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 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:
- You’re a pensioner who receives the guarantee credit of pension credit
- You fall into the ‘broader group’ of people that your energy supplier gives the discount to
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:
- Parents who get either income support, income based job seekers allowance or income related employment and support allowance and who receive a disabled child premium in their award.
- Parents who either get income support, income based job seekers allowance or income related employment and support allowance and who receive a disabled child premium in their child tax credit award.
- Parents who don’t get one of the means-tested benefits mentioned above, but whose child tax credit award includes a disabled child element and whose tax credit award is based on an income for tax credits of £16,190 or less.
- Parents on Universal Credit whose award includes a disabled child addition and who either have no earnings or whose earnings have been below £1,349 in at least one month within the previous 6 months.
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)
This is a £202 payment from Social Security Scotland to help towards your winter heating bill.
You qualify if you live in Scotland and have a child aged under 18 entitled to the highest care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Child Disability Payment or the enhanced daily living component of Personal Independence Payment.
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.
Cold weather payments (UK-wide)
You may qualify for cold weather payments if you are on an income-related benefit, such as:
- Income Support.
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
- Universal Credit, but only if you are not working.
and you have any of the following:
- A child under five in your family.
- A child for whom you get an extra disabled child element or addition as part of your tax credits or Universal credit award.
or you receive:
- An extra amount for your own disability or for being over state pension age and you don’t live in a care home.
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 heating bill support in 2022
The UK government announced a package of new measures to support families with rising energy costs and other cost of living increases. The package includes:
- A grant towards domestic electricity bills worth £400 per household. This does not need to be repaid. This will be credited to your energy bill by your supplier over a 6 month period starting in October 2022. This will apply to customers in England, Wales and Scotland although a similar scheme is expected to be introduced in Northern Ireland.
- In England, Wales and Scotland, a £150 rebate in Council Tax bills for all households in Bands A-D. You do not need to be repay this.
- Across the whole UK, households who are on certain means tested benefits or tax credits will receive a £650 cost-of-living payment. To be eligible, you must be on one of the following benefits:
- Universal Credit.
- Income Support.
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance.
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
- Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit.
- Pension Credit.
It does not apply to those who only get Housing Benefit and/or a council tax reduction. To qualify you must have been getting one of the relevant benefits on 25 May 2022 (or have begun a claim by that date which is later successful).
The cost of living payment will come in two lump sums directly into the claimant’s bank account. The DWP will make the first payment from July 2022 and the second in the autumn. Payments from HMRC to those on tax credits only will follow shortly after that. This is to avoid the risk of a household receiving duplicate payments by both DWP and HMRC.
- Across the UK, a £150 disability cost of living payment made to individuals who are in receipt of certain qualifying disability benefits, which include:
- Disability Living Allowance.
- Personal Independence Payment.
- Child Disability Payment or the Adult Disability Payment in Scotland.
To be eligible for the £150 payment, you must have been getting the qualifying disability benefit on 25th May (or have begun a claim by that date which is later successful). The expectation is that this payment will arrive from September 2022.
- Across the UK, a £300 pensioner cost of living allowance. This will be paid to all pensioner households (those where a person is aged 66 or over between 19-25 September 2022) as a top-up to their annual winter fuel payment in November/December 2022.
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:
- Be on certain benefits.
- Have a water meter (or be waiting for one to be installed).
- Have a high essential use of water (this means you have three or more children under 19 in full-time education, or a child with a medical condition or disability that requires your household to use a lot of water).
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 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.
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.
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:
- Universal Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Pension Credit
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.
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