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Getting help with energy bills

Key information

Who is this section for?

Anyone concerned with how they will afford to pay their energy bills.

What is in this section?

This section contains information about the various schemes and grants which may be available to help towards the cost of energy bills. You will also find practical information on how to cope with rising energy bills.

What's on this page

You can read through this information sheet, or jump directly to the sections you want to read by clicking on these links:

Help from your energy company

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, you may worry that you energy supply will be cut off. This is always a last resort for your energy company so it is vital to talk to them straight away and try to work out a solution.

Energy company charitable trusts

Some energy companies have set up charitable trusts to help customers pay for fuel arrears. Some of these are listed on the Turn2us Grants Search or you can find out more by contacting your energy supplier directly.

Warm Home Discount

Your electricity supplier may have signed up to the Warm Homes Discount Scheme which offers a one-off discount of £140 (for the Winter period 2014-2015) on your electricity bill.

Who qualifies for the Warm Home Discount

You qualify for this scheme if on the ‘qualifying day’ (12 July 2014):

  • your supplier was part of the scheme, and
  • your or your partner’s name was on the bill, and
  • you fit into either the:
    • Core group: If you are receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if you also get the Savings Credit) you should be automatically considered for the Warm Home Discount. The Government should write to you in Autumn 2014.
    • Broader group: The criteria for inclusion depends on the supplier but you may be eligible if you are in receipt of certain benefits; your annual income is below a certain amount and you are spending more than 10% of it on fuel; or you have a disability or illness. Contact your supplier for more information.
How is the Warm Home Discount paid?

If you qualify, The Warm Home Discount will appear as a credit on your electricity bill sometime between October 2014 and March 2015. If you use a pre-pay or 'pay as you go' electricity meter, it may be paid to you through a top-up voucher but check with your supplier.

The Warm Home Discount and effect on other benefits that help with energy costs

Getting the Warm Home Discount does not affect your eligibility for Cold Weather Payments or Winter Fuel Payments.

More information on the Warm Home Discount

See the Gov.UK website information on the Warm Home Discount (link opens in a new window). This includes a list of suppliers that have signed up to the initiative with links to their websites.

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Energy company Priority Services Registers

If you are of pensionable age, living with a disability, chronic illness or visual or hearing impairment (or someone in your household is), ask your energy supplier if you are eligible for its Priority Service Register (link opens in a new window).

This provides you with free extra services and may help protect you from disconnection if you struggle to pay your energy bills if your supplier has signed up to the Energy UK Safety net scheme.

Priority Services Register services include:

  • Advance notice of planned power cuts for customers who depend on their energy supply for medical reasons
  • Priority in an emergency (this could include providing alternative heating and cooking facilities in the event of supply disconnection)
  • Password protection scheme to provide reassurance that callers, for example meter readers, are genuine
  • Bill nominee scheme – customers can ask their supplier to send their bill to anybody (for example a family member or carer) who has agreed to receive it
  • Prepayment meters – if a customer is unable reach to their prepayment meter they can asked for it to be moved. A Citizens Advice bureau worker has also advised us that he has managed to arrange for a standard credit gas meter of a client who uses a wheelchair to be moved at no cost to him by the energy company. This was obstructing the client's entry into and exit from his property.
  • Quarterly meter reading services (if no person occupying the premises is able to read the meter)
  • Accessible information – suppliers can provide customers with account and bill information in an accessible format, e.g. with larger print or braille
  • Annual gas appliance safety checks for homeowners. (If you do not own your own home your landlord is responsible for ensuring that any gas appliances, fittings and flues are safe)

Suppliers are also prohibited from disconnecting premises occupied by a customer eligible for the Priority Services Register during the winter months (1 October - 31 March).

The Energy UK Safety Net scheme

If your supplier has signed up the Energy UK Safety Net scheme, they have pledged to never knowingly disconnect a vulnerable customer at any time of year.

Defining vulnerability has to be done on a case-by-case basis by the supplier as each customer's needs will be different.

However suppliers who are part of the scheme have agreed a common definition that provides a framework for assessing a customer's potential vulnerability:

“A customer is vulnerable if for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity, they are unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household."

Examples of customers who might be considered vulnerable under these terms include households where there is: 

  • An elderly person
  • Someone who is disabled or has a long-term medical condition and is unable to support themselves or is dependent on medical equipment that is operated by electricity (such as a stair lift, wheelchair, defibrillator or dialysis machine)
  • a young child.

Suppliers may also work with charities and support agencies when they identify signs of vulnerability in a household.

Charitable funds

If you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with energy bills or debts from a charitable fund, depending on your personal circumstances, background and needs. You can use our Grants Search to look for any that may be able to help you.

Energy bill debts

Contacting your energy company is the first step if you find yourself in debt with energy bills. See Your energy company information section for more information.

If you need help handling your energy debts, My Money Steps (link opens in a new window) is a free and easy to use online debt advice service from Money Advice Trust which runs National Debtline (freephone 0808 808 4000).

For more information on debt in general, see the Turn2us Debt information page

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Free or subsidised energy efficiency measures

Making your home more energy efficient can make it warmer and reduce energy bills. There are several schemes that may be able to help you with energy efficiency - from the Government, energy suppliers, local councils and other sources.

For more information, see the Turn2us Energy Efficiency Grants information

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Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments

The following Government schemes may be available to you if you are on certain benefits:

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Useful resources

Acknowledgement

Turn2us would like to thank Alastair Wilcox of Motherwell Citizens Advice Bureau and the representatives of Energy Action Scotland, Foundations and Nest for peer reviewing this information page.

Last updated: 3 July 2014

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