Woman reading a book under a blanket

What help can we get with our energy bills?

We might be getting worried about turning the heating on. But what help can we get with our energy bills?

As the weather gets chillier, lots of us might be wondering if we are eligible for any help with our energy bills.

The energy price cap fell in October but most of us will still end up paying more for our energy this winter. That’s because the £400 government support given to every home last year isn’t available this year.

If we think we might struggle to pay our energy bill, the first place to turn is our supplier.

There are rules in place that mean our supplier has to take steps to make it easier for us to pay. This could be more time to pay, money from a hardship fund, or advice on how to cut our bills.

Where to go for help

A hardship fund might include a grant or allow some of our debt to be written off. We normally need to be an existing customer. But the British Gas Energy Trust can help people who are not British Gas customers.

We should have spoken to an independent debt advisor (for example from a charity like National Debtline or StepChange) before we ask about a hardship fund.

If we have a prepayment meter we could ask for emergency credit. This is around £5 but varies between suppliers.

Support from the government

There are also various forms of government support and we should check if we can claim.

If we qualify for the state pension we can also get a Winter Fuel Payment. They’re worth between £250 and £600.

Every time the temperature in our area drops below freezing for seven days, we can get a Cold Weather Payment of £25 if we’re on certain benefits. In Scotland it’s the Winter Heating Payment and is worth £50, but it’s only paid once (this year it was in February).

The Warm Home Discount is £150 off our energy bill if we get the guarantee element of Pension Credit or if we’re on a low income.

And many of us will be receiving the second of three £300 Cost of Living Payments around now.

Some councils also offer emergency grants to help with energy bills. There’s a pot of money called the Household Support Fund that councils can use for people in hardship.

Last but not least…

If we’re not on it already, we should try to get on the Priority Services Register. This means we could get extra support when we’re struggling with our bills. It also means we’ll get help if there’s an interruption to our power or water.

To qualify, we should be vulnerable in some way. But there are lots of criteria that are considered, such as age, injury, disability, chronic illness, pregnancy or language barriers (these are just a few).

To check if we’re eligible, we should contact our supplier. Or there’s also a special Priority Services Register website.

No matter how badly we’re struggling with our energy bills, we should never cancel our Direct Debit or just stop paying.

Getting into energy debt can affect our credit score and may cause us problems getting approval to use Direct Debit in future.

We should always speak to our supplier. Remember, they have to try to help us make our payments.

Image: Vlada Karpovich / Pexels

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