Many UK households are experiencing a cost of living crisis thanks to rising inflation, soaring petrol prices and spiralling energy costs. It is the latter that is putting an extraordinary amount of pressure on families across the UK with many looking for solutions to help ease the financial burden. In this article, we take a look at the help that is available for those struggling to pay their energy bills, as well as whether an energy provider can disconnect your supply.
What help is there if I can't afford my energy bill?
Agree a payment plan
If you cannot afford to pay your energy bill then the first thing you should do is speak to your energy supplier. Ofgem rules mean that suppliers must offer a payment plan that you can afford and if you use a prepay meter then you can ask for ‘emergency credit’. Additionally, if you had already agreed to a previous plan, Ofgem rules dictate that your supplier must agree to review the payment plan.
Help that your supplier should offer includes:
- a review of your payments and debt repayments
- payment breaks or reductions
- being given more time to pay
- access to hardship funds
- advice on how to use less energy
- added to the priority services register – (free support service for vulnerable people)
Apply for a grant
You may be able to apply for a grant to help pay off your energy debt. Many of the larger energy suppliers offer grants and you can find a list of these on the Citizens Advice website. You'll need to provide detailed information about your financial situation and some suppliers ask that you complete a budget sheet with a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approved adviser.
Check if you qualify for a government scheme
You may eligible for one of a number of government schemes so you should check to see if you qualify. Government schemes include The Warm Home Discount, the Winter Fuel Payment and the Cold Weather Payment. We explain each of these in more detail in our article 'Grants and schemes for help with your energy bills'
In addition, the government announced two rebates to help with rising energy costs. The first was a council tax rebate of £150 for those that fall in council tax bands A-D; payments should be reaching customers in the coming months. The second is an energy discount of £400 that will be applied to energy bills between October this year and March 2023 and won't need to be paid back. More details can be found in the government article, "£400 energy bills discount to support households this winter"
Can I get disconnected if I can't pay my energy bill?
If you have reached State Pension age then your supplier cannot disconnect you between the 1st October and 31st March, so long as you either:
- live alone
- only live with other people who have reached State Pension age or children under 18 years old
In addition to the above, energy suppliers that are signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment will never knowingly disconnect you if you meet certain qualifying criteria. You can check if your supplier has signed up to the commitment by contacting them directly or checking their website.
Who cannot be disconnected at any time under the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment?
Energy suppliers that are signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment will never knowingly disconnect your supply, so long as you:
- have severe financial problems
- have children under 6 years old living at home
- are disabled
- have long-term health problems
Who cannot be disconnected between 1st October and 31st March under the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment?
During the winter months (October to March) energy suppliers that are signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment will never knowingly disconnect your supply, so long as you:
- live with children under 16
Will I be disconnected if my supplier is not signed up to the Energy UK Vulnerability Commitment?
You should contact your supplier and explain your situation. So long as you are taking proactive steps by speaking to your supplier then they should be willing to work with you and offer a solution that doesn't include disconnection. You could also request a home visit so that a representative from your supplier can see your situation and listen to your concerns. If you are still unhappy then you can make an official complaint and there is more information on this provided by Citizens Advice.