Struggling with energy bills help

What to do if you're struggling to pay your energy bills

Energy prices are already at all-time highs, and despite the Government capping bills at an average £2,500 for a typical household for two years from October, that's a huge jump from last winter that will leave many struggling. This guide covers all the help available right now and where to go for one-on-one support.
 

  1. Talk to your supplier as early as possible – it has to help if you're struggling

    If you're falling behind with your energy bills, and finding yourself struggling to pay, the best thing to do is contact your supplier as soon as possible. Under rules from regulator Ofgem, your supplier has to help you – usually by negotiating a payment plan that you can afford.

    There are a range of options suppliers could offer if you're struggling, including:

    • A full payment plan review
    • Affordable debt repayment plans
    • Payment breaks (though this won't be right for everyone)
    • Payment reductions
    • More time to pay
    • Access to hardship funds

    What help you can get is decided on a case-by-case basis, but importantly, repayment must be based on your ability to pay. So get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible.

    If you are still struggling with debt, your supplier may put you on a prepayment meter

    Fitting a prepayment meter to recover debt should always be the supplier's last resort to avoid disconnecting you. That means if you're not vulnerable, it can obtain a court warrant to force you to get one, but only if it has explored all other options first.

    Suppliers are only allowed to make you get a prepayment meter for debt if: 

    • It is safe, practical and easy for you to use and get to. For example, if your meter is hard to reach, in a shared cupboard you don't have access to, or it would be hard for you to get to a shop to top up the prepayment meter, then it shouldn't install one.

    • It has taken all reasonable steps to agree payment with you. By offering repayment plans or similar options. If it hasn't, again, it shouldn't install one. 

    However, your supplier can't force you to get one if you're considered to be vulnerable and you don't want one – such as those with disabilities, certain illnesses, are pregnant or have children under 5, are at state pension age or are eligible for the priority services register. They also can't force prepayment meters on people that would find the experience very traumatic.

  2. On prepay and struggling to pay? Your supplier must help as well

    If you prepay for your energy, and you find yourself struggling to top up and facing self-disconnection, there's also plenty of help available from your supplier – so do contact it as soon as you start to get in trouble. Here's what they will do:

    • All suppliers offer small amounts of emergency credit. You'll usually get £5 of emergency credit on your gas and electricity meter (£5 on each meter) that you can access through your meter. The option to use it usually becomes available when you've little money left on your meter (usually about less than 50p for electricity, or £2 for gas).

      How you access it depends on your meter, either by entering the card or clicking a button when the option pops up – your supplier will be able tell you how it works for your meter. You will need to pay this back when next you top up.

    • Friendly credit means you can't be cut off in certain times if your meter runs out. Friendly credit is there to protect you if you start running out of credit when the shops are closed. It means you won't be cut off, and can keep using gas and electricity if you run out of credit during evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

      Times can vary slightly by supplier and season, but generally, you won't be cut off between about 6pm and 9am Monday to Saturday, all day Sunday, and on bank holidays. You'll need to pay back anything you've used during this time the next time you top up.

    • Additional support credit is available to some if you can't afford to top up. If you can't afford to top up and you're facing self-disconnection through being unable to keep enough money on the meter, you may be able to get additional support credit (or extra support credit).
      What you can get, how this works and if you're eligible will depend on your supplier, so speak to it as soon as possible.

      In general, additional support credit is usually for those in vulnerable situations (such as those of state pension age, or with a disability or long-term medical condition). It's also up to the supplier to assess how much additional credit you'll get and to work with you to come up with a repayment plan, based on your ability to pay.

      But even if you're not in a vulnerable situation, your supplier could still help if you're unable to top up. It may still be able to offer support credit, or can review any debts you may be paying off through your meter, or give you access to hardship funds. It's all done on a case-by-case bases, so do get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible.

    What's more, regulator Ofgem has strengthened protections for prepayment customers, requiring suppliers to proactively identify and contact customers that have self-disconnected due to being unable to afford to top up. This includes support for repaying any outstanding standing charges.

  3. Energy suppliers offer help via hardship funds

    Big energy firms have charitable trusts and funds that can help if you're in debt and struggling to repay.

