More than seven million people now struggling to pay their bills - here's the help you can get if you're facing financial difficulty
Almost eight million people in the UK are currently struggling to pay their bills, according to the financial regulator. If you are facing financial difficulty, we explain how to check if you're eligible for support and how to try and cut costs and save on essential bills.
Around 7.8 million people in the UK are currently in financial difficulty, up from 5.3 million people in 2020, according to a survey carried out between February and June this year by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The regulator also found that 4.2 million adults have missed bill or loan repayments in three of the past six months, with those living in the most deprived areas of the UK being seven times more likely to be in financial difficulty.
The findings come in the wake of a mounting cost of living crisis and as the Bank of England's base rate continues to rise, which has pushed up the cost of mortgage repayments and rents.
Below, we've included help you may be eligible for if you're struggling with essential bills. For a full round-up, see our Cost of living survival guide.
What to do if you're struggling with your energy bills
If you're struggling to pay your energy bills and are falling behind, the first step's to talk to your supplier to agree a repayment plan that you can afford. But, that's not the only help available, there are grants, one-off payments and more.
For example, many households across England, Wales and Scotland are eligible for up to £1,500 of Government support. You may be able to get:
- A non-repayable £400 energy grant between October 2022 and March 2023. This is available to all households. See our £400 energy grant MSE News story for more info.
- A one-off cost of living payment of £650 for those on means-tested benefits. The first payment was made this summer, with second payments due this November. Find out more about the £650 one-off payment in our MSE News story.
- A £300 winter fuel payment top-up. A top-up will be paid in November or December to the UK's eight million pensioners who get the winter fuel payment. You'll qualify for this payment if you'll be over state pension age (aged 66 or above) between 19 and 25 September 2022, and as long as you meet certain other requirements – see Gov.uk for full details.
- A £150 top-up for those on certain disability benefits. About six million people across the UK on certain disability benefits should have received a one-off payment of £150 in September - though there are delays for some. This payment is designed to help towards the cost of specialist equipment and food, and increased transport costs. Find out if you qualify and how to chase any missed payments.
Most energy suppliers also offer non-repayable grants that can help some.Our Struggling to pay energy bills? guide rounds up all the help available from energy firms, the state and charities.
What to do if you're struggling to pay your broadband or phone bill
Firstly, if you're out of contract you could save on your phone or broadband bill almost immediately just by finding a better deal.
If you're on certain benefits, for example universal credit, you might also qualify for a broadband 'social tariff' costing from £12 a month. We've a full list of social tariffs.
What you need to know if you're struggling with your water bills
The simplest thing you can do, if possible, is get a water meter. The Consumer Council for Water has a free water meter calculator that tells you if you can save with a meter. It asks questions about your water use and tells you your estimated costs if you had a meter. You then simply need to contact your water company and request a water meter fitting.
If you can't get a water meter fitted, there are still ways you can cut costs. You can ask for an assessed charge, which means the water company does a full assessment of your usage, to see if you can cut costs.
If you're struggling to pay your water bills or claim benefits, there are a number of schemes and assistance funds that can help. We've full info in our Cut your water bills guide.
You may also be able to get help towards essentials via your local council
Under the Household Support Fund, local authorities in England have access to a pool of £1 billion in funding to help those most in need. Eligibility varies, as it's up to councils to decide, but generally the grant is for vulnerable households and those in most need of support. To find out what your council offers, whether you qualify, and how to apply, contact your council as soon as you can, as funding could run out at any time.
Remember, if you have a family income of less than £30,000 (or £50,000 in rare cases), you may be entitled to some benefits. There are no guarantees, but it's worth taking the time to check, especially if you have kids. Use our 10-minute benefits checker.