WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU NEED HELP WITH ENERGY BILLS
As the cost of living has increased, more of us are worried about being able to pay our energy bills. And if you’re on a tight budget, you may already be struggling. If you can’t afford the energy you need or are already in debt with your energy supplier, there is help available. Continue reading to find out more about where you can get support and help with energy debt.
WHY MIGHT SOMEONE NEED HELP WITH ENERGY BILLS?
Apart from increased energy prices, there are many other reasons why people can struggle to pay their energy bills.
- being on a low income
- rising costs for rent, mortgage payments, food and other everyday essentials
- your home isn’t well insulated
- your heating or other appliances are old and expensive to run
- your bills are based on estimates, not how much energy you’ve actually used
- you have difficulties with budgeting
- your personal circumstances have recently changed, perhaps because you’ve been ill, lost your job
or lost a loved one
If you can’t afford the energy you need or are in debt with your energy supplier, there is help available.
This guide has been developed by Smart Energy GB, a not-for-profit helping everyone in Britain to understand the importance of smart meters, with support from National Energy Action, and Energy Action Scotland - national charities helping people to stay warm and healthy in their homes.
Read on to find the help that suits you:
This information was last checked on 1st June 2023 and was correct at that time. Things could have changed since then, so please visit the web links provided for the most up-to-date information.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED HELP WITH ENERGY BILLS?
CHECK IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR ANY GOVERNMENT GRANTS OR SCHEMES TO HELP YOU PAY FOR YOUR ENERGY BILLS
If you are struggling to pay your gas or electricity bills, you might be able to get help from certain schemes or grants offered by governments or energy suppliers. Click on the grants and schemes button below for more information:
CONTACT YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER TO SEE HOW THEY CAN HELP
If you can't pay your energy bills
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 are required to work with you to find a solution.
This could include setting up a payment plan that you can realistically afford to pay off the debt or getting a grant from your supplier to help pay it off. You don’t want to leave yourself short for other essential bills.
Check the section “Grants to help pay off your energy debts” on the Citizens Advice website to see if your supplier can help.
Best numbers to use to call your energy supplier
To keep the costs of phoning your energy supplier down, here is a list of low-cost or freephone contact numbers and textphone lines for some energy suppliers: smartenergyGB.org/supplier-free- phone-numbers. Alternatively, check your latest bill for your supplier’s contact details.
Support if you can't afford to top up
If you use a prepay meter and are worried about topping up, you might be able to access emergency credit which is applied automatically. You can check your supplier’s website to find out how you access emergency credit on your meter.
Some suppliers also offer friendly credit which is to help stop people running out of gas and electric during certain periods such as bank holidays and overnight.
Both forms of credit usually need to be repaid in full before you can access it again but if you are struggling it is important to speak to your supplier as soon as you can as they may have other help available.
Switching to a prepay meter
If you are finding it difficult to pay your energy bills on time and manage your budget, you can ask to switch to a prepay meter. If you switch to a smart prepay meter, any extra government support can be added automatically to your meter.
Energy suppliers cannot force you to switch to a prepay meter or remotely switch you, unless they have taken all reasonable steps to agree repayments with you. It should be a last resort, to avoid disconnecting you. There are also rules stopping suppliers from forcing people in vulnerable situations to have a prepay meter. All suppliers have now signed up to a new Code of Practice around installing prepay meters or remotely switching you to prepay. You can read it here: ofgem.gov.uk/publications/energy-suppliers-sign-new-code-practice-involuntary- prepayment-installations
TAKE REGULAR METER READINGS OR PROVIDE AUTOMATIC METER READINGS WITH A SMART METER
To keep your energy bills accurate, take regular meter readings and submit them to your energy supplier.
Your bill will show that your supplier has estimated the amount of energy you have used, sometimes with an “E” marked against the meter reading. You then have to pay that amount – even if you have used less. Estimated readings can lead to large, unexpected bills so you should regularly submit your accurate readings.
You can also ask your energy supplier if you can have a smart meter installed. Smart meters record how much electricity or gas you use – just like your existing meters. They automatically send readings to your energy supplier, so you get bills based on how much energy you used – not an estimate.
With a smart meter, you can also see how much energy you’re using on an in-home display. The in-home display is sometimes called an IHD. It comes with the smart meter and can help you keep a closer eye on how much energy you’re using, and how much it’s costing you. This could help take some of the guesswork out of balancing your budget.
Smart meters can help you save energy, but it’s not automatic. Many people have said they find the in-home display useful. It allows you to have more information about your energy usage. This could help you work out how to save energy and money around the home. For example, by switching the TV off at the wall.
Other people prefer to leave the in-home display out of sight, and just check it occasionally so they know how much their energy costs have been.
If you’ve not used your in-home display before, you can ask your supplier for help or have a look at the information and user guides on the Citizens Advice website here.
There is also an accessible version of the in-home display called an accessible in-home display (AIHD). These are available from some suppliers. They have larger buttons and can read information out loud. An AIHD could be helpful if you:
are blind or partially sighted
have difficulties using your hands or wrists, or
have difficulties with memory loss
Smart prepay meters
If you’re on a prepay meter, you can get a smart meter too. With a smart prepay meter you can check on the IHD when it’s time to top up. Then you can top up online or on your phone, as well as in a shop.
