Falling behind on your utility bills can be very stressful. There are a number of services available that can assist low income families and people that are facing a crisis. Getting help with your electricity and gas needs can ensure that you retain access to power while you are working to repair your finances.
The government as well as most energy suppliers have created electric bill assistance programmes. Many companies also offer payment plans to customers. Households can also get help from not-for profits or government agencies in their local city. These have all been established to help you deal with specific scenarios where you are unable to afford your high bills. Your needs will dictate which type of scheme is best for your household.
Emergency Electricity and Gas Bill Assistance
Falling behind on your heating bill can result in shut-offs and expensive re-connection fees. Households that experienced a financial emergency may be granted a cash credit or grant towards paying their energy bills. Solutions may be provided from a number of sources to help you deal with a temporary financial crisis and keep your power on.
Households can struggle due to the result of a catastrophic event such as a medical emergency or car crash. A job loss could also be a qualifying event for such financial aid. Depending on the programme, you could be eligible for a one-time cash payment towards your energy bill to get you through the hardship. In some cases, funding may be approved to cover the cost of your bill for more than one month and may even cover any arrears on your account.
Local Grant Programmes for Paying Energy Bills
City Councils partner with non-profit organisations and charities in an effort to help vulnerable families pay their energy bills, in particular during the winter months. Grants can sometimes be issued to very low income households, people with a disability, the elderly, or individuals with a mental illness. These programmes are focused on people in the immediate area that are found to be eligible for help.
One programme being run by Fuel Banks will provide families living in or near poverty with a credit on either their gas, or if needed, electricity bills. It will also provide the customer with enough financial help so they can keep their power on for up to two weeks. The scheme is being run by energy companies and not-for-profits, such as the Trussell Trust. It will require both a referral and voucher from the applicant, and find how vouchers from Fuel Banks can assist the low income.
Most of the financial assistance is for individuals that are faced with a disconnection of their electricity or gas. The grants can be used to pay the arrears on your account and maybe bring it current. The councils will generally offer these services in partnership with independent trustees in an effort to ensure that the money goes to those that are most in need. Find more information below on local resources.
Belfast – Residents can purchase fuel stamps at retailers and centres across the city. They can be used to pay for electricity or energy bills and can also be combined fuel with grants. Continue with Belfast fuel stamps payment plan.
Birmingham families facing a crisis can receive help with paying their gas and fuel bills from the Local Welfare Provision. The council uses funds from the central government to issue a pre-paid card, which can help the vulnerable pay their bills, including electricity, while they address the emergency. Find out more on the grants from the Birmingham Local Welfare and how they can help the low income.
Cumbria Community Foundation issues grants to older people as part of the Winter Warmth Fund. All funds will prioritise the vulnerable that are facing a shut off or that need help to keep the heat on during the winter. Funds can also be used for arrears on a bill, and get more information on the Winter Warmth Fund in Cumbria.
Edinburgh charitable trust provides a grant to people with a local connection. The funds can be used to pay any arrears or current costs due for a number of utility bills, including electricity, gas, and also water bills. Financial aid is only for households with a very low income, and any help from Edinburgh emergency fuel and electricity grants is one time only.
London boroughs – The local government agencies may offer grants for paying gas heating bills during the winter. Each council will offer their own scheme to pensioners, low income residents, and the those in fuel poverty. The assistance for paying any bill will be in the form of a credit on the account, and find more information on gas heating bill help in London.
Manchester – The local council can provide one time emergency aid for electrifying bills. Funding is limited, but many do get help. It is for those that meet defined poverty levels. Find how to apply for the Manchester Council energy bill program.
Richmond Upon Thames borough – A charity known as Hampton Fuel can help with electricity costs. Any funds paid out will be sent directly to your energy supplier in the form of a cash grant.
Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead uses a combination of grants and pre-paid fuel cards to help households on a low income pay their electricity bills. The welfare programme from the council can also assist with gas arrears during the winter months and specialists from the borough can even help negotiate a payment plan with the customers fuel provider. Read Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Welfare Provision.
