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Where to get help with energy bills this winter in the cost of living crisis

Even with Liz Truss’ plans to freeze the energy price cap, bills are still double what they were earlier this year. Here’s where to get help if you are struggling

Millions of people will struggle to pay their energy bills this winter, meaning they won’t be able to heat their homes, keep their families fed or afford rent. 

Energy bills are still soaring – even with Liz Truss’s freeze to the price cap, the average household will pay more than double what they were at the start of this year. 

Over 4.5 million people were living in fuel poverty last year – with extortionate energy costs pushing them below the breadline. That is set to rise to 6.7 million this winter, according to estimates from National Energy Action. 

If you are worried about paying for heating and all the other spiralling prices that come with the winter in a cost of living crisis, you are far from alone. But there is help out there for people who need it most.

How much are energy bills going up in October?

Even with the cap of £2,500, families across the country will still see a huge spike in their energy bills from October – more than double what they were paying earlier this year and 25 per cent higher than their current level. 

It doesn’t mean no family will pay more than £2,500 – this figure refers to the amount a household will pay based on average energy usage. If your household uses more energy than average, you may pay more.

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To put that in context, the standard allowance for a single person on universal credit is around £4,018 a year. They could be spending more than half of their entire income on energy bills. 

How to get help from the government if you can’t pay your energy bills

If you are struggling with paying your bills, you may be eligible for benefits and welfare support. If you’re not sure where to start, Citizens Advice offers information and services to help people and they can advise you as to what financial support is available from the government to help you. 

You could be entitled to benefits and tax credits if you are working or unemployed, sick or disabled, a parent, a young person, an older person or a veteran. You can also use Turn2Us’ benefits calculator to find out what benefits you are entitled to claim. 

These are some government schemes which may help if you are struggling to pay your energy bills:

Warm Home Discount Scheme

This scheme is set to open again in November and you could get £150 off your energy bills. The money is not paid to you – it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill. Energy suppliers fund the scheme, and the government decides who is eligible. This winter, most eligible households will get Warm Home Discount automatically where previously, you had to claim it from your supplier. Find out more here.

Winter Fuel Payment

If you were born on or before September 25 1956 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. Find out more here. 

Cold Weather Payments

You may get a cold weather payment if you’re getting certain benefits. You’ll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days. You’ll get £25 for each day of very cold weather. The scheme is set to start on November 1. 

Scottish Welfare Fund

This is offered in Scotland to provide a safety net for people on low incomes. These include crisis grants and community care grants. Find out how to apply here.

Discretionary Assistance Fund

In Wales, there is the Discretionary Assistance Fund. This includes an emergency assistance grant, which helps cover essential costs, such as food, gas, electricity, clothing or emergency travel if you are experiencing extreme financial hardship, have lost your job or are waiting for your first payment. 

Finance Support Service

The Finance Support Service supports people who live in Northern Ireland and need short-term financial help.  This includes discretionary support to help towards short-term living expenses or household items.

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How to get help from your energy supplier if you can’t pay your bills

A number of energy suppliers offer grants to their customers to help them pay off their energy bills. Contact your energy supplier if you are struggling to pay your bills and they may be able to help you in the cost of living crisis. We’ve listed a few grants available below:

British Gas Energy Support Fund

These grants are available to everyone who has a fuel debt of £250 to £1,500 and you don’t have to be a British Gas customer. You’ll need to seek help from your local money advice centre first (find yours here) and be able to show that you’ve thought about how you will manage your costs in the future. You can apply for a grant and get advice from the British Gas Energy Trust through their website.

Scottish Power Hardship Fund

Scottish Power has a fund to help low-income households get their energy payments under control. It can help by clearing or reducing arrears by crediting a customer’s ScottishPower energy account.

EDF Customer Support Fund

EDF provides support for individuals struggling to manage household energy debt. Find out more and apply here. 

E.ON Next Energy Fund

This fund could help you pay your current or final E.ON Next energy bills and potentially replace old appliances. Find out more on the E.ON website.

Octopus Octo Assist Fund

If you’re an Octopus customer, you can access their financial support form here. It asks you a series of questions about your financial situation. They offer a number of support options including access to existing schemes, monetary support from the Octo Assist Fund, or a loan of a thermal imagery camera to find heat leaks at home.

Ovo Energy Fund

Ovo offers to help come up with a payment plan to make paying your energy bills more manageable. The company also runs a Let’s Talk Energy Fund and you can register your interest for  the scheme here

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How to get charitable grants to pay your energy bills 

People who are struggling financially may be eligible for charitable grants this winter. You can find out what grants might be available to you using Turn2Us’ grant search. There are a huge range of grants available for different people – including those who are bereaved, disabled, unemployed, redundant, ill, a carer, veteran, young person or old person.

Grants are also usually available to people who have no recourse to public funds and cannot claim welfare benefits. Turn2Us helps people to access grants and support services if they’re in financial difficulty. If you contact them, they’ll check what’s available to you. 

Glasspool gives small grants for things like white goods, beds, bedding, children’s clothing and baby needs. For most charitable grants, you need to get a referral from a professional like a social worker, health professional, school or advice service.

Family Action provides practical, emotional and financial support to those who are experiencing poverty, disadvantage and social isolation across the country.

How to get help from your local council if you can’t pay your energy bills

If you are unable to pay your bills, your local council may have a scheme that can help you. Local councils may be able to give you debt advice, help you get hold of furniture, support you through food and fuel poverty. 

Councils across the country are organising measures to help local residents this winter in the cost of living crisis. Some have announced they will be opening ‘warm banks’, with libraries, museums and public spaces opening to people who cannot afford to turn their heating on. 

Your council may also have a local welfare assistance scheme, also known as crisis support. Find out what support your council offers through End Furniture Poverty’s local welfare assistance finder or contact your local authority directly.

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