    With these providers you'll usually need to be a customer of the firm to apply, but British Gas offers help to non-customers as well. The application process for this help is fairly rigorous (see charities that can help with the process). You usually need to have spoken to a debt adviser before applying, complete a full income and expenditure budget sheet, provide proof of your income, give details on how your arrears have built up, and say how the grant will help you.

    Exact eligibility requirements vary – some say you need to be in receipt of certain benefits for example – but those with the greatest need are prioritised on a case-by-case basis. It can take several weeks to process your claim and funds are limited, so act now.

    Hardship grants offered by energy suppliers – and how to apply

    Supplier scheme Key eligibility criteria How much you could get How to apply

    Open to customers of ALL suppliers

    British Gas Energy Trust 'Individuals and Families Fund'

    British Gas Energy Trust
    Individuals and Families Fund
    - In or facing fuel poverty
    - Can't have had British Gas grant in past two years
    - See full info on the British Gas website
    Up to £1,500 Via the British Gas website

    Open to customers of the named suppliers ONLY



    EDF Energy
    Customer Support Fund
    - Experiencing hardship, or struggling to manage energy debt
    - See full info on the EDF website
    No set limit - depends on your circumstances Via the 'Let's Talk' web form or by calling 0800 269 450 (1)


    E.on Next
    Energy Fund

    Also open to customers of:
    Sainsbury's Energy
    - No set criteria, but based on needs and ability to pay energy bills
    - See full info on the E.on Next website
    No set limit - depends on your circumstances Via the 'Let's Talk' web form (1)


    Octopus Energy
    Octo Assist Fund

    Also open to customers of: Affect Energy, Co-operative Energy, Ebico Living, London Power, M&S Energy
    - No specific eligibility criteria
    - See full info on the Octopus website
    No set limit – depends on your circumstances Via the Octopus web form (you must be logged into your account)


    Scottish Power
    Hardship Fund
    - In receipt of: income support, jobseeker's allowance, pension credit, or employment and support allowance
    - See full info on the Scottish Power website
    Varies depending on need and funds available Via Scottish Power's web form


    Shell Energy

    Support Fund
    - No specific eligibility criteria
    - See full info on the Shell Energy website
    No set limit – depends on your circumstances Call Shell on 0330 094 5800


    Utility Warehouse

    Customer Support Scheme (in partnership with charity Citizens Advice)
    - In fuel poverty, or about to go into energy debt or run out of prepay credit
    - See full info on the Citizens Advice website
    Supplier wouldn't confirm Call Utility Warehouse on 0333 777 0777

    CLOSED – not currently accepting applications



    Bulb
    Energy Fund

    - In financial difficulty

    - Live in an area of high fuel poverty

    - In at least £150 of energy debt

    - See full info on the Bulb website

    £140 or £2,000, and/or an energy efficient appliance You can't apply right now (closed until at least 2023)


    Ovo Energy
    Hardship Scheme 
    (This is separate from Ovo's Energy Fund, which closed in 2021) 
    - Not yet finalised, though it's expected to benefit those on low incomes or in receipt of the warm home discount, and those using energy for medical equipment
    - See more info on Ovo's website and in our Ovo's new £50 million support package MSE News story
    Not yet finalised Applications will open in October 2022 (date TBC)

    Last updated on 4 October 2022. (1) 'Let's Talk' is part of 'Charis', an organisation that helps support those in utility debt.

  4. Almost all households to get £400 this winter to help with rising energy bills

    One of the measures announced back in May as part of the Government's 'cost of living support' package was that all households with a domestic electricity meter in England, Scotland and Wales will get a £400 energy grant. And after the Government announced the new energy price guarantee, it confirmed the £400 would still be paid.

    For most, the grant will be automatic, paid by your supplier between October 2022 and March 2023. However, those on non-smart prepayment meters will have to take action to get the money. It'll come as six separate payments – £66 in October and November, then £67 for the remaining four months. How exactly it's paid depends on how you pay for your energy and who your supplier is:

    How major energy suppliers will pay your £400 grant – by bill payment type

    Electricity supplier (1) Monthly direct debit Standard credit Smart prepayment meter Traditional prepayment meter (2)
    British Gas
    Credited to your bank account Credited to your energy account
    Credited to electricity account Voucher to be used on electricity
    Bulb
    Direct debit reduction  Credited to your energy account

