If you're struggling with energy bills, six simple steps can help you manage them better, according to charity Turn2us.
Its Mind The Gap campaign uses free tools and information to help you increase your household income and manage your energy costs – tips MoneySavingExpert.com has been telling households to do for years (see our Cheap Gas and Electricity guide for help cutting costs).
Five of the big six energy firms have hiked their prices this winter. The sixth, E.on, puts its charges up on Saturday.
A survey commissioned by the charity found while 81% of people earning £25,000 or less a year were worried about paying energy bills this winter, 57% weren't aware there were grants and schemes to help them.
The survey also found 22% of people who have struggled with their bills experienced ill-health due to cold homes, compared to 14% the previous year, while 47% of people with disabilities have been forced to cut back on food or skip meals.
It also found 11% of people earning under £40,000 a year had used payday loans to cover costs.
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How can I up my income and cut energy bills?
Turn2us's Mind the Gap campaign is about reminding people they can take action if they're struggling. Here's what you can do to cut costs:
- Do a benefits calculation. You may be missing out on financial help you're entitled to via benefits. Use Turn2us's Benefits Calculator to check what you're entitled to. We also have a Benefits Check Up tool on our site, which you can use.
- Search for grants. Financial assistance and other forms of support are often available from grant-giving charities, depending on where you live, your background and circumstances. Use the Turn2us website to search for grants.
- Get help with bills. Find out about payments, discounts and charitable trusts set up by some energy companies that can help with the cost of energy bills and reducing energy debts. There's more on the Turn2us website.
- Get help to improve energy efficiency. Discover the financial help that may be available to you if you want to make your home more energy efficient. This can include free boilers and insulation. See Turn2us for more information or read our Housing and Energy Grants guide.
- Check your energy tariff. Join MoneySavingExpert.com's Cheap Energy Club to check you're on the best tariff and switch your energy supplier if you find a cheaper deal.
- Reduce your energy use. Brush up on tips to cut your energy use and put them into practice. This can be as simple as turning off unnecessary lights left on, and appliances left plugged-in or on standby. For more tips, visit the Energy Saving Trust or read our Energy Mythbusting guide.