Support Scheme

The government is giving every household £400 off their energy bills until spring. We got £66 in October and November, and £67 for the remaining months.

If we pay by Direct Debit our supplier will either reduce the amount we owe or refund the money to our bank account each month.

If we have an older-style prepayment meter (not a smart prepayment meter) we’ll get a voucher by text, email or post (so it’s important to open all our post every day). Or we’ll get a credit at our usual top-up point. Some people have found their vouchers arrived late – we should have got it by the 17th of each month. The voucher will tell us where we have to take it to get the credit (usually the post office or PayPoint shop).

For those of us with a smart prepayment meter, we should get the credit added directly to our meter within the first five working days of the month. If we don’t, there could be a problem and we should speak to our supplier.

If we pay by standard credit (we receive a bill from our supplier) we’ll get a discount added to our account within the first five working days of the month.

Energy Bills Support Scheme Northern Ireland

Those of us in Northern Ireland had to wait a bit longer than the rest of the country to find out about universal support.

But now we know that the £400 that is being paid to the rest of the country will also be given to Northern Ireland households.

And a second payment, of £200, will be made. This is to address the large number of homes that use heating oil in Northern Ireland. But every household will get the money, regardless of whether they use oil.

It will be a single payment of £600, which will be made between January and the end of March 2023.

If we pay our energy bills by Direct Debit, we’ll get the £600 paid directly into our bank account. If we pay quarterly or have a pre-payment meter, we’ll get vouchers in the post. The vouchers can be redeemed for cash or paid into our bank account.

Cold Weather Payments

These are one-off payments of £25 we can get when the temperature drops below freezing for seven days (or is forecast to). We qualify if we’re on certain benefits, including UC, and we don’t have to apply. But we can check by putting our postcode into a search. It runs from 1 November until 31 March. We can get more than one £25 payment if it’s below freezing for two or more seven-day periods over winter.

In Scotland, we can’t get Cold Weather Payments but may qualify for a Winter Heating Payment instead. It doesn’t depend on the temperature and if we qualify we’ll automatically get £50. But we won’t get the payment until February 2023, at the earliest. If we’re in Scotland and previously got the Cold Weather Payment, we should now qualify for the Winter Heating Payment.

Warm Home Discount

We can get a one-off £150 off our bill or added to our prepayment meter if we’re on certain benefits. We don’t have to apply for it, we’ll get it automatically if we qualify. For example, if we (or a partner) were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit on 21 August 2022. We could also get it if we claim other benefits and have high energy costs (based on the kind of home we live in). The Warm Home Discount is managed by the energy suppliers – if we’re in England or Wales we can see if our supplier is involved here. (But we may still qualify if we live in Scotland). The government will write to us if we qualify by January 2023 and the payment will be made by March 2023. There’s a free helpline on 0800 107 8002.

Household Support Fund

This is a pot of cash that is given out to councils and other organisations to make payments to those of us who are struggling. It may also be called welfare assistance. It varies between councils but we don’t always have to be claiming benefits to qualify. We have to apply for this and our council will decide what we get. In Scotland it’s called the Winter Support Fund.

Winter Fuel Payment

This is a one-off payment (we can get one per year) for those of us born on or before 25 September 1956. We’ll have had a letter in October or November if we’re eligible. This winter (2022-2023) there’s an extra Pensioner Cost of Living Payment of between £150 and £300. We’re likely to get between £500 and £600, which includes this winter’s extra Pensioner Cost of Living Payment. We should normally get the money automatically, but if we’ve deferred our state pension we may need to claim it.

Child Winter Heating Assistance

If we’re in Scotland and have a disabled child we can get a one-off payment of  £214.10 to help with heating costs. The Scottish Government made payments from the end of November and we need to be claiming certain benefits for the disabled child.

Fuel vouchers

If we have a prepayment energy voucher and can’t afford to top it up, we may be able to get a fuel voucher. There are a few ways we can do this. We can contact our council, local Citizens Advice or other support services (such as Clean Slate, which produces Quids in! and has services in some parts of the country). The Fuelbank Foundation can also supply fuel vouchers.

Energy debt grants

Those of us in debt to our energy supplier might be able to get a grant to help pay it off. Many suppliers offer grants and the British Gas Energy Trust offers grants to everyone – not just their own customers. We need to get debt advice from a recognised service like Citizens Advice before we apply. Even if our supplier doesn’t offer a grant scheme, if we contact them there may be other ways they can support us. We should get in touch as soon as we get into difficulties.

Home Heating Support Fund

If we’re in Scotland and have had energy or debt advice we may be able to get help with our heating bills. Support services like a landlord or Citizens Advice can refer us to the Home Heating Support Fund. If we apply ourselves, we should be able to show we’ve had advice from a recognised debt advisor.

Image: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

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