    Credited to electricity account – though plans to allow users to switch it to gas accounts Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    E.on/E.on Next
    Direct debit reduction  Credited to your energy account Credited to gas and electricity accounts (split evenly) Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    EDF Energy
    Credited to your bank account Credited to your energy account Credited to electricity account – but will be able to switch it to gas account by contacting EDF Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    Octopus Energy  Direct debit reduction Credited to your energy account Credited to gas and electricity accounts (split evenly) Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    Ovo Energy
    Credited to your bank account Credited to your energy account Credited to electricity account Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    Scottish Power Credited to your bank account Credited to your energy account Credited to electricity account Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    Shell Energy 
    Direct debit reduction Credited to your energy account
    Credited to gas and electricity accounts (split evenly) Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    So Energy
    Direct debit reduction Credited to your energy account
    Credited to electricity account N/A
    SSE
    Credited to your bank account Credited to your energy account Credited to electricity account Voucher to be used on gas or electricity
    Utility Warehouse Direct debit reduction Credited to your energy account Credited to electricity account Voucher to be used on gas or electricity

    Last updated: 20 September 2022. (1) If you have separate suppliers for gas and electricity, the discount will come via your electricity supplier and only its rules will count. You'll still get the discount even if you switch suppliers. (2) You'll have three months to redeem each voucher – and if you lose them or they expire, they can only be reissued up until 31 March 2023.

    Living in Northern Ireland?

    Households in Northern Ireland will also receive the non-repayable £400 discount on energy bills in line with the rest of the UK. We've asked the Government how and when this will be paid. 

    You'll also receive a further £100 if you aren't connected to the gas grid and use alternative fuels, such as heating oil, to heat your home. Again, we've asked how and when this will be paid.

    If you're a park homes resident, you'll receive the £400 grant, plus equivalent support through the Energy Bill Relief Scheme 

    Park homes residents, or any other individuals who pay their bills through a third party via a non-domestic contract, will also be entitled to the £400 one-off payment, although the Government hasn't yet confirmed how and when this payment will be received. We've asked for this extra information and we'll update this guide when we know more.

    People in park homes or heat networks should also see their bills fall under the new energy support for businesses – see park homes and heat networks support.

  5. Households on certain means-tested benefits will get £650 this year – and date of the second payment is now confirmed

    Over eight million households in the UK on means-tested benefits will get a payment of £650, as part of the wider package of support announced by the Government to help with the cost of living crisis.

    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will make the payment in two lump sums – the first of £326 was paid back in July, with the second payment to be paid from 8 November, and this will go directly into the account you receive your benefits into. Those who receive tax credits only will receive their payments from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), not the DWP, and these will follow shortly after the other payments.

    If you're on any of the following benefits, you need to have received a payment on any date between 26 August and 25 September 2022 to qualify for the second payment:

    • Child tax credit
    • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
    • Income-related employment and support allowance
    • Income support
    • Universal credit
    • Working tax credit
    • Pension credit

    The Government says this payment is tax-free, will not count towards the benefit cap, and will not have any impact on existing benefits. Eligibility info on the second payment will be set out "in due course".

    Use our 10-minute benefits check to ensure you're receiving all the support you're entitled to, as up to seven million are missing out on state help they're eligible for. 

    What can I do if I don't get the payment?

    If you think you're eligible for the first cost of living payment, but you've not been paid it, the DWP has an online tool you can use to report a missing payment. You can also contact the office that pays your benefit or tax credits to find out why and whether you should have got it.

  6. Millions of pensioners will get up to £600 with the winter fuel payment this year (£300 extra)

    Every UK household with someone over state pension age (aged 66 or above) between 19 and 25 September 2022 is entitled to help towards their energy costs under the Government's Winter Fuel Payment scheme, which is usually between £100 and £300.

    But this year, the cost of living support package includes a one-off £300 top-up to the winter fuel payment, so you could get up to £600. It'll be paid automatically in November or December. 

  7. Those on certain disability benefits will get a one-off £150 payment

    About six million people across the UK on certain disability benefits will receive an automatic one-off payment of £150. Payments were due to start on 20 September, but there were delays in sending out the money and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now says the "vast majority" of disability claimants will receive their £150 automatically by early October.

