Many of us are concerned about how we're going to pay our energy bills this winter. We shed light on what help is available from your energy provider, the government, and debt charities.
Help from your energy provider
You should be able to get help from your supplier if you are in financial difficulty, or don’t have enough money left over each month to pay for an emergency.
The first thing you should do is create a budget, which involves listing all your monthly income and outgoings. If you find that you don’t have much spare cash, get in touch with your energy provider straight away and ask for help.
Your provider should be able to create a plan to suit your individual circumstances. For example, they could prevent debt collection activity, set up a reduced payment plan, or give you a payment break. Bear in mind that payment plans and breaks may affect your credit score, but the impact will be much less than if you simply stop paying your bills because they are too high.
If you have a pre-payment meter and you can’t afford to top up, you can ask your supplier for help. The energy regulator, Ofgem, states you can ask for ‘emergency credit’ in this situation.
Help from the council and government for energy bills
There are several government schemes available that you could check your eligibility for.
£150 council tax rebate
Councils started making one-off payments of £150 in April 2022, to help with energy bills. If you pay council tax, your home is in council tax band A to D, and you still haven’t received your rebate, you should contact your local council before the closing date of 30th September 2022.
Note, you will also be eligible if you get the Disabled Band Reduction discount, and your home is in bands A to E.
The Household Support Fund
If you are struggling to pay for essentials, contact your local council to see if you meet their criteria for this scheme, which runs until 30th September 2022.
You may be entitled to a fuel voucher from your local council if you use a pre-payment meter and you can’t afford to top it up. You can apply for a voucher through Citizens Advice.
Cost of Living Payment
You will automatically receive a cost of living payment if you are in receipt of certain tax credits or benefits. If you think you are missing a payment, you can report it here.
Want to know what benefits you could be eligible for? Use this benefit calculator to find out.
Energy Bills Support Scheme
Starting from October 2022, every household will automatically receive a non-repayable £400 grant from their provider, spread over six months.
If you pay by direct debit, the money will be credited to your energy account in instalments. If you have a pre-payment meter, the grant will either be applied to your meter, or you will receive a voucher.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
This scheme, which starts in November 2022, is a £140 discount that’s applied to your electricity or gas bill (whether you pay-as-you-go or pay by direct debit).
You could be eligible for the discount if you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, or if you’re on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme. Contact your provider to find out more and see if you qualify.
Not all suppliers are part of this scheme but some of the big names have signed up to it including British Gas, EON, EDF, and Octopus. You can find the full list here.
Cold Weather Payment
The Cold Weather Payment scheme helps people with their heating bills, if the temperature drops, or is forecast to drop below zero degrees for seven days in a row or more.
This year’s scheme starts on 1st November 2022, and if you’re eligible, you’ll automatically receive £25 for each seven-day period.
You could be eligible for the scheme if you receive any of the following:
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Jobseekers Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Support for mortgage interest.
If you think you should have received a Cold Weather Payment but didn’t, contact your Job Centre Plus office, or pension centre.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off tax-free payment to help those who receive a State Pension (or another social security benefit) pay their heating bills over the winter. It varies from £250 to £600, depending on your circumstances.
With prices expected to keep rising through the winter, it's a useful one to know about and check your entitlement to now. You may be eligible to receive it if you were born on or before 25th September 1956 and you've lived in the UK for a certain amount of time. Visit the government’s website for the full criteria.
If you qualify, you should automatically receive the payment in your account in November or December. If you don’t receive it, you can make a claim here.
Advice from a debt charity
Charities such as Citizens Advice, StepChange and MoneyHelper can offer you free, non-judgmental advice. Whether you don’t know where to start, or you’ve already contacted your energy provider and aren’t getting anywhere, they can guide you through the next steps.
They can also provide practical tips on things like how to get out of debt and check your eligibility for different benefits.
What happens if I stop paying my energy bills?
Some groups, like the Don't Pay campaign in the UK, are advising people to stop paying their bills in protest against unaffordable prices. However, it's not a good idea to do this, and particularly without speaking to your energy supplier first.
Failing to make your energy bill payments could result in your supplier marking these payments as "missed" in your credit report. This will then reduce your credit score and make it more difficult for you to get approved for credit in the future.
In the worst-case scenario, your energy supplier could pursue legal action to file a CCJ against you for the money you owe. But this shouldn’t happen if you speak to them and flag up that you are in financial difficulty.
We recommend you contact your energy provider if you are having problems paying your gas and electricity, as they should be able to help.
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