Money Wellness
Image of a man huddled over a radiator with a mobile phone in his hand and an energy bill in the other
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calendar icon30 Nov 2023

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day – 30 November

Fuel poverty is a huge issue in the UK with 6.3 million households unable to afford to heat their homes.

And, despite energy prices dropping slightly in recent months soaring standing charges – which hit the financially vulnerable the hardest – and the withdrawal of government support, will mean that many more households face a bleak winter ahead.

Today’s fuel Poverty Awareness Day. It’s organised by National Energy Action (NEA) to support those who can’t afford to heat their homes because they’re living in fuel poverty. To mark today, we have rounded up all the support that’s on offer from both the government and the energy giants to support households who’re living in energy debt or who’re fearful or unable to turn the heating on despite the freezing temperatures.

We’ve concluded with our top ten energy saving tips because every little saving helps.

You’re in energy debt, what should you do?

You’re definitely not alone. A lot of people are still struggling to deal with the energy debt they built up last winter. Around 60% of the people who got in touch with us for debt help in July did so because they were behind with their energy bills.

Those people did the right thing. If you’re unable to cover all your living expenses, don’t struggle on alone. We offer free debt advice and can help in a whole range of ways, including:

  • checking you’re claiming all the benefits you can get
  • coming up with a realistic budget you can stick to
  • advising you on debt solutions that may allow you to reduce your monthly payments and even write off some of what you owe

All our advice is free and impartial, so finding out your options won’t cost you a thing. Our budgeting and benefits checks are also free and we’ll spend as much time with you as you need. If it turns out you’d benefit from a debt solution, some of them are free while for others there’s a fee.

You can get online debt advice 24/7. Or if you prefer to talk to someone on the phone, we’re here Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and over the weekend from 10am to 4pm. Give us a call on 0161 518 8285.

What support is available from the government this winter?

Although the government doesn’t have any plans to offer the £400 in energy bills support again this winter, there are a few other schemes in place to help certain people cover the cost of their gas and electricity:

Warm Home Discount

You could get £150 off your electricity bill this winter under the Warm Home Discount scheme if you either:

  • get the guarantee credit element of pension credit
  • are on a low income

Find out more.

Help with energy-saving improvements

You may be able to get help for energy-saving improvements to your home if you get certain benefits or live in social housing.

Discover more.

Cost-of-living payments

You could get up to £900 in three instalments if you’re on means-tested benefits.

There’s also an extra £300 pensioner cost-of-living payment and a £150 disability cost-of-living payment for people who get certain disability benefits.

Winter fuel payment

Pensioners get a winter fuel payment too.

Household Support Fund

Local councils are also offering cost-of-living help as part of the Household Support Fund. Contact your local council directly to find out what’s available in your area.

 

What are energy providers doing to help the financially vulnerable?

British Gas

British Gas is offering the UK’s biggest ever energy support package with £100 million worth of help available to customers facing financial hardship.

You’ll be able to get:

  • Grants of up £1,500 aimed at customers struggling to pay bills
  • £250 of non-repayable credit for those on repayment meters
  • Debt write off for customers who have no reasonable means to repay

While the support package is only available to eligible customers, the energy giant also provides financial support to everyone – regardless of your supplier – through the British Gas Energy Trust. Help available includes debt relief grants, emergency small energy grants and access to a network of 45 funded money and energy advice centres.

Visit www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk for details of what’s available to you. 

Shell Energy

Shell Energy has confirmed they’ll price match the £150 customers receive from the Warm Home Discount, meaning you’ll get £300 towards your bill in total.

You don’t need to do anything to get the extra money. If you get help from the Warm House Discount, Shell will automatically apply it to your account.

However, you’ll only be eligible if you joined Shell on or after 22 August 2022 otherwise your previous supplier will be responsible for your Warm Home Discount.

E.ON Next

Through its Winter Affordability Support Scheme, E.ON Next is offering a raft of measures to help vulnerable customers from now until the end of winter in March 2024, including:

  • 25% off standard variable prices for customers with no existing debt
  • 50% off standard variable prices for customers with existing energy debt who sign up to the support scheme. Customers debt will be written off at the end of the term if they keep on top of payments.
  • The E.ON Next Pledge tariff which tracks the price cap and will remain £50 below the cap
  • Free insulation through the Great British Insulation Scheme
  • E.ON Energy Fund offering emergency top ups

To be eligible for help, you must be an existing E.ON Next customer with a household income of less than £19,00 a year. Customers with certain medical dependency needs with household incomes under £31,000 will also be able to apply for help.

E.ON Next energy specialists will start contacting eligible customers via post, text, email and phone from this week.

EDF

Standing charges have rocketed by 55% since April 2021. As part of its £40 million support package, EDF has committed to rolling back the price of standing charges to their April 2021 levels for its most vulnerable customers.

Around 260,000 customers claiming Warm Homes Discount will be eligible for the roll back, which will be applied to your account as a £30 credit in December.

They’re also offering some customers a ‘fresh start’ by clearing their debt alongside payment matching top-ups for households on pre-payment meters.

