In most cases, it’s best to get ahead of any problems with paying as early as possible, so let your supplier know that you’re struggling to pay - they’re obligated by Ofgem to help you come up with a workable payment plan, so the earlier they know, the better. There are a range of options they might be able to offer on a case-by-case basis, including:
More time to pay
Access to hardship funds
However your repayment plan is structured, don’t worry - your energy supply won’t be cut off.
There are plenty of government schemes available to help you cut the cost of your energy bills. Our tool below can help you quickly work out which ones you're eligible for - you can find out more about each scheme below.
If you receive pension credit or one of a number of other benefits, you could be eligible for the government's Warm Home Discount. This scheme is a one-off £150 rebate on the cost of your electricity bill. If you're eligible and your supplier offers the scheme, you'll usually receive the discount automatically between October and March.
Our Warm Home Discount guide can give you more information, including which suppliers offer the scheme.
The Winter Fuel Payment is a payment from the government to help the elderly pay for their energy over the winter months. While most people are enrolled automatically you should still check if you’re not sure whether you qualify. If you are aged 60 or over, you may qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment of up to £300, to help you meet the costs of keeping warm in the winter.
To find out more about the payment and to see if you qualify, visit the Uswitch guide to the Winter Fuel Payment.
The Cold Weather Payment is similar to the Winter Fuel Payment, but only rarely comes into force. The Cold Weather Payment is a £25 payment for each week that the temperature drops below zero Celsius for seven consecutive days. The payment is only available for cold weather snaps that occur between 1 November and 31 March, and households must qualify.
For more information and to see if you qualify, visit the Cold Weather Payment guide page.
Hardship funds are available from all the bigger suppliers. These are funds specifically earmarked to help customers in need, and often include grants and other help to upgrade boilers and improve insulation. The application process can be fairly rigorous - it varies between suppliers but at a minimum, you’ll probably need to provide breakdowns of your income and expenditure - so you’ll need to speak to a debt advisor (as a requirement) before applying.
Find out more about the help offered by the bigger energy suppliers below:
British Gas - as well as all the usual ways of helping people with energy payments, including payment plans, the possibility of installing a prepayment meter and so on, the British Gas Energy Trust, may be able to help the most vulnerable customers. To date, it has doubled the emergency credit available to customers who are on prepayment meters and its Support Fund has been increased to £6 million, among other actions
EDF Energy - along with the Priority Services Register, EDF works with various third-party organisations to support customers with managing their money, increasing income through financial benefits and helping with energy debts via a Customer Support Fund, which it has increased to £6.4 million
E.ON - the E.ON Energy Fund supports customers in terms of helping with bill payments and repairing or replacing household appliances and equipment, along with learning and support initiatives. Funding currently stands at £3.5 million
E.ON Next - in addition to the Priority Services Register, there is an Energy Fund available to help the most vulnerable customers
Octopus - along with the usual ways of supporting customers who require help managing their bills, Octopus set up a £5 million Octo Assist Fund for customers specifically to help through the winter of 2021-22, which has now been increased to £7 million. It has also implemented schemes to help customers understand their energy usage better and help them through the colder months with donations of electric blankets
OVO - customers having trouble paying their energy bills are supported in a range of ways, including coming up with payment plans, giving guidance, taking payment directly via schemes like Fuel Direct, providing help via the OVO Energy Fund and more. It has also provided a £2m package of support to StepChange
ScottishPower - among other measures, ScottishPower offers advice and support when it comes to paying energy bills and devising payment plans. It also has a Hardship Fund designed to help reduce or clear arrears for those customers most in need
SSE - vulnerable customers will be able to access help when managing bills and payments by speaking to SSE’s team so they can determine the best way of helping
If you're with a supplier not on the list and you're struggling with your bills, it's worth getting in touch with them to see what support they're able to offer. It's worth pointing out that even if you owe your energy supplier or you are renting your property, you still have the right to switch in order to save money, though that's not much of an option with few affordable deals around right now.
Councils are able to help customers in need by dipping into the Household Support Fund, a pot of £500 million available to spend between October 2021 and March 2022. It’s not solely an energy fund - it was established to help people as a result of the pandemic, so it could be used for other utilities and essentials. Eligibility depends on the council, so it’s worth getting in touch to see if you qualify.
There are a number of charities which are available for help and advice if you're struggling to manage your energy bills, as well.
