Concerned couple looking at bills

What should I do if I just can’t pay?

In Scotland there are some funds that could help us pay our bills, and in a crisis a Fuel Bank could help us keep the lights on

If we’re struggling with energy bills, the good news is there are ways of getting help in Scotland. Things like the Winter Fuel Payment, Winter Heating Payment and Warm Home Discount could help us out.

And if we have a disabled child, we may be entitled to Child Winter Heating Assistance. It’s worth £214.10. We would have been paid this automatically, earlier in the winter, if we qualified.

And the UK government’s Energy Price Guarantee caps the amount we pay for each unit of energy. But it doesn’t cap our bills – if we use more, we’ll pay more.

Help in a crisis

If we’re struggling to pay our bill, the first place to turn is our energy supplier. We should get in touch as soon as we run into problems.

They may be able to help by agreeing a payment plan that we can manage more easily than our current bills.

It’s important to speak to our energy supplier before cancelling any Direct Debits to avoid building up debt.

In Scotland, we can get free debt advice from Money Advice Scotland or Citizens Advice. Nationwide, StepChange can also help. And the National Debtline is on 0808 808 4000.

But if we’re forced to choose between heating and eating we may be able to get help from a Fuel Bank.

Fuel Banks work like food banks and are aimed at people with prepayment energy meters. These households have been worst hit by all the price rises.

Keep the lights on

One of the biggest problems with these meters is so-called ‘self-disconnection’. That’s when we just can’t afford to keep them topped up. Fuel Banks hand out fuel vouchers to those of us who qualify (each voucher is enough to top up a meter for around two weeks).

First of all, we need to be getting support from a food bank and also facing a fuel crisis.

We should contact Citizens Advice, a social worker, GP or other support organisation, who can refer us by giving us a food bank voucher.

When we’re picking up our groceries from the food bank, if it’s part of the Fuel Bank network we can fill out a form for a fuel voucher too. 

If we’re accepted, we’ll be given the voucher alongside our food.

Many Trussell Trust food banks and other support agencies are also part of the scheme.

And Quids in! offers a Money Health Check (the Quids in! Future-Proof Finance Quiz) which can help us boost our finances. It’s quick, simple and safe – why not try it today?

Image: Mikhail Nilov / Pexels

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