How to get help paying your energy bills this winter – and save £1,000


BRITS who are worried about energy bills rising as temperatures drop could get up to £1,000 in savings by signing up to different schemes.

The government has a variety of measures in place to help people with their bills during winter.

Brits who are either on benefits or over 65 can get grants to help them with their bills

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Brits who are either on benefits or over 65 can get grants to help them with their billsCredit: Getty – Contributor

One is the winter fuel payment scheme, where over 65s can get between £100 and £300 to offset the cost of keeping their homes warm.

There are various other schemes available too, and we’ve rounded them up below.

Talk to your supplier

In the first instance, if you find yourself worried about paying for your bills, ring up your gas and electric supplier, or suppliers if you have two different companies, and ask for advice.

It’s better to do this before you run out of money or your bills start stacking up as failed payments from a direct debit account could affect your credit score, and repeated missed payments could lead you to having a visit from the bailiffs.

Some energy providers also have their own schemes to help those struggling so it’s worth finding out.

Winter fuel payments – get up to £300 off bills

The winter fuel payment is an annual tax-free benefit to help with heating costs.

Eligible pensioners can receive annual one-off winter fuel payments from the government of between £100 and £300.

The winter fuel payments are made automatically for most people, usually in November or December, and you’ll be sent a letter telling you how much you’ll get and when exactly you can expect it.

Most people who are eligible for it get it automatically, for instance if you receive the state pension or other social security benefits (not housing benefit, council tax reduction, child benefit or Universal Credit).

If you meet the criteria but don’t automatically get the payment or you’re not getting the state pension then you will need to apply.

The deadline for claiming payments for winter 2020 to 2021 is March 31, 2021.

People qualify for a winter fuel payment if both of the following apply:

  • you were born on or before October 5, 1954
  • you lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of September 21 to 27, 2020 – this is called the “qualifying week”

If you did not live in the UK during the qualifying week, you might still get the payment if both the following apply:

  • you live in Switzerland or an EEA country
  • you have a genuine and sufficient link with the UK social security system, such as having lived or worked in the UK and having a family in the UK

But there are exclusions – you can’t get the payment if you live in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal or Spain.

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This is because the average winter temperature is higher in these countries than the warmest region of the UK.

You will not qualify if you:

  • are in hospital getting free treatment for more than a year
  • need permission to enter the UK and your granted leave states that you can not claim public funds
  • were in prison for the whole week between September 21 to 27, 2020
  • lived in a care home for the whole time between June 29 to September 27, 2020, and got pension credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or income-related employment and support allowance

How much you get will depend on your circumstances. They are listed below here:

How much you could get under the Winter Fuel Payment scheme

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How much you could get under the Winter Fuel Payment scheme

Your payment may be different if you or your partner get one of the following benefits:

  • Pension credit
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Income support

Cold weather payments – get £25 a week

When the temperature drops below zero in your area between November 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, you could be entitled to £25 a week in cold weather payments.

The temperature will have to stay this low for seven consecutive days before the payment is handed out.

You must receive one of a list of specific benefits to qualify, including pension credit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, and Universal Credit.

You won’t qualify if you are in a care home or subject to immigration control.

Payments should automatically be made into your bank or building society account within 14 days of the cold spell being over, so you don’t need to apply.

Warm home discount scheme – get £140 a year

The warm home payment is a one-off £140 payment which is designed to help with the cost of your electricity bill through winter. 

You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. 

It’s not paid to you, instead it’s a one-off discount on your bill for the period between September and March.

The 2020 to 2021 scheme will open on October 12, 2020.

Not all suppliers participate in the scheme, and even though more providers are being brought into the scheme between 2019 and 2021, you should bear this in mind if you’re considering switching.

The best thing to do is contact your supplier and find out.

There are two sets of people who are eligible for this discount.

The core group 

If you receive the guarantee credit element of pension credit, then you are in the “core group”.

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You’ll then qualify for the discount if, from July 5, 2020 your energy supplier is part of the scheme and your name, or your partner’s, is on the bill.

You’ll receive a letter between October and December 2020 telling you how to get the discount if you qualify.

Your letter will say if you need to call a helpline by February 26, 2021 to confirm your details.

Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by March 31, 2021.

If you think you’re eligible but haven’t received a letter – phone the warm home discount scheme helpline from October 12 on 0800 731 0214 to check.

Broader group

If you don’t meet the “core group” criteria, you may still be eligible for this benefit under your supplier’s “broader group” rules.

The criteria for this group is:

To get the discount you’ll need to stay with your supplier until it’s paid.

If you think you meet the broader criteria, you should contact your supplier straight away as the discounts they give are sometimes limited.

Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by March 31, 2021.

Budgeting loans – Get up to £812

The government says you may be eligible for a budgeting loan if you’ve been on certain benefits for six months.

To get a budgeting loan you must have been getting one or more of these benefits for the past six months:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit

You cannot get a budgeting loan if:

  • you are currently claiming Universal Credit. Instead, you should apply for a budgeting advance instead
  • you’re involved in industrial action (eg, a strike)
  • you owe more than £1,500 in total for crisis loans and budgeting loans

You only have to pay back the amount you borrow and repayments are taken automatically from your benefits.

Budgeting loans can help pay for a variety of things, including furniture or household items, rent in advance and funeral costs.

But they can also be used for maintenance, improvements or security for your home.

This means that intermittent expenses, such as the cost of installing a prepayment meter or connection charges if you move home, can help be covered.

Payments were temporarily stopped during the coronavirus outbreak, however they have since restarted again.

The lowest amount you can borrow is £100. You could get up to:

  • £348 if you’re single
  • £464 if you have a partner
  • £812 if you or your partner claim child benefit

How much you could get depends on whether you:

  • Can pay the loan back
  • Have savings of more than £1,000 (£2,000 if you or your partner are 63 or over)
  • Are paying back an existing budgeting loan or crisis loan

You can apply via Gov.uk.

What to do if you can’t pay your bills

FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.

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If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.

Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.

One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.

You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • Pension credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)

If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.

In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

Grants to clear your arrears

There are some suppliers that have charitable trusts that help you pay off any arrears you might have.

British Gas Energy Trust, for example, runs a scheme where anyone can apply for a grant, you don’t even have to be a customer.

Other firms that offer grants just to their customers include:

You’ll need to get some debt advice before you apply for a grant as that will make your application more likely to be successful.

Charities such as Citizens Advice will be able to help you with this.

If you’re having difficulties filling in the application, Charisgrants.com can help guide you through it.

Additionally, the Energy Saving Trust website has detailed information on how to save energy at home.

If you live in Scotland, visit the Energy Saving Trust Scotland website.

You can currently save up to £196 by switching suppliers as 67 energy tariffs are now cheaper than new Ofgem price cap.

Homeowners are also being give £5,000 in energy saving vouchers to help them insulate their homes – and you can apply now.

Plus, here’s how claim back up to £63 in tax on energy bills if you’ve been working from home.

Green Home Energy Grant: Applications for £5,000 home improvement voucher to open on Wednesday





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