StepChange - available online or by calling 0800 138 1111, StepChange provides free debt advice to those who need it
NEA (National Energy Action) - available online or by calling 0800 304 7159, NEA provides free debt advice to those who need it in England and Wales
Home Energy Scotland - available online or by calling 0808 196 8660, Home Energy Scotland provides free debt advice to those who need it in Scotland, as well as checking your eligibility for funding options such as grants and interest-free loans
NI Energy Advice - available online or by calling 0800 111 4455, NI Energy Advice provides impartial energy advice for those living in Northern Ireland
Citizens Advice - available online or by calling 0808 223 1133, Citizens Advice provides impartial energy advice and can also provide dedicated support to the most vulnerable customers
National Debt Line - available online or by calling 0808 808 4000, National Debt Line provides free and independent debt advice to those living in England, Scotland and Wales
Age UK - available online or by calling 0800 169 6565 (0800 124 4222 in Scotland), this is the leading charity for helping older people
Scope - available online or by calling 0808 801 0828, Scope is a charity that offers free energy advice to disabled people on subjects including managing debt, accessing benefits and grants, understanding bills and registering for the Priority Services Register.
These are just some of the charities that can help you find solutions to managing your payments and provide free, expert, non-judgemental and confidential advice and support. There may also be localised initiatives and groups that can help in your specific area, so take a look around to see what might be available to you if you need it.
The Debt Respite Scheme is designed to give people struggling with bills some breathing space - if you’re eligible, your creditors will not be allowed to continue with any enforcement activity or add any further fees or interest for the duration. Check out StepChange for more details on applying.
The government has committed to the following relief measures for energy customers:
£300 one-off payment to pensioner households
£650 one-off payment to those receiving certain work benefits, such as Universal Credit payments
£150 one-off payment to those receiving certain disability benefits
£400 one-off payment to all energy customers in England, Scotland and Wales.
Councils and local authorities are also allocated government funding to help vulnerable households.
In January 2022, the Communities Minister for Northern Ireland unveiled a new Energy Payment Support Scheme which will give about 280,000 people who receive specific benefits a one-off payment of £200 at a date to be specified. The qualifying week is 13-19 December 2021 - you’re eligible for the payment if, during that week, you lived in Northern Ireland and received at least one of the following:
Income-related employment and support allowance
Income-based jobseekers allowance
Similarly, the Welsh government announced a £100 payment for an estimated 350,000 energy customers struggling to pay their bills in November 2021. It’s called the Winter Fuel Support Scheme and will be paid between January and 30 April 2022. However, applications have to be made by 28 February 2022. You’re eligible if you were receiving one of the following benefits between 1 December 2021 and 31 January 2022:
Income-based jobseekers allowance
Income-related employment and support allowance
Working tax credits
The Welsh government also pledged to match the £150 Council Tax rebate to all households who live in properties in council tax bands A-D, as well as recipients of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in all bands.
£25m will also be provided to local authorities so they can use their local knowledge to help households who may be struggling. Further funding will be provided via the Discretionary Assistance Fund and the Winter Fuel Support Scheme, which will deliver an additional £200 later this year to low-income households receiving certain benefits. Eligible households will be able to claim the payment from their local authority to be used towards paying fuel bills. The payment will be available regardless of whether you have a prepayment, direct debit or credit account, and regardless of whether you use off-grid fuel.
The scheme opened for applications on 26 September 2022 with the Welsh Government expecting the first payments to have been made in October 2022.
For prepayment customers, the Fuel Voucher Scheme will distribute vouchers worth £30 or £49 to households with prepayment meters and at risk of disconnection. In order to be eligible, households will be referred for support by one of a network of referral partners. There will be a maximum of three vouchers per household in a six-month period, with some discretion in special cases.
The Scottish government has announced the allocation of its funding to help deal with the cost of living crisis. This includes:
£150 to every household in receipt of Council Tax Reduction in any Council Tax band
£150 for local authorities to pass on to all other occupied households in Bands A to D
£10 million throughout 2022-23 to continue the Fuel Insecurity Fund, which helps households which would self-ration energy use due to unaffordable fuel costs from having to do so.
A government scheme called Fuel Direct allows customers on certain benefits to pay energy debts directly from the benefit payments. The Jobcentre or Pension Centre will be able to set it up for you. Those on Universal Credit will have 5% deducted, while those on other benefits (such as jobseeker’s allowance, income support, pension credit and so on) will have £3.70 deducted each week, plus an additional cost for ongoing usage. If that amount comes to less than 25% of your benefits, though, the payment to the supplier may have already been set up without your permission, so make sure you check.
We know that improving energy efficiency can be key in helping keep heating costs down, but adding insulation or replacing a boiler can be some of the most expensive measures to take. However, there is help available from different organisations for those eligible. If you need help finding any schemes you might be eligible for, take a look at the Simple Energy Advice website, the Energy Saving Trust or Home Energy Scotland.
Finally, it's also possible to save on your energy bills by cutting back on your usage. We've rounded up some clever ways to save energy in our guide. You can also download Utrack, Uswitch's new free mobile app, which connects to your smart meter and gives you personalised insights into your energy usage. This will show you where you can make positive changes to keep bills down as much as possible - find out more below.
Are you eligible for a Cold Weather Payment this year? Find out if you could claim £25 for every week of cold weather this winter.Learn more
The government has announced a series of relief measures aimed at helping energy customers through a difficult financial period. Find out what's on the table here.Learn more