Those who are receiving benefit payments likely qualify for subsidised electricity bills as well. While it may come in various forms, this subsidy is generally in the form of a monthly cap, guaranteeing that your bill does not exceed a certain level regardless of the amount actually used by your household. This will help ensure the families payment is set at a somewhat reasonable amount each month.
Not only may someone be given a subsidy, but you may also be covered by one of the programmes that provide direct help with paying electricity and gas bills. So there are different services that can be offered for those who may not otherwise be able to afford their current payments.
Warm Home Discount Scheme from the Government
The Warm Home Discount Scheme could provide eligible households a credit on their account of as much as £140. The government created programme can help with paying electricity or other costs, such as heating bills. This credit could be in addition to any other Cold Weather Payments or Winter Fuel Payments, so it is very effective.
If you qualify, a single credit of up to £140 can be applied to your electricity bill. It is generally made during the winter months (between October and March). If you use an electricity meter, then your supplier may provide you with a voucher. The result of this credit is that you owe far less on your total usage during the winter and the amount that people need to pay to heat their home will be much lower.
To qualify you must be a recipient of the Guaranteed Credit portion of the Pension Credit. You may also qualify if you currently receive Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, or if you get the Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. You or your spouse/partner’s name must appear on the actual electricity account. Other conditions may apply as well. Several energy suppliers participate in the scheme. If you were told that you do not qualify but believe that you may, contact:Warm Home Discount Team Pink Zone, 1st Floor Peel Park Brunel Way Blackpool FY4 5ES
You may also contact your supplier directly to inquire about other resources they offer. Many will provide vulnerable customers with other winter bill credits that you may qualify for.
Cold Weather Payment Scheme
This is available during the winter when there is a very cold stretch of weather. The government mandated Cold Weather Payment Scheme can provide a credit of up to £25 each time you experience 7 consecutive days with an average of zero degrees Celsius or below in temperature. This period lasts from November through March.
Note it takes time to get assistance from this. It will generally take up to 2 weeks to receive help with your electricity bill if you are enrolled in the scheme. Eligibility requirements include the individual must have Pension Credit, Income Support, a Jobseeker’s Allowance, or the Income-related Employment and Support Allowance. Some households enroll in the scheme if they receive the Universal Credit.
Assistance for Winter Heating Bills
Households in fuel poverty and people threatened with a disconnection during the winter months can get help for their heating costs. Customers, in particular the vulnerable such as families facing a one off crisis, senior citizens or individuals with a physical disability, are some of the main beneficiaries of the assistance programmes. Fuel suppliers are required to find some type of solution other than shutting off the heat, so they may offer installment plans for heating bill arrears, and local councils can also provide funds from welfare or even pre-paid fuel cards for paying these costs. Other options may include extra payments when the weather is cold, deductions from benefits, and much more. Locate the options for low income families for heating bill assistance.
Free Government Advice and Equipment Upgrades
Advice is available from Home Energy Scotland for residents who are having difficulty affording energy bills. Over a third of Scottish households have already benefitted from the service.
Benefits range from help with unaffordable utility bills to free upgrades on home heating systems and insulation. Help from the government can reduce the average bill. A simple call to the Greener Scotland Advice Line can initiate the process.
Assistance from Energy Suppliers
Companies will offer customers that are struggling access to payment plans and other financial assistance for paying their electric and gas bills. Another step that people should take is to always review their current tariff to ensure they are receiving the lowest price possible. In order to do this, customers need to understand the terminology used on their bills, and this can be complicated. There are resources that can provide an explanation of terms used by fuel suppliers.
You can call your supplier to talk a representative to go over any programmes they offer, many of which are indicated below. They will work with you to try to find a solution. Most suppliers don’t want to disconnect a household’s power, so they will review with the customer any grants or government schemes that may help with either paying or saving money on energy.
