Skip to main content
Fri 23 Sep 2022

Energy Costs – what to do if you’re struggling to pay

We have all seen the news about the rise in energy prices, meaning that for a lot of us, this winter may see us struggling to keep up with the costs. This guide is a summary of what help is available, for people on standard meters or prepayment meters. If you use heating oil, pay your landlord directly for energy, or live in a park home, the guidance is different, so you should seek out specialist advice.

1. Cost of Living Payments

The Government have announced a few measures to help people with the rise in energy costs. Most of these payments are automatic and you do not need to apply for them.

The £400 energy grant will be to all households with a domestic electricity meter, regardless of whether you are on benefits or not. This grant will be paid by your supplier between October 2022 and March 2023.

If you were on a means-tested benefit between 26th April and 25th May 2022 you will receive a payment of £650 from the Department of Works and Pension. Means-tested benefits mean Tax Credits, Universal Credit, Income Support and Pension Credit. This payment will be automatically paid into the account you receive your benefits, in two payments. If you think you may be eligible but have not received a payment, you should contact the office that pays your benefit or tax credits to check your eligibility.

For those people on disability benefits, you should receive a one-off payment of £150 in September. To qualify, you must have been claiming a disability benefit on 25th May 2022, such as Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance.

2. Talk to your supplier

You supplier has a duty to help you if you are struggling to pay your bills. While they can’t change the amount they charge you, they can look at your payment plan, offer affordable debt repayment plans, offer payment breaks, or more time to pay, and provide access to hardship funds. This includes people on pre-payment meters as well, providing emergency credit, making sure you won’t be cut off during evenings or weekend, and in some cases, additional support credit if you can’t afford to top up. The help available can vary based on supplier, so give them a call to see what they can offer you.

3. Hardship Funds

It may not be the ongoing cost of energy that you’re worried about. If you have arrears with your electric or gas, managing the ongoing repayments alongside your bill can be difficult. Energy firms have charitable trusts and funds that can help. You usually have to be a customer in order to access the hardship fund, except for the British Gas Fund which is open to non-customers. The eligibility criteria varies by each supplier, so best to contact your supplier for help and support.

For the British Gas fund, take a look at their website

4. Winter Fuel Payment

If you were born on or before 25 September 1956 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. This payment is made automatically if you get your State Pension, or if you are not in receipt of benefits you can make a claim by calling 0800 731 0160

5. Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount is a payment of £150 that will be credited to your bill, or sent as a credit voucher if you are on a pre-payment meter. You used to have to apply in order to receive the WHD, however this has changed this year. If you get the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit you should automatically qualify, and your supplier should send you a letter between October and December to say that £150 will be paid off your bill. If you are receiving any other means-tested benefits, and are deemed to have ‘high energy costs’ you will automatically receive the discount.

At the moment, it’s unclear who will exactly will be eligible but the Government should contact those who are eligible from November.  

6. Cold Weather Payment

Under the Cold Weather Payment scheme, older people and those on certain benefits can get a grant to help cover costs when temperatures hit zero degrees or below in their area. It applies if the average temperature is – or is forecast to be – 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November and 31 March. You get £25 for each seven-day period. It's usually automatic if you get Pension Credit or get other benefits including some Universal Credit recipients and some who get support for mortgage interest.


7. Winter Support Payment (Wales)

Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 cash payment from their local authority. The money is to provide support towards paying winter fuel bills. This is in addition to the winter fuel payment already mentioned in this guide. To be considered for the payment, you have to be receiving a means-tested benefit, or a disability benefit. The fund is run by your local council and applications are due to start from 26th September 2022. Contact your local authority for more information.


8. Paying for your energy costs

There are different ways to pay your energy costs, and some of them could save you money. Paying by monthly direct debit can cut bills by about £100 each year on average, as companies are sure you won't default on your bill and they earn interest on any overpayments. It may also mean you can build up a credit in the summer when you are using less heating, which helps during the winter months. Fuel Direct is where you can have your energy costs paid direct from your benefits. This can alleviate the worry of keeping up with payments. Contact Universal Credit or Pension Credit if this is something you think could help you.

9. Free insulation/boiler grants

Energy efficiency can seriously cut bills, and there are offers from energy providers to help people with replacement boilers, cavity wall insulations and loft insulations. The Energy Trust Fund website has lots of information about keeping your home energy efficient and the NEST scheme offers free, impartial advice and a range of free home energy efficiency improvements

10. Get Advice

The important thing is to get advice from trusted sources. The National Energy Action (NEA). national fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity that offers a free support service known as WASH (Warm and Safe Homes). It provides energy advice to households in England and Wales. You can contact it on 0800 304 7159 or go online to

If you have further worries about bills or debt, you can contact Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133 or Stepchange on 0800 138 1111 or online

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010