In England, 2.5 million households experience fuel poverty, meaning heating their homes to an adequate standard would push them below the poverty line.
Britons struggling to afford their energy bills switch off lights, dial down their thermostats or turn off their boilers entirely, living in dark and cold rooms. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can also negatively impact their health, leaving people vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes and exacerbating respiratory problems. Other households accumulate debts to their energy supplier which they are unable to clear.
Fortunately, there is support available, from both the government and suppliers, to help struggling households pay their energy bills and overcome debts.
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The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free annual payment of between £100 and £300 to help Britons aged 66 or older afford their winter heating bills. If you receive the State Pension or another social security benefit you’ll receive a Winter Fuel Payment automatically, usually in November or December. Others will need to claim it by 31 March.
The amount you receive will depend on your age and whether anyone else in your household is receiving payments. Those older than 80 and living alone receive the most.
Find out more about Winter Fuel Payments with our helpful guide.
Under this assistance scheme, eligible households receive £140 off their electricity bill sometime between September and March, so they can better afford their higher energy costs in the winter. If you’re on a dual-fuel tariff with your supplier, you may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead.
You’ll automatically qualify for the relief if you receive the Guaranteed Credit part of Pension Credit, even if you get Savings Credit as well. Those who are on low income and receive certain means-tested benefits can also apply for the discounts through their supplier.
However, your supplier has to participate in the scheme for you to receive the discount. Suppliers with more than 150,000 customers are required to offer discounts, while smaller suppliers may participate voluntarily. To see if your supplier participates in the scheme, check this list.
Find out more the Warm Home Discount Scheme with our helpful guide.
Under the Cold Weather Payment scheme, eligible households receive a one-off payment of £25 if the average temperature in their area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days. They’ll receive payment for each seven-day period of freezing weather between 1 November and 31 March.
You may be eligible for the payments if you receive:
Find out more about Cold Weather Payments with our helpful guide.
The Energy Company Obligation scheme compels large suppliers to help low-income, fuel-poor and vulnerable customers to reduce their energy consumption. They do this by funding the installation of energy efficiency measures, including:
Suppliers are obligated by the scheme if they have more than 150,000 domestic accounts and supply more than 300GWh of electricity and 700GWh of gas each year. To see a list of obligated suppliers, check Ofgem’s website.
Some energy suppliers run charitable trusts and funds which provide assistance, ranging from grants to new white goods, so their customers can get out of energy debt.