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Energy schemes

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, find out about the various schemes and grants that may be available to help towards the cost of energy.

1. Help from your energy company

Contacting your energy company is the first step if you find yourself in debt with energy bills. 

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, you may worry that your 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. Once you have done the search on the first page of the tool, use the Water and Energy Funds option at the top of the screen (see screengrab below). You can also find out more by contacting your energy supplier directly.

One Citizens Advice adviser told Turn2us that: "Many people who find themselves in dispute or financial difficulties with their energy supplier are on uncompetitive tariffs or sub-optimal (at the best possible level) payment or billing methods."

If you find it difficult to contact your energy company

Many people find it difficult to approach their energy company when they are struggling to pay bills. If you are unsure, you may find it helpful to talk to a energy advice organisations, such as those listed on the Energy schemes: Useful resources page.

Debt advice organisations

If you need help handling your energy debts, you can seek assistance from debt advice agencies listed on our Turn2us Debt information page.

Last updated: November 2020

 

 

 


 

2. Priority Services Register (Energy companies)

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

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 (see below).

Priority Services Register services might 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 their prepayment meter, they can ask for it to be moved

  • 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. 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 to 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 (of pensionable age) or someone caring for them in the household

  • 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.

Reviewed: November 2020

3. Warm Home Discount Scheme (England, Scotland, Wales)

Your electricity supplier may have signed up to the Warm Home Discount Scheme which offers a one-off discount of £140 from your electricity bill.

Who qualifies for the Warm Home Discount Scheme?

  • Core group: People who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit

    • You qualify for the discount if on 5 July 2020 all of the following applied:

      • Your energy supplier was part of the scheme
      • Your name (or your partner’s) was on the bill
      • You were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if you get Savings Credit as well).
  • Broader group: People who are on a low income and meet their energy supplier's criteria for the scheme. 

Pre-pay meters

If you have a pre-pay or pay-as you go electricity meter, you can still get the discount. If you are eligible, contact your supplier to find out how you will get the discount.

Park (mobile) homes

The 2020-2021 Park Home Warm Home Discount Scheme is closed.

If you live permanently in a park (mobile) home, use the Park Homes Warm Home Discount application form to be contacted when the next scheme opens.

How is the Warm Home Discount paid?

The Warm Home Discount is a one-off discount of £140 on your electricity bill. You don't get any money.

If your supplier provides you with gas and electricity, you may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead of your electricity bill. Contact your supplier to find out if you can do this if you are eligible for the discount.

When is it available?

The scheme opens for applications each year in September or October and runs until the end of March the following year.

The number of discounts available are limited to check with your supplier as soon as possible.

How do I apply for the Warm Homes Discount?

If you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit

You should get a letter telling you how to get the discount if you qualify. This will be sent sometime between October and December 2020. If you don't get a letter and you think you are in the core group, contact the Warm Home Discount Team

Your letter will say if you need to call a helpline by 26 February 2021 to confirm your details.

Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by 31 March 2021.

If you are on a low income

Contact your supplier to find out if you are eligible and, if so, how to apply.

Does having the Warm Homes Discount affect any other benefits paid to help with cold weather?

No, it won't affect Cold Weather Payments or Winter Fuel Payments.

Further information

The Gov.UK website has information on the Warm Home Discount Scheme

Updated: November 2020

4. Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments

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

Winter Fuel Payments – This is a payment made to people over Pension Credit age to help with fuel costs.

Cold Weather Payments – If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for these if the average temperature in your area falls to 0° Celsius or below for seven days in a row.

Reviewed: November 2020

5. 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 section.

Reviewed: November2020

6. Energy schemes: Useful resources

You can use the Gov.UK website's energy grants finder tool to see what might be available to you, depending on where you live and your circumstances.

The energy regulator Ofgem's website has information and support for consumers.

Citizens Advice has information to help you get the best energy deals, apply for energy-related grants and discounts, make energy efficient improvements and much more. Make sure you look at the information relevant to the country of the UK you live in:

If you live in Northern Ireland, see the NI Direct website

Citizens Advice Consumer Service can advise you on all matters relating to energy supply, including debt advice and access to cheaper deals. If you live in Northern Ireland, the service is Consumerline.

The Energy Saving Trust website has detailed information on how to save energy at home.  Select the UK country you live in from the dropdown menu on the right-hand side of the home page.

National Energy Action is a national charity which aims to eradicate fuel poverty and campaigns for greater investment in energy efficiency to help those who are poor and vulnerable. 

Independent Age has the following guides:

Turn2us information

Acknowledgement

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

Last updated: November 2020