Coronavirus: information and updates

Help with gas and electricity bills

The government offers help to pay for gas, electricity or heating oil for people who are most vulnerable in cold weather or those on low incomes.

Warning Switching suppliers

You could save hundreds of pounds by switching to a cheaper provider. Many energy suppliers can switch you in just over 2 weeks. It’s worth checking what deals are available at least once every year.

How to switch gas and electricity supplier (Money Advice Service)

Choosing the right energy tariff (Citizens Advice)

Finding a better energy deal (Ofgem)

Switching when you are in debt

You can switch even if you have up to £500 debt on your energy bill. Your debt will be passed onto your new supplier. They will arrange a repayment plan with you or arrange to pay off your debt through your prepayment meter.

Working out a payment plan with your supplier (Ovo)

Winter Fuel Payment

You could get between £100 and £300 tax free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 November 1953. This is known as a Winter Fuel Payment.

Most payments are made between November and December. You should get your money by Christmas.

You usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you get the State Pension or another social security benefit. This does not include:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction
  • Child Benefit
  • Universal Credit

You qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment if both the following apply:

  • you were born on or before 5 November 1953
  • you were a UK resident for at least 1 day during a specific week in the September before payments are made. In 2019, this was 16 to 22 September. These dates change slightly each year.

If you do not get paid automatically, you’ll need to make a claim.

Make a claim for winter fuel payment (GOV.UK)

Cold Weather Payment

You may get a Cold Weather Payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for 7 days in a row.

You’ll get £25 for each 7-day period of very cold weather.

You’ll usually get Cold Weather Payments if you get:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Universal Credit
  • Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

Warm Home Discount

Warm Home Discount will take £140 off your electricity bill between September and March. The discount will not affect your Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment.

Warm Home Discount Scheme (GOV.UK)

Eligibility for Warm Home Discount Scheme

You qualify for the discount if:

  • your electricity supplier is part of the scheme
  • your or your partner’s name is on the bill
  • you are getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, even if you get Savings Credit

Prepayment or pay as you go meters

You can get the discount if you use a prepayment or pay as you go electricity meter. Your electricity supplier can tell you how you’ll get the discount if you’re eligible. This could be a voucher you can use to top up your meter.

How to apply

You should get a letter telling you about the discount if you qualify. You may receive the discount automatically or you may need to apply for it. Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by the end of March.

If you did not get a letter

Call the Warm Home Discount Team on 0800 731 0214 if you did not get the letter and you think you’re eligible.

Warm Home Discount suppliers (GOV.UK)

If you do not qualify

You may be able to apply directly to your electricity supplier for help if you do not get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit but:

  • you’re on a low income
  • you get certain means-tested benefits

Check with your supplier to see if you’re eligible and how to apply.

Getting help from your supplier

Ask for the best tariff

Your supplier must give you information about their best tariffs. This information should be on every bill. Ask your supplier if you are on their most suitable tariff for you.

Switch to a standard meter

If you are using a prepayment meter, find out about switching to a standard meter.

The benefit of prepayment meters is that you know exactly how much you are spending. You can only use the energy that you have paid for in advance. They can help you to keep track of your spending.

But with a standard meter, you can choose from cheaper tariffs. You could save hundreds of pounds a year by switching to a better tariff.

You may need to pay to change to a standard meter.

If you are already in arrears, your supplier may ask you to repay your debt before they agree to switch your meter. 

If you are in debt to your supplier

Most companies have a ‘vulnerable debt team’. Ask to speak to them if you have not been able to pay your bill. They can arrange a repayment plan. They will ask you about how much you can afford to pay and how much energy you use. They can also offer advice on how to use less energy at home.

If you have a prepayment meter, they will take part of each payment to pay off your debt over an agreed period.

For example, if you pay £5 into your meter, your supplier might use £1 to pay off your debt and put £4 towards your energy supply.

If you do not have a prepayment meter, your supplier will agree a repayment plan with you.

Suppliers usually ask for debt to be repaid within 12 months. They can extend this to 2 years for customers who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.

Paying off energy debt (Citizens Advice)

Extra support from your supplier

Sign up for your supplier’s Priority Services Register if you or your child:

  • are disabled
  • have a long-term health condition
  • use medical equipment that depends on your electricity supply, such as a dialysis machine

This means they can offer you extra free services, such as priority support in an emergency.

Priority Services Register

Rebates when you use an oxygen concentrator

If you use an oxygen concentrator at home, you can get a rebate for the electricity it uses. The company that supplies your concentrator can make payments to your bank account.

