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Here’s where to get help to pay your energy bills

Bills are going up again in April 2023. Here’s where to get help from your energy supplier, the government and charities

Millions of people are struggling to afford their energy bills in the cost of living crisis. 

The government has announced that average household energy bills will soar to £3,000 from April. That is £500 more than what most families are currently paying, and more than double what they were at the beginning of 2022. 

Over 4.5 million people were living in fuel poverty last year – with extortionate energy costs pushing them below the breadline. That is set to rise to 8.4 million by April when bills rise again, according to estimates from National Energy Action. 

There are over three million low-income families who cannot afford to heat their homes, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Around 710,000 of these households are also unable to buy enough food to feed their families and adequate clothing.

If you are worried about paying for heating bills this winter in a cost of living crisis, you are far from alone. But there is help out there for people who need it most.

How much are energy bills going up?

Jeremy Hunt has confirmed the energy price cap will rise to £3,000 in April, meaning the average family will pay this much a year. It means households will be paying approximately £500 more a year on energy bills than they are already (and more than double what they were at the beginning of this year). 

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Liz Truss originally froze the energy price cap at £2,500 for two years – but even that meant families were paying more than double what they were earlier this year. 

The energy price cap doesn’t mean no family will pay more than £3,000 – this figure refers to the amount a household will pay based on average energy usage. If your household uses more energy than average, you may pay more.

What government support is there for energy bills? 

These are some government schemes which may help if you are struggling to pay your energy bills:

Warm Home Discount Scheme

This scheme opened again in November and you could get £150 off your energy bills. The money is not paid to you – it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill. Energy suppliers fund the scheme, and the government decides who is eligible. This winter, most eligible households will get Warm Home Discount automatically where previously, you had to claim it from your supplier. Find out more here.

Winter Fuel Payment

If you were born on or before September 25 1956 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. Find out more here. 

Cold Weather Payments

You may get a cold weather payment if you’re getting certain benefits. You’ll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days. You’ll get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather. The scheme is set to start on November 1. 

Scottish Welfare Fund

This is offered in Scotland to provide a safety net for people on low incomes. These include crisis grants and community care grants. Find out how to apply here.

Discretionary Assistance Fund

In Wales, there is the Discretionary Assistance Fund. This includes an emergency assistance grant, which helps cover essential costs, such as food, gas, electricity, clothing or emergency travel if you are experiencing extreme financial hardship, have lost your job or are waiting for your first payment. 

Finance Support Service

The Finance Support Service supports people who live in Northern Ireland and need short-term financial help.  This includes discretionary support to help towards short-term living expenses or household items.

How to get the £400 energy rebate

The government is providing a £400 energy rebate to all households to help with the cost of living. People began receiving the first £66 instalment to help them with their gas and electricity bills on October 1. While many customers had the credit automatically applied to their accounts, people with traditional prepayment meters have to cash in vouchers at top-up points. 

Hundreds of thousands of people with prepayment energy meters have not received the £400 government rebate because they can’t access the voucher scheme or don’t know about it.

For people on prepayment meters, your redeemable vouchers will either be sent by text, email or post, or you will get an automatic credit when you top up at your usual top up point. The way it is paid varies by supplier and your usual payment method.

You need to make sure that your energy supplier has correct and updated contact details for you in order to get the payment. Many people on prepayment meters top up their card or key at a local convenience store, so if you haven’t had any word from your energy provider about the vouchers, contact them in the first instance.

Your supplier will then let you know how to get your discount and where to redeem your vouchers. This will be at a top-up point like your local post office or PayPoint shop. Payzone outlets are unable to accept the vouchers. For most suppliers, the voucher should arrive by 17th of each month and is only valid for 90 days. 

How to get the cost of living payment

Low-income and vulnerable people will receive additional cost of living payments from the government. They will total £900 for people on means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioners, and £150 for people receiving disability benefits. 

