What to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills
The first step to take if you’re struggling to pay your gas and electricity bills is to contact your supplier and explain the situation. Your energy supplier has to help you, so don’t worry there will be a solution that works for both of you.
Agree a payment plan
Paying off your debt in instalments as part of a payment plan could be an option. You’ll only pay what you can afford in fixed amounts over an agreed period of time. The payment plan will cover what you owe plus an amount for your current use. You’ll need to give your supplier details about your income and outgoings, debts and personal circumstances. They will estimate how much energy you’re likely to use in the future and then set up the payment plan taking everything into account.
Pay off your debt through your benefits
If you are receiving any of the following benefits, you might be able to repay your debt through the Fuel Direct Scheme. This is where a fixed amount is automatically taken from your benefits to cover what you owe, plus an extra amount for your current use. To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following:
• Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
• Income Support
• income-related Employment and Support Allowance
• Pension Credit
• Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
To set this up you’ll need to contact the Jobcentre and let them know you want to set up Fuel Direct. They’ll contact your supplier on your behalf.
Government discount schemes
There are government schemes available to help you cut the cost of your energy bills such as:
Warm Home Discount
If you receive pension credit you could be eligible for the Government’s Warm Home Discount. This gives you a one-off £140 rebate on the cost of your electricity bill. If you’re eligible and your supplier offers the scheme, you’ll usually receive the discount automatically between October and March.
Winter Fuel Payment
If you are aged 60 or over, you may qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment of up to £300, to help you meet the costs of keeping warm in the winter. Most people are enrolled automatically but it’s worth checking if you qualify.
Cold Weather Payment
The Cold Weather Payment is a £25 payment for each week that the temperature drops below zero celsius for seven consecutive days and only available between 1st November and 31st March. You can find out more about this payment here.
Extra financial help
There are a number of energy companies who offer grants and schemes that are available to anyone. You don’t need to be a customer to access these.
If you’re struggling to manage your energy bills there are a number of charities who offer help and advice. StepChange and NEA (National Energy Action) are just two who provide free, expert, non-judgemental and confidential advice and support.
If you’re with a smaller supplier and you’re struggling with your bills, it’s always worth getting in touch to see what support they’re able to offer. But, if you can’t come to an agreement, or you’re not happy with the option they’ve given you, it’s worth contacting the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for further advice.