Also, it means extra support with your energy costs can be automatically added to your meter instead of getting vouchers you have to take to a shop.
Learn more about smart meters at: smartenergyGB.org/about-smart-meters
Some homes can’t get a smart meter yet but will be able to get one before the end of the rollout. Your energy supplier can tell you if you can have one. They might also be able to tell you how soon you can get one installed.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND USAGE
Make your home more energy efficient
It’s important that you use the energy you need to keep warm, safe and healthy at home. By making a few simple or low-cost changes around the home, you could help cut the amount of energy you need to keep warm. That could mean lower bills.
The summer, when it’s warmer, is a great time to make changes to your home. That way, you’re more prepared for winter.
Here are some organisations that provide information and guidance on how to make your home more energy efficient.
|Country & Organisation||How can they help?||Contact details|
|Gov.uk (England & Wales only)||
For ideas of home improvements that could make your property cheaper to heat and keep warm
|Energy Saving Trust (England & Wales only)||
Get expert tips on ways to save energy in your home.
|NEA’s Warm and Safe Homes Advice Service (WASH) (England and Wales only)||Free advice on your energy bills and keeping warm in your home. NEA can also help you work out if you’re getting all the benefits you are entitled to.||
Visit the WASH webchat (Opening times may vary): nea.org.uk/webchat
Speak to an adviser for free on 0800 304 7159
|Home Energy Scotland (Scotland only)||
Advice on finding funding to make your home warmer and other tips to reduce your energy bills and lower your carbon footprint.
|The Nest Scheme (Wales only)||Free, impartial energy saving advice and, if you are eligible, a package of free home energy efficiency improvements such as a new boiler, central heating, insulation or solar panels.||
|Care & Repair Cymru (Wales only)||
Care and Repair helps older people live in safety and comfort in their own homes.
Visit Care & Repair Cymru in your area: careandrepair.org. uk/en/your-area/Call/
Speak to Care & Repair:
|Free advice and support to ensure people across Wales have warm and safe homes||
EXTRA HELP FOR ENERGY CONSUMERS THAT NEED IT
Sign up to the Priority Services Register (PSR)
If you have a disability or rely on energy to help with a health condition, it may be a good idea to add yourself to the Priority Services Register (PSR). The PSR is a free and voluntary system that means the most vulnerable customers get the right support from energy suppliers.
That might include advance notice of any planned service interruptions, or priority in a power cut. Once you’re on the PSR, you may also be able to request large format or braille bills to make things easier.
If you think being on the PSR would be useful for you, contact your energy supplier to find out more. Check your energy supplier’s bill for their contact information.
Help with stress and anxiety around rising energy bills
The rise in the cost of energy bills and of other daily essentials has caused stress and anxiety for many of us – particularly for people who were already struggling to make ends meet.
If you are stressed or anxious about bills, or it’s affecting other aspects of your mental health, there are organisations you can talk to for confidential support and advice:
|Country & Organisation||How can they help?||Contact details|
Samaritans give people ways to cope and the skills to be there for others. They encourage, promote and celebrate those moments of connection between people that can save lives.
Call: 116 123
(England and Wales only)
Mind offer help on mental health problems. As well as where to get help near you, treatment options and advocacy services.
Call: 0300 123 3393
|Campaign against living miserably (CALM)||CALM run a free, confidential and anonymous helpline as well as a webchat service, offering help, advice and information to anyone who is struggling or in crisis.||
Call: 0800 585858
|The Mix||Support service for young people under 25. The Mix have everything you need to know about mental health, from anxiety and depression to self care and counselling.||
Call: 0808 808 4994
|Mental Health and Money
|The Mental Health and Money Advice service help and
support people understand, manage and improve their
money and mental health issues
|Change Mental Health provides 50 years' experience in unique support to people with severe and enduring mental ill health.||Visit:changemh.org|
|Scotland Association Mental Health (SAMH)
For almost a centure, SAMH has been Scotland's mental health charity. They're there for people, where and when they need us.
Call: 0344 800 0550
|C.A.L.L. offer emotional support, as well as information and free literature on a range of symptoms, mental health problems and the services provided by particular agencies.||
Call: 0800 132 737
SOURCES OF SUPPORT AND ADVICE
Take to someone for advice
If you are struggling with debt, it can be difficult to know where to get help that you can trust. These organisations may be able to help you:
|Country & Organisation||How can they help?||Contact details|
|PayPlan||PayPlan offer free debt advice for anyone who needs it.||
Please call 0800 280 2816
|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.||
Please call 0808 808 4000
Free impartial money advice to help improve your finances. Provided by HM Government and the Money and Pensions Service.
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. If you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0808 223 113
|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.
|EnergyAdvice.Scot (Scotland only)||EnergyAdvice.Scot provides help and assistance if you are having difficulties with bills.||
Call 0808 196 8660
Advicelink Cymru (Wales only)
Free and confidential advice about support and money you may be entitled to.
Call: 0808 250 5700
NEA is an independent charity Registration No. 290511. Registered in England No. 1853927. EAS charity information: Company limited by guarantee. Registered in Scotland No. 101660. Charity No. SC009280
Eligibility of smart meters may vary
Consumer action required