Help with utility bills

11 mins read

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

Help with energy costs

The Warm Home Discount scheme

This scheme may lead to a rebate worth up to £140. The scheme applies in England, Scotland and Wales only and is offered on a first-come-first-served basis. It is best to apply during early Autumn. The discount is not paid to you – instead the £140 is deducted from your electricity bill.

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

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 the broader group?

You should qualify for a warm home discount under the ‘broader group’ of vulnerable customers if you fall into one of the following groups: 

The number of discounts each company gives to customers in the ‘broader group’ is usually limited, so discounts tend to be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis. In practice, this means that most companies stop offering the discount to new applicants before the end of December.

Who else might be eligible?

Other groups such as low income families with a child under five and some disabled adults also qualify. Full details of the eligible groups can be found at table three on pages 28-29 of OFGEM’s guidance [PDF].

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 Homes Discount Scheme webpage.

Child Winter Heating Assistance (Scotland only)

If you live in Scotland and have a child aged under 18 who is entitled to the highest care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Child Disability Payment or the enhanced daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, you should receive a £202 payment from Social Security Scotland to help towards your winter heating bill.

The payment is for each child who qualifies, so if for example you have two children who are both on the higher rate care component you should receive £400. The scheme is not means-tested so it makes no difference what income or capital you have.

In order to qualify for a payment in winter 2021/2, a child must have been entitled to one of the benefits mentioned above at some point in the week beginning 20 September 2021. 

For more information, see our webpage on Welfare Benefits in Scotland

Energy Payment Support Scheme (Northern Ireland only)

Families in Northern Ireland in receipt of certain means-tested benefits will receive a one-off payment of £200 towards their 2022 heating bill.

To qualify, you must have been in receipt of one of the following benefits in the week beginning 13 December:

Payments will be made automatically into the same account that you receive your benefit payments. The date you will receive this payment has not yet been announced.

Winter Fuel Support Scheme (Wales only)

If you live in Wales and are in receipt of certain benefits, you can get a £200 lump sum payment from the Welsh government. To qualify, you must have been in receipt of one of the following means-tested benefits between 1 December 2021 and the 31 January 2022:

To receive this grant, you need to apply by 28 February 2022. Apply via gov.wales/winter-fuel-support-scheme.

When initially announced payments, under this scheme were only £100. This was doubled to £200 in early February 222. If you have already received a payment of £100, you will automatically receive another £100 without the need to make a second application.

Cold weather payments (UK-wide)

You may qualify for cold weather payments if you are on an income-related benefit, such as:

and you have any of the following:

or you receive:

You will receive an automatic payment of £25 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 do not have to do anything to receive the payment. You can use the government’s Cold Weather Payment tool to find out if your area is due to receive a payment.

Additional support with rising heating bills in 2022

On 3 February 2022, the UK government announced a package of new measures to support families with rising energy costs. The package includes:

The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive additional funding to introduce their own support schemes where they are not covered by the package announced by the UK government.

Help with water bills

Water Sure (England and Wales)

In England and Wales, help with water bills may be available under the Water Sure and Water Sure 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. Contact your water company directly to find out more and to apply. Your supplier may also offer additional help for customers struggling to pay their bills.

Help from water providers

Vulnerable customers who are finding it difficult to pay their water bills might be entitled to 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.

It may be worth asking your energy supplier to include you on their Priority Services Register because you have a disabled child. People included on the register can receive extra support such as advance notice of any planned power cuts or priority support such as alternative heating or cooking sources in the event of an interruption in your energy supply. 

Help with internet and phone bills

Broadband social tariffs

Some 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.

Other financial help

Sources of support

Social services departments may help with problems related to fuel bills or fuel supply or provide financial assistance to help a child. This could be a cash payment, a loan or payment in kind.

Some charities provide grants for heating costs, expenses or arrears to families with a disabled child.

Check that you’re not missing out on benefits. See our benefits webpages for more information about main entitlements and sources of practical help. See our checklists of entitlement, Money Matters [PDF], for parents are carers in England and Wales and Money Matters [PDF] for parents in Scotland.

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

Tackling fuel bill debt

If you’re falling into fuel bill debt, it’s important that you take steps to make sure you don’t get disconnected.

The Priority Services Register

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you should contact your supplier to register as a vulnerable customer on their Priority Service Register.

Alongside providing extra support as a vulnerable customer, suppliers cannot disconnect households on the register during winter (1 October – 31 March).

Energy suppliers in Northern Ireland may operate their own schemes for older, disabled or chronically ill customers. Check with your supplier to find out more.

Energy UK’s Vulnerability Commitment

Suppliers signed up to the Vulnerability Commitment won’t ever disconnect a household with a child under six years old. They won’t disconnect a household with a child under 16 during winter (1 October – 31 March).

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. Depending on where you live, we may also be able to put you in contact with a specialist debt counselling service for families with disabled children.