    This will be paid straight into the account you currently receive your benefits into and is designed to help towards the cost of specialist equipment and food, and increased transport costs. 

    To qualify, you must be receiving, or have begun an eventually successful claim as of 25 May 2022 for, one of the following benefits:

    • Armed forces independence payment
    • Attendance allowance
    • Constant attendance allowance
    • Disability living allowance
    • Personal independence payment
    • Scottish disability benefits
    • War pensioners' mobility supplement

    The Government says these payments will not count towards the benefit cap, and will not have any impact on existing benefits. You can also still qualify for the £150 payment if you've swapped disability benefits for mobility aids under the Motability Scheme – though details on how this will work in practice have yet to be confirmed.

    See our guide for 31 MoneySaving tips for disabled people

  8. See if you're eligible to join the Priority Services Register

    The Priority Services Register is a free support service operated by energy suppliers and network operators (the firms that own the pipes and wires). It offers a range of services to help people in vulnerable situations (see full eligibility below).

    The help you can get includes:

    • Advance notice of planned power cuts. If you rely on energy supply for medical reasons, your network operator will inform you of planned power cuts.

    • Priority support in an emergency. Network operators can provide you with heating and cooking facilities during unexpected power cuts.

    • Identification and password scheme. To reassure you that energy and network employees are genuine, they can arrange things like a particular password or picture card if they need to visit you.

    • Nominee schemes. You can nominate someone to receive communications and bills from your supplier.

    • Help with prepayment meter access. For example, suppliers could move your meter if you can access it easily to top up.

    • Regular meter reading services. If you can't easily read the meter yourself, or nobody else can.

    • Accessible information. For example, account info and bills in large print or Braille.

    To get on the register, you'll need to contact your supplier and ask to be placed on it. You only need to contact your supplier, as you can ask them to pass on your details to the network operator to be added to their register as well.

    If you have different suppliers for gas and electricity, contact both providers and ask to be registered, and if you switch, don't forget to ask your new supplier about it.

    • The full eligibility criteria for the Proirity Services Register

      You are eligible for the Priority Services Register if one of the following applies to you:

      • You've reached your state pension age.
      • You are disabled or have a long-term medical condition.
      • You are recovering from an injury.
      • You have a hearing or sight condition.
      • You have a mental health condition.
      • You are pregnant or have children under five.
      • You have extra communication needs (such as if you don't speak or read English well).

      You might still be able to register for other reasons if your situation isn't listed. For example, if you need short-term support after a stay in hospital.

  9. Check if you can get £150 towards energy bills each winter with the warm home discount

    The Warm Home Discount scheme is available to millions of households in the UK. It requires suppliers with more than 50,000 customers to help vulnerable people pay for their energy over winter. 

    If you've a standard credit meter, the money isn't paid to you – it's a £150 rebate applied to your electricity or gas bill between October and March. If you're on a prepay meter, you'll usually be sent a top-up voucher. 

    Following changes to how the warm home discount works, the scheme is now different in England and Wales from that in Scotland. 

    In England and Wales? No one needs to apply anymore 

    After a recent shake-up of the warm home discount, the money is now paid automatically – previously, some had to apply to get it. If you're in England or Wales, you should get it if you qualify under the following criteria:

    • If you get pension credit, you should get it automatically. If you or your partner receive the 'guarantee credit' element of pension credit, and your name (or your partner's) is on your energy bill, you should qualify for the discount as part of what's known as 'core group 1'. 

      Provided your energy supplier is part of the scheme (see the full list), you should receive a letter (usually sent between October and December) confirming when the £150 will be deducted from your electricity bill. 
    • On certain benefits? You should get the discount automatically – if you're deemed to have "high energy costs". If you don't qualify for the above, you may still get the discount automatically if you receive certain means-tested benefits, such as income support or universal credit, and you have "high energy costs". This is as part of what's known as 'core group 2' (see full eligibility criteria).

      If you qualify, and providing your supplier is part of the scheme, you should receive a letter confirming when the £150 will be deducted from your bill. The Government has also said it is looking into providing an online tool to allow people to check their eligibility.

