A family on a low income can struggle to keep up the credit on their pre-paid energy meter. Millions need assistance each year paying electric bills. One place to turn to for help in topping up is a local council welfare scheme. In an emergency the scheme may provide financial aid to a family on a low income so that they can get their heat or electric on, credit placed on their meter, and it keeps their power on.
Prepayment meters are used by over 6 million households in the UK. Most of them are installed in homes or flats of the low income. Many homeowners or tenants with pay as you go meters are on welfare or benefits with their local council, or in fuel poverty. Meters are installed by energy suppliers for people that were in debt previously.
How do prepayment meters work?
Prepayment meters require the customer to pay money each and every day, week, or month for their electricity. A credit is placed on the meter using a key, token or smart card. The meter is usually for customers that have fallen into debt arrears with their utility bills.
Families on a low income, pensioners, people impacted by a job loss or financial crisis may struggle to keep up with their prepayment meter as they are often in debt. The fact they were previously in arrears on their utility bills confirms that. If the payment on the meter is difficult to make, the council may be able to help.
As the customer pays (tops up) the prepayment meter, they are also paying the debt arrears on their account. So both the current utility bill and arrears are being paid at the same time. Council welfare grants are aimed at doing both of that as well – pay the arrears as well as keep the lights and electric on.
It can be difficult for a struggling family to keep up with all the household expenses they have – food; rent; energy; clothes; fuel and more. A prepayment meter can often go unpaid due to this. If this happens, and before the electric or heat is cut off, a local council welfare grant may help pay the bills.
Help topping up prepayment meters from welfare schemes
In an emergency, a council welfare scheme can help a family local to that city, borough, or district pay the bills. Each and every scheme is discretionary. The central government sets the funding each year, and when the money runs out no one else can be assisted. One expense that can be paid, and is fairly common, is topping up a prepayment meter.
The council will require the family apply for a welfare grant. The assistance can come a few different ways. It may be a grant (that does not need to be repair); loans or vouchers for paying for prepayment meters. Most of the welfare schemes are for people local to the area who are on benefits, Universal credit, Jobseekers, or some other government scheme. In addition, the applicant will need to be over 18, have a low income and limited or no savings.
Welfare can top-up a pay as you go meter with credit for future usage or pay any arrears on the account. A council will normally give a smartcard to do this. Cash will rarely (if ever) be given to the applicant. Some councils have partnerships with PayPoint or Payzone shops in which assistance (or vouchers) can be picked up there.
Welfare can provide a credit to top-up a prepayment meter. But the government financial assistance scheme can pay other bills as well. Or a council can give out free items, such as food, clothes, white goods, heating units and more. To learn more, find how to apply for welfare from council near you.