OVO

OVO is offering a range of free financial and practical support including smart thermostats to control the temperature of rooms, as well as electric throws and boiler servicing.

The support package is worth nearly £40 million.

To access the help, you need to be a customer of either OVO Energy, Boost or SSE energy Services and complete an online application.

You’ll need to have information, such as your monthly disposable income and up to date meter readings, to hand. They’re only accepting your first application so it’s essential that all the information you provide is accurate.

Octopus Energy

According to Octopus Energy, it costs £4 a day to heat a whole house but somewhere between 2-4p to heat a person. Therefore, the energy challenger is offering 10,000 free electric blankets to eligible customers.

They’re asking customers who can afford it, to buy one for themselves but will cover the cost for vulnerable customers such the elderly, those with mobility issues or other medical conditions who are impacted more by the cold.

The offer is limited to one blanket per household.

Octopus Energy is offering further support from Octo Assit – a £15 million fund set up to support customers during the energy crisis.

To access the financial assistance, you need to complete an online affordability and budgeting check with Paylink who share the results with Octopus. They’ll decide what support is suitable and available to you depending on these results.

Even if you don’t qualify, they’re could still offer an extended payment plan so you can spread repayments over a longer period of time.

Utility Warehouse

The UW Hardship Fund is offering financial assistance for eligible customers, as well as advice on budget planning, benefit entitlement support and efficient energy advice.

To find out what’s available to you call 0333 777 3215.

Everyone should aim to use less energy even if they’re not in energy debt or living in fuel poverty.

Our top ten tips to help you stay warm for less this winter.

Everyone should aim to use less energy even if they’re not in energy debt or living in fuel poverty. To help, we’ve come up with our top ten tips to help you stay warm and keep your energy costs to a minimum this winter:

Install thermostats

You could save around £75 a year by installing room thermostats or radiator valves in the rooms you use the most - but they need to be placed in the right spot. Avoid areas with extreme temperatures, such as by doors, windows or radiators and keep them away from lamps and electrical items like TV’s, as they can make a room appear hotter or cooler than it is.

Block draughty door frames

If less heat escapes, your rooms will stay warmer for longer and could save around £60 a year in heating bills. Fit rubber, foam, brush, or wiper strips to keep heat in a room. Attach them to the frame of your doors with adhesive, screws, or nails. You can also buy fabric draft excluders to put in front of doors. Retailers such as Amazon and Dunelm have magnetic thermal insulated door panels for £29.99.

Keep curtains closed

Curtains reduce the amount of air exchange between a cold window and the rest of the room. High quality curtains can reduce heat loss by around 40% especially if they’re floor length.

Make sure furniture isn’t blocking radiators

Don’t block your radiators with furniture or sofas as it stops heat being distributed throughout the room. You should leave around 6 to 12 inches between any furniture and radiators to ensure free movement of air and circulation of heat.

Insulate pipework & hot water tank

Insulating your pipes is easy and relatively cheap. Without insultation a lot of warmth is lost through pipes into cold spaces like your loft, meaning you need more energy to heat your house. It costs around £1.75 per meter to insulate your pipes. All you need to do is buy the right size foam tube and fit it over.

Tin foil the radiators

Fit reflective panels behind radiators especially those that are fixed to external walls. You can pick them up for as little as £8.99. Alternatively, tin foil works just as well. It works by reflecting heat into the room instead of it being lost through the cold wall.

Layer up or heat yourself

You should make sure to layer up clothing at all times to trap heat against your body. Start with thermal vests, t shirts, jumpers and a coat or gilet, and invest in good quality, thick socks. Alternatively, you could invest in heated clothes, such as vest or blankets, to keep you toasty all day long. It cost just pennies to charge the batteries overnight.

Find warm, safe places

Warm spaces are being hosted in libraries and community centres up and down the country. They’ve also been set up in theatres, art galleries, museums, children’s centres, churches, and other religious buildings. They allow people to spend time in a heated environment where there’s often a free hot drink on offer and the opportunity to chat. You can find your nearest warm space either by contacting your local council or visiting www.warmspaces.org

Get help from your local council

Your local council might be able to help you with money towards your energy bills or with the cost of making your home more energy efficient through the Household Support Fund. Each council chooses how they’ll distribute their fund – they may offer vouchers or cash. To find out what support is available to you, speak to your local council or visit www.gov.uk

Grant help to pay energy debt

If you’re in debt to your energy supplier and have no realistic way to repay it, you might be entitled to a grant. A number of suppliers offer grants to struggling customers, including:

  • British Gas Energy Support Fund – apply online
  • Scottish Power Hardship Fund – apply online
  • Ovo Customer Support Package – apply online
  • E.ON Next Enerty Fund – apply online
  • EDF Energy Customer Support Fund – sign up to the priority support register to apply
  • Octopus ‘Octo Assist Fund’ – apply online
  • Shell Energy Support Fund – apply online

The British Gas Energy Trust also offers to grants to anyone – regardless of whether you’re a customer – to help with energy debts.

 

 

 

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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