How to get help on paying your energy bills this winter – and save over £1,000

But with energy bills rising it's harder than ever to keep down your gas and electricity bills.

Rising fuel bills is part of the reason that 2.55million households in the UK are trapped in fuel poverty, according to the government's 2018 statistic analysis.

That means more than one in ten households in the UK are forced below the poverty line by unaffordable energy bills.

The government is planning to cap bills for around 12million households who are on expensive Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs).

But analysts have warned that Ofgem's price caps will do little to stop energy price increases.

If you're worried you won't be able to afford to keep your house warm – don't panic!

There are plenty of sources of support available, here's the main ways you can get help:

Winter fuel payments – get up to £300

Eligible pensioners can receive annual one-off payments from the government of between £100 and £300.

How much you get will depend on your circumstances.

To qualify you need to be born on or before January 5, 1953.

It's paid automatically, usually in November or December, and you'll be sent a letter telling you how much you'll get and when exactly you can expect it.

If you haven't claimed it before and are not receiving benefits or a state pension, you can apply by visiting the winter fuel payment website.

Cold weather payments – get £25 a week

When the temperature drops below zero in your area, you could be entitled to £25 a week in cold weather payments. The temperature will have to stay that low for seven consecutive days.

The cold weather payment scheme for 2018-19 starts on November 1, 2018.

To qualify, you must one of a list of specific benefits including Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

You won't qualify if you are in a care home or subject to immigration control.

Payments should automatically be made into your bank or building society account within 14 days of the cold-spell being over.

Warm home discount scheme – get £140 a year

This is a one-off £140 payment which is designed to help with the cost of energy over winter.

Not all suppliers participate in the scheme, so you should bear this in mind if considering switching supplier. More suppliers are being brought into the scheme between 2019 and 2021, but it is still important to check/

There are two sets of people who are eligible.

The core group – Anyone who gets the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit and is named on the bill should automatically qualify for this benefit.

In theory, you should be identified by DWP and should not have to apply.

You'll receive a letter by December 7  informing you're on the scheme and letting you know if you need to confirm your details.

If you think you're eligible but haven't received a letter – phone the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214 to check. Do this as soon as possible, as the DWP may be unable to help if a claim is submitted too late.

Before you phone, check to see if your supplier is a participant of the scheme.

Broader group  – even if you didn't meet the 'core group' criteria, you may still be eligible for this benefit under your supplier's 'broader group' rules.

Each provider has different criteria, so you should check carefully.

All the suppliers must include some standard criteria such as being in receipt of income-related Employment and Support Allowance with a pensioner premium.

If you think you meet the broader criteria, you should contact your supplier straight away.


Switch and save £482

On average, Ofgem says you can save £300 by switching supplier, and said that more than ten per cent of its customers that switched in the past year saved £482. Here's what you need to do.

1. Shop around – Languishing on an expensive Standard Variable Rate tariff will cost you as much as £482 a year. Use a comparison site like, or to see what deals are on offer.

The cheapest deals are usually found online and are fixed deals – meaning you'll pay a fixed amount usually for 12 months.

2. Switch – When you've found one, all you have to do is contact the new supplier.

It helps to have the following information – which you can find on your bill –  to hand:

  • Your postcode
  • Name of your existing supplier
  • Name of your existing deal and how much you pay
  • An up-to-date meter reading

Your new provider will notify your current supplier and begin the switch.

It should take no longer than three weeks to complete and your supply won't be interrupted in that time.

Budgeting loans

You may be able to get a budgeting loan from the Social Fund to help with intermittent expenses.

You're more likely to be eligible if you receive Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
Universal Credit claimants can apply for a Budgeting Advance.
You will need to have been receiving benefits for more than six months to apply.

The loans are interest free, but must be paid back. They are designed to help with intermittent expenses which are difficult to budget such as the cost of installing a prepayment meter or connection charges if you move home.

Grants –  to clear your arrears

You might be able to get help from your local authority through 'housing renewal insurance' or through Local Welfare Provision schemes. Some might be able to help with heating costs or emergencies such as a boiler breakdown.

Check to see what support your local authority provides and check whether it is a loan or a grant before you accept anything.

If there is a Home Improvement Agency, they may be able to apply to their charitable arm, the Foundations Independent Living Trust, for grants to help make your home warmer.

Some suppliers have charitable trusts or funding schemes to help when things go wrong. Some only offer grants to their customers while others like British Gas and EDF have schemes that are open to anyone.

To apply you'll have to give details of your financial situation and Citizens' Advice recommends getting help from charity


What to do if you can't pay your bills

If you're struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.

Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.

One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable installments.

You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)

If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.

In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

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