Help with household bills

13 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

There are a number of schemes and grants to help you with water, fuel and other utility bills. Find out whether you’re eligible and how to apply.

In this article

Winter energy costs schemes

The Warm Home Discount Scheme

Under this scheme, you can receive a rebate worth up to £150. This does not come to you. Instead, it is deducted from your winter fuel bill. The scheme applies in England and Wales, and it operates in Scotland but differently.

You will qualify if your energy provider is part of the scheme and either:

For you to be eligible to claim, you or your partner’s name must be on your energy bills and your supplier must take part in the scheme. The gov.uk website lists all the firms that currently participate.

Do I fall into core group two/the broader group?

England and Wales

You are eligible under core group two if you are in receipt of a qualifying means-tested benefit and you have high energy bills.

The list of qualifying means-tested benefits are:

You must also be assessed as someone likely to face higher energy bills than other households. This assessment will depend on the type of property that you have, its age and its size.

You can check whether you’re eligible by using the Government’s online eligibility checker. You’ll need to answer some questions about your electricity supply, the benefits you receive and the characteristics of your property. The checker will then tell you whether your home meets the high energy cost criteria.

Families in England and Wales who qualify are guaranteed a payment, rather than it being a “first come, first served” system. See below: Receiving a payment if you’re eligible.

Scotland

In Scotland, you fall into the broader group if you are on one of the qualifying disability benefits and either:

Who else might be eligible?

Suppliers also have the discretion to apply more generous rules offering discounts to other groups on a low income. Contact your supplier for more details.  

To find out if your supplier is taking part in the scheme, visit the government’s Warm Home Discount Scheme webpage.

Receiving a payment if you’re eligible

England and Wales

You will receive a letter telling you that you receive the payment automatically and that you don’t need to do anything.

Alternatively, you might receive a letter telling you to call a dedicated helpline to provide further evidence. This is so the government can decide whether or not you qualify.

Scotland

In Scotland, you are not paid automatically. Instead, you need to apply to your energy provider.

You should do this as soon as possible after the scheme opens. The number of payments available to the broader group in Scotland are limited and generally made on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

Cold weather payments (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

You may qualify for cold weather payments if you experience a period of very cold weather in your area. You will qualify if you are on an income-related benefit, such as:

and you have any of the following:

or you receive:

If the average temperature recorded or forecast over seven days in a row in your local area is zero degrees Celsius (freezing) or less, you will receive an automatic payment of £25 into the same account as your benefits. You do not have to do anything to receive the payment.

Use the government’s Cold Weather Payment tool to find out if your area is due to receive a payment.

Winter Heating Payment (Scotland only)

Cold weather payments do not apply in Scotland. Instead, families in Scotland on certain means-tested benefits will automatically receive an annual payment.

To qualify, you must have been in receipt of one of the following benefits:

In addition, your means-tested benefit must include at least one characteristic from a list of features. This includes where it includes an extra payment known as the disabled child premium or disabled child addition.

See the full list of criteria at mygov.scot

Child Winter Heating Payment (Scotland only)

Formerly called Child Winter Heating Assistance, this is a payment from Social Security Scotland to help towards your winter heating bill.

See more on our dedicated webpage, below.

Read more

Child Winter Heating Payment

An annual payment to help families with severely-disabled children pay their winter heating costs.

Read more

Winter Fuel Support Scheme (Wales only)

During Winter 2022, the Welsh Government will provide a one-off £200 payment to families in Wales who receive certain benefits.

This includes households receiving means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit, Income Support or Housing Benefit and families on tax credits. You are also eligible if you are the person responsible for the fuel bills and you receive a carer’s or disability benefits. This includes Carer’s Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

You can apply for this scheme via your local authority.

Help from your energy supplier

The Ofgem energy price cap

The Ofgem energy price cap is the maximum annual price an energy supplier can charge for average usage on its standard variable rate. Ofgem reviews its energy price cap every three months based on wholesale markets.

It is important to be aware that the cap is not a limit on your energy bill. It is a limit on what the supplier can charge for each unit of energy, so that average usage at that unit rate won’t exceed a given annual cost. If your energy usage is above average, it could exceed the price cap.

Ofgem energy price cap in England, Scotland and Wales

From 1 April 2024, the price cap is set at £1,690 a year.

Households without a pre-payment meter will have their energy rate set at the Ofgem price cap. Households with a pre-payment meter will receive a standing charges discount to ensure they don’t pay more for their energy than direct debit customers.

Energy price cap in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland a different energy market operates, and the price cap doesn’t apply there.

The Priority Services Register

Joining the Priority Services Register (PSR) gives vulnerable households access to extra help and support from their energy and network suppliers. The scheme operates in England, Scotland and Wales.

Eligible households include those with disabled inhabitants, children under five and people of pensionable age.