The £900 cost of living payment will be paid in three instalments. The first will be £301 and paid in spring 2023. The following one will be paid in autumn and the third will be paid in spring 2024. 

People receiving certain benefits or tax credits are eligible for the cost of living payment. This includes: universal credit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), income support, pension credit, child tax credit and working tax credit. 

The second cost of living payment should already have hit bank accounts. You can find out whether you are eligible for a cost of living payment and what you have to do if you haven’t received yours yet here.

How to get help from your energy supplier if you can’t pay your energy bills

A number of energy suppliers offer grants to their customers to help them pay off their energy bills. Contact your energy supplier if you are struggling to pay your bills and they may be able to help you in the cost of living crisis. We’ve listed a few grants available below:

British Gas Energy Support Fund

These grants are available to everyone who has a fuel debt of £250 to £1,500 and you don’t have to be a British Gas customer. You’ll need to seek help from your local money advice centre first (find yours here) and be able to show that you’ve thought about how you will manage your costs in the future. You can apply for a grant and get advice from the British Gas Energy Trust through their website.

Scottish Power Hardship Fund

Scottish Power has a fund to help low-income households get their energy payments under control. It can help by clearing or reducing arrears by crediting a customer’s ScottishPower energy account.

EDF Customer Support Fund

EDF provides support for individuals struggling to manage household energy debt. Find out more and apply here. 

E.ON Next Energy Bills Fund

This fund could help you pay your current or final E.ON Next energy bills and potentially replace old appliances. Find out more on the E.ON website.

Octopus Octo Assist Fund

If you’re an Octopus customer, you can access their financial support form here. It asks you a series of questions about your financial situation. They offer a number of support options including access to existing schemes, monetary support from the Octo Assist Fund, or a loan of a thermal imagery camera to find heat leaks at home.

You can also earn rewards with Octopus for using less at peak times this winter. You need a connected smart electricity meter to be eligible.

Ovo Energy Fund

Ovo offers to help come up with a payment plan to make paying your energy bills more manageable. The company also runs a Let’s Talk Energy Fund and you can apply for the scheme here

How to get charitable grants to pay your energy bills 

People who are struggling financially may be eligible for charitable grants this winter. You can find out what grants might be available to you using Turn2Us’ grant search. There are a huge range of grants available for different people – including those who are bereaved, disabled, unemployed, redundant, ill, a carer, veteran, young person or old person.

Grants are also usually available to people who have no recourse to public funds and cannot claim welfare benefits. Turn2Us helps people to access grants and support services if they’re in financial difficulty. If you contact them, they’ll check what’s available to you. 

Glasspool gives small grants for things like white goods, beds, bedding, children’s clothing and baby needs. For most charitable grants, you need to get a referral from a professional like a social worker, health professional, school or advice service.

Family Action provides practical, emotional and financial support to those who are experiencing poverty, disadvantage and social isolation across the country.

How to get help from your local council if you can’t pay your energy bills

If you are unable to pay your bills, your local council may have a scheme that can help you. Local councils may be able to give you debt advice, help you get hold of furniture, support you through food and fuel poverty. 

Councils across the country are organising measures to help local residents this winter in the cost of living crisis. It is worth checking out their website or contacting them directly if you need any support this winter. Your council may have a local welfare assistance scheme, also known as crisis support. Find out what support your council offers through End Furniture Poverty’s local welfare assistance finder.

How to find a warm bank near you if you can’t afford to heat your home

If you are struggling to pay your heating bills, warm banks will be a lifeline. They are public spaces where people can warm up and socialise with others. 

Warm Welcome has launched a virtual map of warm banks, making it much easier to find one near you. There were over 4,000 last time we checked, and that figure just keeps growing. All you need to do is type in your postcode and you’ll be able to find any warm banks registered with the campaign in your area. 

Another way to find a warm bank near you is to look on your local council’s website or contact it directly. Even if it is not running a warm bank itself, it should be able to direct you to a charity or other community organisation which is offering support this winter.

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