    In Scotland? Some will still need to apply to get it

    For Scotland, the Government is still consulting on how the scheme will work this winter, but it's proposing to largely keep the eligibility rules that were in place last winter (2021/22), with eligibility split into two groups:

    • If you get pension credit, it may come automatically. To be eligible for the automatic payment, you or your partner will need to receive the 'guarantee credit' element of pension credit, and your name (or your partner's) will need to be on your energy bill as of the 'qualifying date', which is yet to be announced. This is known as the 'core group'. 

    • On certain benefits? You may qualify, but you must apply. If you don't qualify for the above, you can still apply providing you get certain benefits such as income support or income-related employment and support allowance (see full qualifying info below), under what's known as the 'broader group' criteria. If you're eligible, you'll need to apply directly to a participating supplier . 
    • What's the full eligibility for 'core group 2' in England and Wales?

      To qualify under the 'core group 2' criteria, you'll need to get one of the following benefits:

      • Child tax credits – provided your household income is below a certain level (there's no set limit, it depends on your circumstances)
      • Housing benefit 
      • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
      • Income-related employment and support allowance
      • Income support 
      • Pension credit ('savings credit' element)
      • Universal credit
      • Working tax credits – provided your household income is below a certain level (there's no set limit, it depends on your circumstances)

      You'll also need to have "high energy costs". The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will set out the threshold of what "high energy costs" are each year.

      It will determine if your household hits these thresholds using data from the Valuation Office Agency on the type of property (for example, semi-detached or detached), property age and floor area.

      Currently, it's difficult to check whether your home qualifies under the 'high energy costs' criteria. However, according to energy regulator Ofgem, BEIS is looking at developing a tool to check your eligibility.

    • What's the full eligibility for the 'broader group' in Scotland?

      These benefits are as follows: child tax and working tax credits, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income support and universal credit.

      Those on housing benefit in Scotland with a child under five or a disabled child will also now be included in the broader group, having previously been excluded.

      Here, you'll need to apply for the discount if your energy supplier offers it.

      If you have an annual household income of £17,005 or less and you get child tax credit, or you receive income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance, or you receive income-related employment and support allowance, you qualify if you have any of the following:

      • Child tax credit that includes a 'disability' or 'severe disability' element
      • A disability premium
      • A disabled child premium
      • Parental responsibility of a child aged under five living with you
      • A pensioner premium

      If you get universal credit and have earned £1,418 or less in at least one month since October 2021, you qualify if you have any of the following:

      • The 'disabled child' element
      • The 'limited capability for work' element (with or without a 'work-related activity' element)
      • Parental responsibility of a child aged under five living with you

       

    • What suppliers are offering the warm home discount?

      • Affect Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
      • Atlantic (contact SSE)
      • Boost
      • British Gas (including Scottish Gas)
      • British Gas Evolve
      • Bulb
      • Co-op Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
      • E (gas and electricity)
      • E.on
      • E.on Next 
      • Ecotricity (1)
      • EDF Energy
      • Green Energy UK (1)
      • London Power (contact Octopus Energy)
      • Lumo (contact Ovo Energy)
      • M&S Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
      • Octopus Energy
      • Ovo Energy
      • Qwest Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
      • Roar Power (contact Octopus Energy)
      • Sainsbury's Energy
      • Scottish Power
      • Shell Energy
      • So Energy 
      • SSE
      • SSE Southern Electric
      • SSE Scottish Hydro
      • SSE Swalec
      • Utilita
      • Utility Warehouse

      (1) Only provides the discount to the 'core group'. 

  10. Older people and those on certain benefits could get £25 during freezing weather

    Under the Cold Weather Payment scheme, older people and those on certain benefits in England and Wales can get a grant to help cover costs when temperatures hit zero degrees or below in their area.

    It applies if the average temperature is – or is forecast to be – 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November and 31 March. You get £25 for each seven-day period. It's usually automatic if you get pension credit, or get other benefits including some universal credit recipients and some who get support for mortgage interest. See our full Cold weather payment guide for more info.

    Households in Scotland to get £50 regardless of weather conditions this winter

    The Scottish Government has announced it is replacing the Cold Weather Payment scheme this year with a new scheme – the Low Income Winter Heating Assistance scheme. Under this new scheme, eligible households will receive a flat £50 each year to help toward winter heating costs. 

    The payments will be made automatically in February each year from 2023, so you don't need to do anything to get it.

