What financial help is available and where do you go to find out?
According to a recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey, nearly half of Britons are finding it somewhat or very difficult to pay their energy bills. On top of this, the inflation rate is at 9.9 per cent — a 40-year high. To support those struggling to pay their energy bills or top-up prepayment meters, there are certain grants, benefits and help offered by the government and energy suppliers. This guide helps you explore all the discounts, grants and support you may be eligible for.
- 1) Talk to your energy supplier
- 2) Energy Suppliers’ Hardship Fund
- 3) Receive £400 under Energy Bills Support Scheme
- If you pay your landlord for energy
- 4) Receive £150 rebate if you pay council tax
- 5) Warm Home Discount Scheme
- Beware of energy scams
1) Talk to your energy supplier
If you’re running behind on your energy bill payments, including prepay customers, your first step should be to speak to your energy supplier. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) stipulates that your supplier is obliged to help you by reviewing your existing plan, including any debt. Your case will be considered individually and a new plan negotiated based on what you can afford. You might be offered more time to pay, a reduction in what you owe, and possibly access to hardship funds.
2) Energy Suppliers’ Hardship Fund
Big energy suppliers have charitable funds to help support their customers struggling to pay their bills. British Gas fund is open to non-customers as well. Before you can apply for help through their hardship fund, you need to speak to a debt adviser. You can contact British gas on 0333 202 9804. Once you have spoken with a debt adviser, you can fill in the relevant form and provide proof of income. Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis and those most in need are prioritised. Funds are limited and claims can take weeks to process, so it’s best to apply early.
3) Receive £400 under Energy Bills Support Scheme
The Energy Bills Support Scheme is part of the Government’s ‘cost of living support’ package. It gives every household in England, Wales, and Scotland with a domestic electricity meter, £400 off their electricity bill. Households in Northern Ireland will receive this discount via the Northern Ireland Energy Bills Support Scheme directly on their bills.
You should receive this grant automatically and don’t have to pay it back. Most households should have received their first payment of £66 by the end of October 2022. If you haven’t received your first payment or are not on a smart prepayment meter, you must contact your supplier to receive it.
The grant is paid in 6 monthly instalments starting from October 2022 as follows:
- An instalment of £66 each in October 22 and November 22
- An instalment of £67 each in December 22, January 23, February 23 and March 23
You’ll receive this discount monthly, as stated above, even if you pay your bill quarterly or use a payment card. How you receive this grant depends on how you pay your energy bill. In most cases, it will take one of the following forms:
- Your direct debit will be reduced.
- The grant will be credited automatically to your energy account.
- A voucher will be sent (by sms, email or post) to be used on electricity or gas when you’re topping up as usual.
Make sure your supplier has your up-to-date contact details. For further information, contact your energy supplier.
You should still receive the discount if your circumstances change. For example, if you change your address, tariff, supplier, payment method, your supplier goes bust, or you’re in arrears on your electricity bill payments. Again, get in touch with your supplier for more details.
If you’re 1% of households who live in a houseboat, park home or are off the grid and don’t have a domestic electricity meter, then the government will provide you equivalent support of £400 from further funding available for this.
If you pay your landlord for energy
If you pay for your energy through an intermediary like a landlord or your home is on a heat network, the energy discount still applies to you. Your intermediary is legally obliged to pass on a fair amount of any energy discount from a government scheme to you in a ‘just and reasonable way’. They should write to you within 30 days of receiving the benefit, explaining how much they’ve received, how much will be passed on to you, and when. If you feel you should receive more, you can write to them using these template letters provided by the government. Civil proceedings are the only way forward if there’s still disagreement.
4) Receive £150 rebate if you pay council tax
You can receive a £150 rebate from your council to help pay your energy bills if you pay council tax and your household falls in council tax band A-D. This rebate is limited to one person per household. You should have received this automatically in April 2022. If you haven’t, you should contact your council before the scheme ends on 30 November 2022.
You’ll receive the rebate even if you pay reduced council tax, including full reduction, and your household is in band A-D. You’ll also receive it if your home is in band A-E and you receive the Disabled Band Reduction discount. Lastly, if you’re subject to immigration control and your biometric permit has “no recourse to public funds” written on it, you’re still entitled to this discount.
If your house is in council tax bands E-H and you receive certain benefits, you may be entitled to receive financial help even if you can’t receive this rebate. Contact your council to find out more.
How you’ll receive the rebate
Your council should pay you this automatically if you had a direct debit set up before 31 March 2022 to pay your council tax. Local councils started making these payments directly into customers’ bank accounts in April 2022. You can still get this rebate even if you didn’t set up a direct debit before 31 March 2022 or don’t pay by direct debit.
Your local council will contact you and probably ask you to complete an online form. After you’ve filled in the form and given the council your details, it will make the payment as soon as possible. If your council hasn’t contacted you yet, then you should get in touch with it before the scheme closes on 30 November 2022 to claim the rebate.
If your bank account is overdrawn
If you don’t want this rebate money to pay off any overdraft, ask your bank to use the rebate money to pay your energy bills. This is called ‘exercising your first right of appropriation’. You can call the National Debtline to get more information on this.
Be careful of scammers
Your council might contact you and ask for your bank details to pay you.
If someone calls and asks you for any of your pins or passwords, including one-time passwords that get sent to your mobile or email, do not give these away. Also, if asked, do not make any payments to yourself. If anything seems suspicious, hang up and call the council tax department of your local council yourself to be on the safe side.
5) Warm Home Discount Scheme
If you are on certain benefits, you might be able to receive a £150 added to your prepayment meter, or £150 discount on your electricity bill. Payments are automatic in England and Wales, so you don’t have to apply for the scheme. In Scotland, some people will still need to apply for it. To receive this discount, you need to check from the list below whether the energy supplier you were with on 21 August 2022 was in this scheme. If you changed supplier after this date, you should still receive this discount from your previous supplier as long as it was in the scheme.
- Affect Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
- Atlantic (contact SSE)
- British Gas (including Scottish Gas)
- British Gas Evolve
- Co-op Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
- E (gas and electricity)
- E.on Next
- EDF Energy
- Green Energy UK
- Good Energy
- London Power (contact Octopus Energy)
- M&S Energy (contact Octopus Energy)
- Octopus Energy
- Outfox the Market
- Ovo Energy
- Rebel Energy
- Sainsbury’s Energy
- Scottish Power
- Shell Energy
- So Energy
- SSE Southern Electric
- SSE Scottish Hydro
- SSE Swalec
- Utility Warehouse
If you or your partner are in receipt of the Guarantee Credit component of Pension Credit, you should receive the Warm Home Discount.
You might also get the Warm Home Discount if you have ‘high energy costs’ (The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy -BEIS- sets the threshold of what “high energy costs” are each year) and receive one of the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit Savings Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
You can use the Government’s warm home discount eligibility checker to check eligibility online. If you are eligible but have yet to receive a letter by the middle of January 2023, you should contact the warm home discount helpline on 0800 107 8002.
Beware of energy scams
Energy scams are on the way up. Scammers try various ways to get hold of your personal information and bank details. You should be aware of these to protect yourself against them. For example, they may pretend to:
- Offer cheap prepayment meter top-up keys or cards.
- Offer green home improvement grants.
- Be from Ofgem – offering £400 energy rebate in exchange for personal information.
- Offer energy-saving devices.
- Be a supplier offering a refund.
- Be a debt collector asking for money you owe to an energy supplier that has gone bust.
- Offer energy investment opportunities.
Don’t just sit in the cold worrying about how you will pay your bills, seek out help from the above resources and get on top of it before you get in too deep.