If you’re struggling to afford your gas and electricity, don’t ignore those bills!
What can you do?
The first step is to contact your supplier to discuss ways to pay what you owe them. Your supplier has to help you come to a solution that works for both of you. If you don’t try to negotiate with your supplier, they might eventually threaten to disconnect your supply.
Energy arrears are a ‘priority debt’. Priority debts are those which have a risk of serious consequences – this means you need to pay them before debts like credit cards. If you have more than one debt, work out which debts to pay first in priority order.
Agree a payment plan
Tell your supplier that you want to pay off your debts in instalments as part of a payment plan. You’ll pay fixed amounts over a set period of time, meaning you’ll pay what you can afford. The plan will cover what you owe plus an amount for your current use.
Your supplier must take into account how much you can afford to pay – give them details about your income and outgoings and how much energy you use.
If you’re not sure how much you can afford, look for “budgeting tool” on our national website citizensadvice.org.uk which takes into account other debts you have.
If you can’t afford the payment plan, speak to your supplier again to negotiate a better deal. If you don’t, your supplier might make you have a prepayment meter installed.
Benefits and grants
Every year millions of people fail to claim billions of pounds of welfare benefits they are entitled to. If you’re disabled, elderly or have a low income, you can check what benefits you’re entitled to using the calculators at turn2us.org.uk,entitledto.co.uk or betteroffcalculator.co.uk.
If you are receiving benefits, you might be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme. Contact the Jobcentre to check. They’ll contact your supplier and tell them you want to pay off your debt this way – your supplier must agree to it.
You can apply for a hardship grant from your fuel supplier if it’s npower, eon, Ovo, Scottish Power, EDF or SSE. The British Gas Energy Trust scheme is open to anyone – you don’t have to be a customer. You can also check if you could reduce your future bills and make your home warmer at the website simpleenergyadvice.org.uk
How we can help
We have recently launched our Energy Advice Programme (EAP) to help people in financial need who find it hard to pay their energy bills. At an EAP appointment our advisers can do one or more of the following:
Contact us for an initial discussion.