    • Full eligibility for the Cold Weather Payment and Low Income Winter Heating Assistance payment

      Eligibility for the two schemes is the same:
       

      • Pension credit. You'll usually get the payments if you do not live in a care home.
         
      • Income support and income-based jobseeker's allowance. You'll be eligible if you have a disability or pensioner premium, a child who is disabled, get child tax credits that includes a disability or severe disability element, or you have a child under five living with you.

      • Income-related employment and support allowance. You'll be eligible if you have a severe or enhanced disability premium, a pensioner premium, a child who is disabled, get child tax credits that includes a disability or severe disability element, or you have a child under five living with you.

      • Universal credit. You'll be eligible if you have a health condition or disability and have a limited capability for work, or you have a child under five living with you.

      • Support for mortgage interest. You may be eligible if you have a disability or pensioner premium, a child who is disabled, get child tax credits that includes a disability or severe disability element, or you have a child under five living with you.
  11. Households in bands A to D get a £150 rebate on council tax

    In February, the Government also announced a £150 rebate for all homes in England in council tax bands A to D, and funding for similar schemes in Scotland and Wales. 

    The payments were due to be made in April, but some may still be waiting for theirs. The exact timing will vary between councils, and they officially have until 30 September 2022 to pay the rebate. See our Council tax rebate MSE News story for more. 

  12. Help for vulnerable households this winter from councils

    Under the Household Support Fund, councils in England have access to a pool of £1 billion in funding to help those most in need. The cash is available to local authorities to spend between April and September 2022, and is aimed at supporting the most vulnerable with essentials during the UK's ongoing recovery from the pandemic.

    The Government has announced that it's going to extend this scheme, with another £500 million in funding to be made available between October 2022 and March 2023. 

    The fund is aimed at providing small grants to meet daily needs, such as energy bills, as well as other utilities, housing costs, food and other essentials.

    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 and whether you might qualify for support, and to apply, contact your council as soon as you can, as funding could run out at any time.

  13. Where to go for free one-on-one energy and debt advice

    If you are still struggling after speaking to your energy supplier, there are a number of organisations and charities that can provide one-on-one support and advice. We've focused on the main nationwide charities and organisations that offer support, but there could be more local support offered by regional charities and your local authority.

    All of the organisations below can help with common energy issues and problems, including info on the options available if you're struggling to pay, the Government grants and schemes available to you, help accessing hardship funds and general ways to reduce your energy use. Yet some do specialise in certain areas.

    Important: Bear in mind that these organisations are very busy right now, and have limited resources – Citizens Advice, for example, says it's seen a 40% uplift year-on-year in people needing support due to energy debt issues. So please be patient and polite.

    Energy help and grant specialists

    The charities below offer help and advice on most energy bill problems if you're struggling to pay, including help with finding Government grants and schemes you might be eligible for, help applying for support through energy supplier's charitable trusts, and help with complaints.

    • Home Energy Scotland. A non-profit organisation backed by the Scottish Government that offers free, practical advice and info on energy in Scotland. You can call it on 0808 196 8660 or contact it online.

      It says as well as offering impartial advice on energy saving and reducing bills, it'll check your eligibility for funding options including Scottish Government grants and interest-free loans.

    • National Energy Action (NEA)The NEA is a national fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity that offers a free support service known as WASH (Warm and Safe Homes). It provides energy advice to households in England and Wales. You can contact it on 0800 304 7159, or fill in an online form.

      It offers advice on income maximisation, energy billing, fuel debt, energy efficiency and trust fund applications.

      Due to the current crisis, the charity is very busy, which is why MSE founder Martin Lewis has announced he will fund £100,000 for it to set up a webchat service to help more people. It hopes this will be ready by April.

    • NI Energy AdviceThis service offers impartial energy advice for those in Northern Ireland.

      You can contact it via its online form or by calling 0800 111 4455.

    Wider debt and energy help

    While the organisations below offer help for all types of energy problems, their main aim is helping with budgeting and debt. So if you find yourself in energy arrears, or your problems stretch beyond energy, these might be best.

    • Citizens Advice. If you're in England or Wales, you can speak to a trained adviser on 0808 223 1133 or fill in online form and they'll respond by email. If you're in Scotland, you'll need to speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

      It says it can help with most energy problems and it can also refer you to its extra help unit – which can provide dedicated support to people in vulnerable situations to resolve problems with energy firms.