Extra help can include support during a power interruption or emergency power and gas. Many suppliers will give vulnerable customers advanced notice of planned power cuts. Some may be able to provide cooking facilities, hot meals or charge points to households who rely on medical equipment.

Alongside providing extra support, suppliers must take all reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting you during the winter months (1 October – 31 March).

Both energy suppliers (who you pay your bills to) and network providers (who maintain the pipes and cables that bring energy to your home) operate PSRs. You should register with both. Visit https://www.thepsr.co.uk/ and enter your postcode to find your supplier and network provider. Follow the link to register on their websites.

Energy suppliers in Northern Ireland may operate their own schemes for older, disabled or chronically ill customers, such as the Medical Customer Care Register. Check with your supplier to find out more.

Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment

Suppliers signed up to The Vulnerability Commitment won’t ever knowingly disconnect a vulnerable customer at any time of year.

This includes households with children aged under six years old, or where for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity the customer is unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the welfare of other household members. During the winter period between 1 October and 31 March, they also will not disconnect households with children aged under 16.

You can check if your supplier has signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment on the Energy UK website or by contacting them directly.

Energy supplier hardship grants

Some energy suppliers offer grants to help households struggling to pay their energy bills. Visit Citizens Advice for an updated list of supplier schemes.

If your energy supplier does not offer grants, you may still be eligible for support from the British Gas Energy Support Fund. Their debt relief grants are available to both British Gas customers and customers of other energy suppliers. Visit the British Gas Energy Support Fund website for a list of available grants.

Change how you pay

Contact your energy supplier to talk about different ways that you can pay your bill. Some suppliers will give a discount if you pay by a particular method.

Think about using payment plans that spread the cost, which can help you avoid arrears. Take care to check the terms and conditions of each payment plan.

If you are on:

You may be able to pay for your current fuel usage through your benefits. This is known as fuel direct. To set up fuel direct, contact JobCentre Plus or your pension centre if you receive pension credit.

More information from Ofgem

Visit Ofgem, the energy regulator for Great Britain, for more energy advice.

Help with water bills

WaterSure (England and Wales)

In England and Wales, help with water bills may be available under the WaterSure and WaterSure Wales schemes, which work in exactly the same way.

These schemes cap your water bill so you won’t pay more than the average metered bill for the area your water company covers. To qualify you must:

Children who have certain conditions may automatically qualify under these schemes. Some water suppliers also offer WaterSure if you or someone in your household receives Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. Check with your water company if you’re not sure if they cover these benefits.

Your supplier may also offer additional help for customers struggling to pay their bills.

How to apply

Contact your water company directly to find out more and to apply by filling out a form. You will need to supply evidence that you qualify, such as a copy of your awards notice for a benefit.

You may need to provide evidence of you or your child’s medical condition from your GP. Some companies will accept a stamp from your GP confirming your medical condition.

Help from water providers

Vulnerable customers finding it difficult to pay their water bills might qualify for help from their water company.

England and Wales

In England and Wales, some providers (including Welsh Water) offer social tariffs to households with low income or receiving certain benefits. Social tariffs are usually capped at a lower amount than normal bills.

The Consumer Council for Water has details of water companies that offer social tariffs.

Scotland

All households in Scotland are provided with water by Scottish Water. Metered charges are invoiced directly by Scottish Water, which offers various payment plans. Households without water meters are billed by the local council.

If you receive council tax reductions or your property has been adapted for a disabled person, you might be entitled to a discount on your water charges. Speak to your local council for further information.

Northern Ireland

Households in Northern Ireland are provided with water by Northern Ireland Water. Vulnerable customers, including those with a disability, can join the Customer Care Register to receive priority support and other free services. Find out more on the Northern Ireland Water website.

More help with reducing water bills

For more tips on reducing your water bill, visit the Consumer Council for Water page.

Help with internet and phone bills

Broadband social tariffs

Some phone and broadband providers offer social tariffs at more affordable rates for customers who receive certain welfare benefits, such as Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Some providers also offer social tariffs for voice-only landline services.

Visit Ofcom to read more about participating providers and what their eligibility criteria is.

Tackling fuel bill debt

If you’re falling into fuel bill debt, it’s important that you take steps to make sure your supplier doesn’t disconnect you.

If you are facing disconnection

Ask your energy company for their code of practice. The code of practice will include steps the supplier must follow before disconnection.

The supplier must offer a number of options to pay the arrears, including regular payment plans or other alternatives if you cannot pay arrears in this way.

Try to get advice from a local advice service. Our freephone helpline can provide details of your nearest advice service.

Prepayment meters

Some suppliers have been moving their customers who’ve fallen behind on payments onto prepayment meters. In some cases, this has been done through forced entry under warrant.

Energy from prepayment meters costs more.

Ofgem has advice and information about how and when suppliers are legally allowed to fit prepayment meters to recover debt.

Citizens Advice has advice on the steps your supplier should follow before moving you to a prepayment meter.



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