Money Wellness
A dad and his daughter huddle under a blanket together because they can't afford to top up their prepayment meter
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calendar icon24 Jan 2024

Two million struggling energy-prepayment-meter customers to be cut off this winter

More than two million Brits will lose access to gas and electricity this winter because they can’t afford to top up their prepayment meter, new research reveals.

A study by Citizens Advice shows 1.7 million people were disconnected at least once a month last year and 800,000 went for more than 24 hours without gas and electricity.

The charity expects the situation to get even worse in the first few months of 2024, as more than five million people are currently living in households that have fallen behind with their energy bills.

Those households are at risk of being forced onto a prepayment meter they can’t afford to keep topped up.

Chief executive of Citizens Advice Clare Moriarty said:

“Record numbers are in debt to their supplier and millions with a prepayment meter are too often going without heating and hot meals because they can’t afford to top up.

“The government has not provided new energy bill support for those in need and has run out of time to develop the long-term approach it promised by April 2024.

“Without immediate action, we risk re-running this same crisis every winter.”

Help if you can’t afford to top up your prepayment meter

If you can’t afford to top up your prepayment meter, you may be able to get help. We’ve put together a list of things you might want to consider.

Fuel vouchers

If you can’t afford to top up your prepayment meter, you may be able to get a fuel voucher. This is a code sent in a text message, email or letter. You can use the code to add credit to your electricity key or gas card.

To get a fuel voucher, get in touch with your local council, food bank or Citizens Advice.

Apply for an energy grant

Most energy companies set aside money to help customers who are really struggling. Take a look at our guide on financial help from your energy supplier to find out how to apply.

Grants from charitable trusts

Charitable organisations give grants to help those in need. Grants are awarded to people in all sorts of different situations. If you’re struggling to cover your energy bills, you may be able to apply for a grant to help.

Find out if there are any grants you can apply for.

Household support fund

Every local council in England has been given a pot of money to help people in their area struggling with the rising cost of living. This scheme is known as the household support fund. The exact help available varies from council to council. Get in touch with your local council to see what’s on offer in your area.

Priority services register

You may be able to get extra help from your energy supplier by getting your name on the priority services register. To sign up, you must be one of the following:

  • a pensioner
  • disabled
  • living with a long-term health condition
  • classed as ‘vulnerable’ by your energy network

Your energy network may consider you vulnerable if:

  • your English language skills aren’t strong
  • you're pregnant or have children under the age of five
  • you would struggle to smell gas

Being on the priority services register may get you access to a range of additional support, including:

  • your calls being prioritised
  • engineers using a password if they visit, so you know they’re legitimate
  • having your prepayment meter moved if you struggle to access it

To sign up to the priority services register, fill out the form on your electricity operator’s website. Your electricity operator is the company that owns the electricity cables in your area, not your electricity supplier.

Find your electricity operator.

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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