    • StepChange. A debt charity that provides free debt advice to people in England, Scotland and Wales. You can contact it on 0800 138 1111 or get online debt advice.

      It can work with you to develop a personalised plan to make repayments, set up and manage a debt management plan for you, or even help with ways to write off debts if you're unable to pay.

    • MoneyHelperSponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, it provides free, impartial and confidential money guidance to anyone in the UK. You can contact it on 0800 138 7777, or via webchat, email or WhatsApp.

      As well as personalised advice and guidance on money issues, including energy bills and how to prioritise debt, it can help you find a free and confidential debt adviser in your area.

    • National Debt Line. A debt charity that gives free independent advice to people in England, Scotland and Wales. You can talk to via webchat or by calling 0808 808 4000.

      It has a free budget tool and can help you work out a debt management plan. 

    Specialist help for older people

    While older people can use the services above, Age UK can offer more specialised support. 

    • Age UK. A leading charity for helping older people, it says it can help any older person or those entitled to claim benefits. You can contact it on 0800 169 6565 (0800 124 4222 in Scotland), or via webchat and email.

      Age UK is urging older people to contact it before turning their heating off or down. It says it can check if people are receiving all the support available to them, point people towards more help for heating their home, and provide guidance on billing, meters and complaints.

    Specialist energy support for disabled people

    If you have a disability, as well as the organisations above, you can also get additional help from Scope.

    • ScopeA disability equality charity, it offers free energy advice to disabled people in England and Wales. You can contact it on 0808 801 0828 or email it.

      Through its disability energy support scheme, it can offer advice on a range of issues, including managing debt, efficiency, accessing benefits, grants and trusts, access to fuel vouchers, understanding bills and support with registering for the Priority Services Register.

    • Disability Information Scotland. If you live in Scotland, Disability Information Scotland can provide similar help. You can contact it on 0300 323 9961 or email it.

    For more generalised help if you're struggling with debt, see our full Debt help guide.

    Community support groups

    For a lot of people, a place to talk to others in similar situations and share ideas is really important, which is why community support groups on social media are thriving. While we can't vouch for every piece of information, these groups often have knowledgeable users – some with industry experience – sharing information, so can be very useful.

    • Energy Support and Advice UK. This Facebook group, launched in 2020, is one of the most active, with more than 30,000 members sharing advice and tips. 
  14. You could get up to 60 days' respite from debts with the breathing space scheme

    The breathing space scheme, officially known as the Debt Respite Scheme, is a Government scheme that can relieve some of the pressures and stress of being in debt.

    If you pass eligibility, your creditors are informed and must stop collection or enforcement activity, and won't be able to add interest or fees to your debt for up to 60 days.

    Debt charity StepChange has full info on eligibility, and can take you through the application process.

  15. You can pay energy bills direct from your benefits to help with budgeting

    If you're struggling to pay for your energy and you're on certain benefits, you may be able pay directly from your benefit payments instead under a Government scheme known as Fuel Direct (also known as 'third party deductions'). The scheme lets you arrange to have a small, fixed amount deducted directly from your benefit payments each week to go towards paying off energy debt.

    To use the scheme, you need to contact your Jobcentre (or Pension Centre if you are claiming pension credit) and give them details of your supplier and what you owe. Your Jobcentre or Pension Centre will then get in contact with your provider.

    How much will be dedicated depends on which benefit scheme the payment is deducted from:

    • If you claim universal credit. A fixed rate of 5% of your entitlement can be deducted and paid directly to your supplier for gas and electricity (and water).

    • For other benefits. A set amount of £3.70 will be directly deducted each week to pay off the debt you owe, plus an additional amount to cover your ongoing usage. For example, if you use £5 of energy a week, a total of £8.70 will be deducted directly from your benefits.

      Be aware though, if the set amount to cover your debt and the additional sum for your ongoing usage comes to less than 25% of your total benefits, the payment to your supplier can be set up without your permission. So be sure before you apply. You can use the Fuel Direct scheme with income-based jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance, income support and pension credit.
  16. Check if you can get free insulation or boiler grants to make your home more energy efficient

    Energy efficiency can seriously cut bills, and there are wads of freebies on offer from energy providers from firms under the Energy Company Obligation scheme. It's all part of their efficiency obligations to people in certain groups.