British Gas offers help and advice for low income families and households in fuel poverty. The company can assist people with reviewing the benefits they currently receive for paying their heating bills, such as the Warm Home Discount Scheme and Winter Payments, and customer service representatives also enroll customers into payment plans for their electric bills. Other options include grants, a review of tariffs, and other support. Read details on how British Gas helps with bills.
British Gas Energy Trust – The British Gas Energy Trust provides assistance towards delinquent fuel costs. The purpose is to provide relief to poor households who are at risk for disconnection of service. If you qualify for one of these grants or some other form of financial aid, you could receive enough help for your gas bills to clear your arrearages. Click more British Gas Energy Trust grants.
EDF Energy – Assistance is provided to low income customers from several different programmes. There are the standard government schemes and discount plans available as well as resources such as winter fuel payments. The EDF Energy Trust is one such provider of energy grants. They operate a charity that provides grants for paying electricity or gas bills in order to prevent a disconnection. This charitable organisation can help clear your delinquent fuel bill balance through what is known as Further Assistance Payments. Learn more the services from EDF Energy.
First Utility provides assistance with electricity and heating bills to vulnerable customers. While they are the United Kingdoms largest independent energy supplier, they allow customers to pay their costs from government schemes such as Fuel Direct. Other programmes include payment or installment plans for arrears and a foundation can provide grants for paying expenses. There are other services provided, and find how First Utility helps with energy bills.
Npower provides low income households with solutions. They range from short and long term payment plans to discount schemes. Another key resource from the company is the Energy Fund, which reduces the amount that the customer needs to pay towards their utility bills. Locate additional help from npower.
OVO Energy – The provider operates a scheme that provides grants as well as money management workshops to struggling customers. Applicants need to be at least £50 to apply for the scheme. The electric bill assistance will be run in partnership with Citizens Advice. Find how to apply for the OVO Energy Fund.
Southern Electric – They encourage all people to call them right away if they are struggling with their electricity bills or other energy costs. Some of the specific programmes they operate include a Careline for the disabled and special payment plans. Representatives will also tell customers how to save money on their household energy bills. Read more Southern Electric assistance.
ScottishPower offers assistance to their customers from a number of programmes. Any family that is in arrears should call the customer service team as soon as possible to learn more on schemes for energy bills, or they can enter into payment plans such as the Protected Service. The aim is to help the customer find an affordable solution for their utility costs and pay down any debts owed. Learn more on ScottishPower plans for low income customers.
Utility Warehouse will offer savings in the form of low tariffs, free advice on how to conserve energy, and also guarantees to not raise rates on accounts for a period of time. If those solutions are not enough, then struggling customers or those facing a financial hardship can call the customer service team to learn about payment plans for any arrears on their gas or electricity bills. There is also a promise to not turn off heat during the winter, or find more information on assistance with Utility Warehouse bills.
Some support is provided directly through your gas company. Fuel suppliers have a responsibility to provide you with an arrangement where you may have many months or even longer to catch up on any arrears, and this is also a focus for heating costs to keep people warm during the winter. Terms of any programme will vary based on supplier and the individual’s financial situation. Your actual agreement will depend on your ability to afford the extra payments to cover the arrears.
Any type of plan agreed too can allow you some flexibility to repay your delinquent electricity or fuel charges over time without fearing disconnection of your service. Note that if you do not proactively contact your energy supplier to make an arrangement to repay the arrears, they can turn off your service. You could receive a disconnection notice in as little as 10 days.
Households that depend on higher energy usage due to care for an elderly adult or someone with a disability may qualify to cap their bills using a meter, or they can use benefits for the payment of their bills. A prepayment meter can allow you to retain service while simultaneously paying a portion towards the delinquent costs. Some customers mistakenly agree to repayment terms that they cannot afford so make sure that you do not accept a plan that is not feasible. Low income and people in poverty have different solutions available to them, and find the details on energy bill payment plans and arrangements.