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How to get help with your energy bills

Energy bills are expected to soar again in October. Here we explain by how much, why, whether it's a good idea to switch and what energy bills help is available from the government and how to access it.

Post updated: August 1st, 2022

6 minute read

energy bills help

Latest forecasts from Cornwall Insight show the energy price cap is on track to rise to £3,244 a year in October, when it is next adjusted, as wholesale energy prices continue to soar. The default tariff cap is expected to then be raised again in January, to £3,363 a year. The cap, which is set quarterly by the energy industry regulator, Ofgem, is currently at a record £1,971 a year.

Below we look at what government support is available to help with your rising energy bills.

1. The Energy Bills Support Scheme

All households in the UK will get £400 towards their energy bills this autumn. This is called the Energy Bills Support Scheme. It is not a loan and will not have to be repaid and applies to all eligible households in England, Scotland and Wales.

The £400 will be added to your energy account over 6 months starting from October 2022.  You don’t have to do anything. Energy suppliers will be administering the discount automatically so you don’t need to contact them.

Households will see a discount of £66 applied to their energy bills in October and November, rising to £67 each month from December through to March 2023.

The discount will be provided on a monthly basis regardless of whether you pay monthly, quarterly or have an associated payment card.

Warning: watch out for scammers. Households will never be asked for their bank details, and those with a domestic electricity connection (ie most households) will not need to apply.

Smart prepayment meter customers will see the discount credited directly to their smart prepayment meters in the first week of each month of delivery.

Traditional prepayment meter customers will be provided with redeemable vouchers or Special Action Messages (SAMs) in the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post. You will need to take action to redeem these at your usual top-up point.

2. £150 council tax rebate

Every eligible household should have received £150 to help pay for your energy bills.

You’re eligible for this council tax rebate if you pay council tax and your home is in council tax bands A to D. You can check your council tax band on the government site.

You’ll only get the rebate if you’re the person who has to pay council tax for your household. Only one person per household will get the rebate. The rebate is being paid even if you currently get a council tax discount. And if you receive any benefits, they will not be affected.

The rebate should have been paid into the account of the person who pays the council tax for your home. If you pay your council tax by direct debit then the rebate should have been paid automatically into your account in April 2022. If you don’t pay by direct debit, your council should have been in touch.

If you haven’t received your money yet contact your council: find your local council’s contact details.  A discretionary fund of £144 million was also announced to support vulnerable people and individuals on low incomes that do not pay Council Tax as well as those in Council Tax Bands E-H with an annual household income of less than £79,000. 

3. One-off payment for low-income households

8 million low-income households will also get a one-off payment of £650 to help with the cost of living. This will be paid in two lump sums; the first from July and the second from the Autumn. 

The payment will be tax-free, will not affect the benefit cap and will not affect existing benefit awards. A low income household will be where claimants are in receipt of a benefit such as Universal Credit, Income based jobseekers allowance, income related employment and support allowance, income support, working tax credit, child tax credit or pension credit.

4. Additional energy bills help for the vulnerable

Extra payments will be made to low-income and vulnerable households. This includes an extra £150 one-off disability payment, and a £300 one-off payment to low income pensioners to be paid alongside the Winter Fuel Payment (see below).

How much is government’s energy bill help worth?

This is part of the £37 billion cost of living assistance package for consumers over winter 2022 to 2023.

There is some criticism that the Energy Bills Support Scheme means households will receive £400 whether they need it or not, including those with second homes.  The government acknowledge this but say that any delay would further disadvantage consumers experiencing high energy bills, particularly those in lower income households who are most in need of the payment.

On the question of whether those that don’t need the financial help can donate their £400 to charity, the government suggests that individual households in this position may decide to make a charitable donation from their own assets.

Should I switch energy provider now?

There isn’t much point switching at the moment with energy prices across the board pushed high by market conditions and the global wholesale energy prices. But Martin Lewis, the money saving expert, is suggesting it might be a good idea to research fixed tariffs. The aim would not be to save money now, but to protect against future price hikes that look even worse. This means some costly fixed tariffs look like they may now be winners.

The new prediction is the energy price cap will rise by 78% in October (to £3,500/year on typical use). So if you can find a fixed deal likely to be cheaper than the price cap – which do exist – then it may be worth switching and fixing. But do the sums to make sure it’s the best deal for you. 

How can I spread the costs of my energy bills?

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, contact your supplier as soon as you can, says energy watchdog Ofgem. Your supplier is obliged to work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford. You can ask for:

  • a review of your payments and debt repayments
  • payment breaks or reductions
  • more time to pay
  • access to hardship funds
  • Priority Service registration. This is a free support service if you are in a vulnerable situation.

However if you can’t agree on a way to pay, get help from Citizens Advice or Advice Direct Scotland.

Can I get financial help from my supplier?

Many energy companies offer schemes or grants that offer energy bills help. These include E.on Energy FundE.on Next Energy FundEDF Energy Customer Support FundOvo Energy Fund, Scottish Power Hardship Fund and British Gas Energy Trust. You don’t need to be a British Gas customer to be eligible for help from the British Gas Energy Trust.

But, bear in mind, you’ll need to jump through a lot of administrative hoops for the application process. For example, you’ll need to have spoken to a debt adviser first and completed a budget showing your income and spending. And the eligibility criteria varies. However, those in the greatest need are prioritised.

What energy bills help is available from charities?

According to Ofgem, Charis has information on grants some charities offer and how to go about applying. While Turn2us has a benefits calculator, a grants search tool to help you find out what support you can get and adviser locator tools. You’ll also find information on benefits and information on help with paying energy and water bills.

Are you entitled to more government help?

There are other schemes you may wish to investigate:

  • Winter Fuel Payment – This is a £100 to £300 fuel payment for people born on or before 26 September 1955. 
  • Cold Weather Payment – This is a £25 payment for every 7 days of very cold weather between November and March.
  • Warm Home Discount – A £140 discount for some people getting Pension Credit or some people in low-income households. However, the government has announced the discount will rise by £10 next winter. It plans to extend the eligibility criteria so that nearly 800,000 more households will qualify. Although the details on eligibility have yet to be published. 
  • Household Support Fund – This is a funding package to help vulnerable households.

Also it might be of interest to know that in this year’s Spring Statement the Chancellor announced VAT would be scrapped for homeowners installing energy efficient measures such as solar panels, heat pumps, or insulation over the next five years.

See our guide for advice on the big energy efficient home improvements to consider, how much they cost and the likely energy savings.

How to get debt advice

If you’re worried about debt then it’s vital to get advice sooner rather than later. You’ll find advice on managing debt problems and budgeting through:

 

Have you accessed any help with your energy bills? Share you experience below

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