    If you're on certain benefits, you could get free insulation or a grant to replace an old boiler. Our Free insulation & boilers guide has more on what's available, but below there is a taster of what you can get and what it'll save you:

    • Boiler replacement or repair. Heating accounts for about 55% of what you spend in a year on energy bills. Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £315/year.

    • Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built since 1920 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating mineral wool and foam means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in, which can save an average three-bedroom home up to £305/year.

    • Loft insulation. Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes via the roof, but you can solve this by laying mineral wool under the rafters, saving up to £250/year.

    For more advice on energy efficiency and help to find any schemes you are eligible for, try the Government's Simple Energy Advice website, the Energy Saving Trust or Home Energy Scotland.

  17. Make sure you only pay for the energy you use – do regular meter readings

    Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate, as these are often way out. If they're underbilling, you'll have a big whack to pay when your supplier receives your actual meter reading. If they're overbilling, then they've unfairly got your cash.

    If your direct debit is way off kilter, call up and ask for it to be changed. You have a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the Energy direct debits guide for full help.

    Smart meters can help stop this as they send meter readings automatically to your supplier, so you only pay for what you use. See the Smart meters guide for more.

  18. Pay by monthly direct debit if you can – it can be £100+/year cheaper

    Paying by monthly direct debit can cut bills by about £100 each year on average, as companies are sure you won't default and they earn interest on any overpayments. So if you can do this, go for it.

    Even if you're on a price-capped tariff, it's worth opting to pay by direct debit, as the cap is set lower for those that pay this way, compared to all other payment methods – see our What is the energy price cap? guide for full info.

    See our Energy direct debits guide for full help.

  19. Using less energy is a simple way to save on bills – if you've not already cut usage as much as possible

    Most can't save any other way, so using less can really pay off and is simple to do (unless you're already using the minimum, in which case, read on).

    Turn down the thermostat and wear jumpers, turn lights off when you leave a room, take shorter showers, use energy saving light bulbs and don't leave electrical goods on standby.

    For more info, see our top energy saving tips, or read the MSE Forum's Energy Saving Hunt.

  20. Is it really cheaper to leave the heating on all day? We've busted some of the common energy saving myths

    According to experts at the Energy Saving Trust, the idea it's cheaper to leave the heating on low all day is a myth. They're clear that having the heating on only when you need it is, in the long run, the best way to save energy and therefore money. (A timer's best, as your thermostat turns your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set.)

    For full info and answers to 17 other energy saving myths, see our full Energy mythbusting guide.

  21. Do a Money Makeover – it could help offset the energy hikes

    Check your bills NOW as you could save £100s on broadband, mobiles, fuel, food and more by systematically working through your finances to ensure you've the best deal on everything.

    This could really help mitigate the pain of the energy price hikes, with many people saving £1,000s over the year. We've full help in our Money makeover guide.

  22. While you can be disconnected, it's very rare and there are strict rules for suppliers

    There are very strict rules for disconnection and suppliers very rarely disconnect people due to debt.

    Firms must take all reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting an energy supply for debt, and it should always be a last resort. Suppliers cannot disconnect you if you:

    • Owe a debt to a previous supplier
    • Are bankrupt and the energy debt is for before you were bankrupt
    • Owe a debt for a service or appliance from a supplier, and not for your gas or electricity usage.

    What's more, if it's during winter (between October and March), you can't be disconnected if you have reached state pension age and live on your own, or live with children under the age of 18. 

    Most suppliers have also voluntarily agreed to never disconnect you at any time of year if you have children under the age of six, are disabled, have long-term health problems or have severe financial problems. They also won't disconnect you during winter if you have children under the age of 16.

  23. If your supplier isn't helping, put in an official complaint

    If you are struggling with your bills and you find your provider won't help, or you experience any of the other common problems faced by energy customers, such as incorrect bills, switching issues, direct debits being too high, refund delays and more, then complain.

    Remember to try calling your provider to sort the issue first, but if not then you can use free complaints tool Resolver. The tool helps you manage your complaint, and if the company doesn't play ball, it also helps you escalate your complaint to the free Energy Ombudsman

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