ADVICE FOR THOSE WORRIED ABOUT ENERGY BILLS AND FALLING INTO DEBT
If you’re worried about your energy bills or falling into debt, you’re not alone. And there are things you can do to help your situation. From making small changes in your home, to reaching out for support.
There are many reasons why someone may experience fuel debt, including:
- Low income
- Incorrect bills and lack of meter readings
- Inadequate insulation and heating
- Inefficient boiler
- Budgeting issues
- Change of circumstances, such as illness
- Bereavement or redundancy
If you can’t afford the energy you need or are in debt with your energy supplier, there is help available. Read on to find the help that suits you:
5 STEPS TO AVOID FUEL DEBT
If you're struggling to pay your energy bills, ensure you follow these steps to prevent things getting worse for you and those you live with:
- Choose the best payment method and tariff and switch supplier if they can offer you a better deal
- Improve the energy efficiency of your home
- Check that you are claiming all of the benefits you are entitled to
- If you are unable to pay your bill, contact your supplier and let them know
- Provide your supplier with a monthly meter reading to ensure you receive an accurate bill, or request a smart meter which will send your meter readings automatically
SWITCHING SUPPLIER AND FUEL DEBT
Switching supplier could save hundreds of pounds on your energy bills. Just make sure you choose an online price comparison site which displays the ‘Ofgem confidence code’, such as the Citizens Advice comparison tool. This can help you find the best deal.
There may be circumstances where the existing supplier can prevent switching to a new supplier – this normally occurs where there is an existing fuel debt and the current supplier insists that this debt be recovered before a transfer will be allowed. You'll need to speak to your energy supplier if you are in this situation.
An exception is prepayment meter customers who are allowed to switch supplier with a debt of up to £500 for gas and £500 for electricity, under a process called the Debt Assignment Protocol.
To help with your energy bills, you can also check that you’re on the cheapest tariff and choose the best payment option for your needs. A smart meter could help you switch to a better deal, as you’ll have accurate energy usage information which could help you choose the supplier and tariff that suits you best. Smart meters are set up to work for both prepay and credit customers.
Some smart meter owners can access time-of-use tariffs, which could help save you money if you are able to use less energy during periods of high demand (known as peak periods) and more energy during periods of low demand (known as off peak periods).
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND USAGE
It’s important that you use the energy you need to keep warm, safe and healthy at home. And making small changes in how you do this can often have a big impact on bills. Simple Energy Advice can provide help in managing this. This site includes energy efficiency advice as well as tips on how to reduce your energy usage.
Smart meters could also help you to find ways to reduce energy waste around the home and save money. The in-home display shows you in near-real time the amount of energy being used in pounds and pence, allowing you to keep a closer eye on your energy spending habits.
WARM HOME DISCOUNT
The Warm Home Discount scheme is a programme that offers support with energy costs to low income vulnerable households. All of the main energy suppliers are required to participate in the scheme and a number of other electricity suppliers participate on a voluntary basis.
This year, eligible households could get a £140 discount on their electricity bills. Householders wishing to enquire about the Warm Home Discount eligibility criteria should contact their energy supplier here.
BENEFIT ENTITLEMENT CHECK
Contact the organisations listed in the ‘Sources of support and advice’ section below to get a benefit entitlement check and debt support. These organisations can also help you to access specific grants and trust funds which some energy suppliers provide to give additional support to some of their most vulnerable customers.
These trust funds can help clear energy debt and assist with other essential household costs.
IF YOU CANNOT PAY YOUR BILL
If you are in debt to your energy supplier and struggling to get on top of it, then speak to your supplier as soon as possible. If they know there is a problem, they can work with you to find a solution. There are different options available, one is to ask to set up a payment plan and be realistic about what you can afford to repay. You don’t want to leave yourself short for other essential bills.
CHECK YOUR ENERGY BILLS AND PROVIDE ACCURATE METER READINGS
Take regular meter readings and submit them to your energy supplier - this will help you keep an eye on your energy use and keep your bills accurate. You can find guidance on taking meter readings here.
You can also ask your energy supplier for a smart meter. They enable accurate, not estimated bills – meaning you only pay for what you use. They also send your meter readings securely to your energy supplier, so you don’t have to.
SOURCES OF SUPPORT AND ADVICE
These organisations can help with debt assistance and benefits advice:
|Programme||How can they help?||Contact details|
|NEA’s Warm and Safe at Home service||The NEA’s Warm and Safe at Home service offers free support service providing advice to householders on your energy bills and keeping warm in your home. They can also help with benefits advice and income maximisation.||
You can call 0800 138 8218.
|StepChange Debt Charity||
The StepChange Debt Charity provides free independent debt advice.
Please call 0800 138 1111 for advice.
|National Debtline||The National Debtline can offer free independent debt advice.||
You can call 0808 808 4000
|The Money Advice Service||The Money Advice Service provides free impartial money advice to help improve your finances.||
Please call 0800 138 7777 for more information.
|Citizens Advice Debt Helpline||The Citizens Advice Debt Helpline offers free advice for all types of debt and money guidance.||
Call 0800 240 4420 for more information.
|Turn2Us||Turn2Us help people in financial need to identify local benefit advisors and grant support.||
You can call 0808 802 2000 to identify support in your area.
PRIORITY SERVICES REGISTER
It’s really important that both your supplier and Distribution Network Operator (DNO) know if you are in a vulnerable situation, so they can include you on their priority services register. This includes people who are of pensionable age, have children under 5, have a disability or longterm medical condition.
Being on the register means that you will be prioritised in the event of a power cut and you will receive additional non-financial services such as password security or information in different formats. If you have difficulty contacting your supplier you can register with your DNO first and when prompted give permission for your data to be shared with your gas and electricity supplier. Find your DNO’s contact details on your fuel bill here.
REQUEST YOUR SMART METER
Join the millions of Brits who are already using a smart meter and accompanying in-home display to reduce the energy usage in their homes.
Simply type your energy supplier in the box below and we'll redirect you to their website.
What is a smart meter?
Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in homes across Great Britain at no extra cost, to replace the traditional meters, including prepay key meters, most of us currently have ticking away under the stairs, or outside our homes. Smart meters record your energy use in the same way as a traditional meter but then send the readings automatically to your energy supplier at least monthly, allowing them to prepare an accurate bill.
How do smart meters work?
Your smart meter measures how much gas and electricity you use and securely shares this directly with your energy supplier at least once a month and your portable in-home display in near real time. You won't have to take any meter readings manually - your smart meter will send automatic readings to your energy supplier via the secure smart data network which is solely for smart meters. This works in a similar way as other wireless systems but does not use the internet.