Electricity Rebates (BOC Home Oxygen Service)

Electricity Refund (Air Liquide Healthcare)

Paying bills using your benefits

If you are finding it hard to keep on top of your energy bills, you can ask to pay using your benefits. This means that some of your benefit will be paid directly to your energy supplier. These payments are called ‘third party deductions’. You can use these to pay off your energy debt and your regular bill.

You can use the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit

Talk to your JobCentre Plus or Pension Centre to make an application. Your energy supplier may be able to apply on your behalf. Ask your supplier about paying your bill using your benefits. Some suppliers call this a ‘Fuel Direct’ scheme.

Paying bills using your benefits (GOV.UK)

Warning Third party deductions reduce your benefits

Paying your energy bill from your benefits gives you a secure energy supply, but you will have less money in each benefit payment. Get advice if you are worried about getting into debt. Debt advice is free.

Contact a debt adviser

Grants from energy suppliers

Some suppliers offer grants to help you pay off energy debt. Most of the bigger suppliers use Let’s Talk to manage grants on their behalf. Other companies run their own schemes. Your supplier will want to see that you have tried all other means of paying off your debt before you apply.

Let's Talk

If you have talked to a debt adviser and you are not able to pay your bills in any other way, ask your supplier how to apply. In your application, you will need to provide:

  • your energy account numbers
  • meter readings
  • information about how much you spend each month and how much income you have
  • details of any household debt

Suppliers offering Energy Saving Grants (Disability Grants)

It can take a lot of time to fill in the form. You may want to ask someone to help you. Scope can help you with your application over the phone.

Contact Scope’s helpline

You may have to wait weeks or months for a decision. If you are struggling to pay your essential bills, talk to a debt adviser as soon as possible.

Help and advice when you are in debt

Once you have paid off your energy debt, your supplier may ask you to set up a payment plan to help you keep on top of your bills.

Saving energy at home

You can reduce your bills by:

  • making your home more energy efficient
  • using energy less often or switching to more efficient appliances

The Simple Energy Advice calculator can help you work out how much you might be able to save. You will need to enter details about:

  • the size of your home
  • how many people you live with
  • how you use energy, such as how often your heating is on and how many showers you have a week

It takes about 5 minutes and can also tell you about:

  • home improvement loans for things like insulation, renewable energy or draught proofing
  • local energy support schemes
  • local authority helplines and advice services

If you’re disabled, you can ask some local authorities to visit you in your home. 

Simple Energy Advice calculator

Getting advice from your supplier

You can contact your gas or electricity supplier for advice. Ask to speak to their Energy Efficiency team. They can give you advice about making your home more energy efficient. They will ask very detailed questions to work out where you could make savings.

Before you get in touch, make a note of:

  • your appliances, including the make, model and energy efficiency rating (look for a sticker on the appliance)
  • how often you use hot water, for showers, baths or washing up
  • how often your heating is on
  • the size of your house
  • how often you use appliances such as your oven, washing machine or microwave

Find your recent bills. These should tell you how much you’ve used in the last month, what type of meter you have and which tariff you are on.

Help from your supplier to make your home more efficient

If you receive certain benefits, you can get help to improve your home under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). This includes Disability Living Allowance. Your supplier could pay for improvements such as loft or wall insulation, or more efficient heating. They could also help to replace inefficient white goods, like fridges and washing machines.

Home improvement loans and advice (Simple Energy Advice)

Energy Company Obligation (Ofgem)

If you live in Wales

In Wales, Nest offers free, impartial advice. If you are eligible, they can offer a package of free home energy efficiency improvements such as a new boiler, central heating or insulation.

Nest (gov.wales)

Social housing

If you live in social housing, the local authority or housing association should provide energy efficient homes. This includes proper insulation and draught proofing. Contact your Housing Officer if you think your home could be more energy efficient.

Using less energy

The UK Power running costs calculator can help you work out:

  • how much you spend on each appliance per month
  • how much you could save by switching to a cheaper tariff

Running costs calculator (UK Power)

You can also make small changes to use less energy every day. Here are some suggestions from the Energy Saving Trust:

  • Turn your thermostat down. Reducing it by 1°C could cut your bill by 10%.
  • Turn off lights whenever you leave a room.
  • Fill up your washing machine or dishwasher, as a full load uses less energy than 2 half loads.
  • Wash your clothes at 30ºC and avoid using a tumble dryer.
  • Boil only as much water as you need.
  • Do not leave your TV or computer on standby.
  • Switch to energy saving light bulbs, which last much longer than ordinary bulbs and cost the same.

Save money on your bills (Money Advice Service)

Energy saving quick wins (Energy Saving Trust)

If you have an Economy 7 meter, you will pay less for your electricity at night. Set your large appliances, such as your washing machine or dishwasher, to run at night to make use of the cheaper tariff.

What is Economy 7? (Money Saving Expert)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 21/04/2020

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