Useful information signposting to organisations for help with debt management, grant searches and online tools for self help with budgeting and saving.
Annual energy bills are predicted to surpass £4,200 come January – this is a worrying figure and if your budget has already been stretched to the limit you might be worried about where you will find the money to pay these bills. Whatever you do, don’t ignore your energy bills. Gas and electricity are priority bills and if you cannot pay, in the first instance you can get in touch with your supplier for further help. Ofgem rules mean that energy firms must offer you a payment plan that you can afford.
What if I can’t pay my bill?
Again, in the first instance speak directly to your energy supplier. If your direct debit has gone up significantly, don’t be afraid to challenge these increases. Some suppliers have been in the news recently for getting these increases wrong, so it is worth checking. Do bear in mind that if you ask for your direct debit payment to be reduced, you could end up with a large bill at the end of the year. If you still cannot afford to cover the cost of your energy bills, help is at hand.
How we can help with bills
Our Financial Assistance is here to help you manage your money worries. We give a range of support to pharmacists and their families, former pharmacists, trainees, and students who are facing financial difficulties due to unexpected hardship, for example ill health, unemployment, bereavement, care costs and unexpected events.
To apply for financial assistance, you must complete a grant application form as fully as possible and submit it to the charity with supporting documentation. To ensure the smooth processing of your application it will be helpful if you can provide evidence that you have accessed and are acting on specialist debt advice received, please see below. Please also evidence where possible that you have contacted your provider and provide a copy of any agreement plan in place. A delay in accessing support with your debt issues may impede the processing of the application. You can register to use our secure online grants portal. Once you have set up your account and submitted your online application, you will be able to check your application’s progress.
How we can help with debt and benefits
Through our partnership with Citizens Advice Manchester, we can refer you to a specially trained adviser for confidential advice in the areas of benefits and tax credits, and managing debt.
Examples of typical support include:
- help with managing debts, including negotiating with creditors to reschedule payments.
- benefits advice, to check entitlement, ensure you are receiving the correct amount of benefits and tax credits and provide help with completing forms.
To access this support please contact us by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Help from the government
The government has introduced a package of help for energy bills. What you can get will vary dependent on your personal circumstances.
Council tax rebate
Everybody in council tax bands A-D should have already received a £150 rebate on this year’s council tax. If you are in one of these bands and you have not received your payment you should contact your local council office right away. You can find your local council here.
Energy Bill discount
A £400 discount will be paid to all households over the winter months. Households will see a discount of £66 applied to their energy bills in October and November, rising to £67 each month from December through to March 2023. The non-repayable discount will be provided on a monthly basis regardless of whether you pay monthly, quarterly or have an associated payment card.
This also applies to students and other tenants renting properties with domestic electricity contracts from landlords where fixed energy costs are included in their rental charges. In these circumstances, landlords who resell energy to their tenants should pass the discounted payments on appropriately, in line with Ofgem rules to protect tenants. You can find out more about the £400 discount here.
Cost of Living Payment
You may receive a payment of £650 paid in 2 lump sums of £326 and £324 if you get payments of any of the following:
- Universal Credit
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
Find out more about the Cost of Living Payment here.
Warm Home Discount
You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. The money is not paid to you – it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill, between October and March. You may be able to get the discount applied to your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. Contact your supplier for further information. There are 2 ways to qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme:
- you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit- known as the ‘core group’
- you’re on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme – known as the ‘broader group’
Find out more about the Warm Home Discount here.
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 is known as a Winter Fuel Payment. The amount you’ll receive includes a Pensioner Cost of Living Payment of between £150 and £300. You’ll only receive this extra amount in winter 2022 to 2023. This is in addition to any Cost of Living Payment you receive with your benefit or tax credits. Find out more about the Winter Fuel Payment here.
Cold Weather Payment
You may receive a Cold Weather Payment if you’re in receipt of certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest. Payments will be made if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over 7 consecutive days. At which point you’ll receive £25 for each 7-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. Find out more about Cold Weather Payments here.
Help from your energy suppliers
Many energy suppliers have funds available to help customers who are struggling to pay their bills. Do not be afraid to contact your supplier and ask for this help directly.
British Gas Energy Trust
British Gas Energy Trust is an independent Charitable Trust funded by British Gas.
Both British Gas customers and non-customers can apply for grants to clear domestic gas and electricity debts owed to British Gas or other suppliers. In addition, British Gas Energy Trust provides local budgets to a number of Funded Organisations to provide help including:
- Emergency fuel top-ups for prepayment meters
- Home energy efficiency assessments
- Boiler repairs / replacements
- Energy efficiency measures
- Emergency heating sources
- Bankruptcy / DRO costs
Find out more about the British Gas Energy Trust here.
EDF Energy Customer Support Fund
EDF provides support for individuals struggling to manage household energy debt. The Fund can also help to provide essential white goods such as a fridge or cooker. Find out more about applying to the fund here.
E.ON Next Energy Fund
The aim of the E.ON Next Energy Fund is to help E.ON Next customers who are experiencing financial hardship and struggling. This fund can help customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills. It can also help with the cost of white goods such as a new cooker or washing machine. Find out more about applying to the fund here.
Octopus Energy Fund
Octopus has set up a £7 million Octo Assist Fund as part of their campaign to help those worried about paying for their energy this winter. If you are an Octopus customer, you can access a number of support options based on circumstances and need. These include access to existing schemes, monetary support from the fund, or a loan of a thermal imagery camera to identify any heat leaks in the home. Find out more about the Octo Assist Fund here.
Scottish Power Hardship Fund
If you are a Scottish Power customer and are having difficulties paying your bills due to low income or other circumstances, Scottish Power has a Hardship Fund to help you get your energy payments under control. The Fund can help by clearing or reducing arrears by crediting your Scottish Power energy account. Find out more about applying to the Scottish Power Hardship Fund here.
Npower Energy Fund
This is a scheme designed to help Npower’s domestic customers who struggle to keep up with their energy payments. The Npower Energy Fund works in two ways. Firstly, it will clear any debts that you have accrued in unpaid gas and electricity bills. Secondly, it offers a replacement of your white goods that are either broken, old or in poor condition, from washing machines to fridge-freezers. The objective is to equip you with appliances with a high energy efficiency rating. Find out more about the Npower Energy Fund here.
Other organisations who can help with fuel bills
Depending on your circumstances there are other organisations who may be able to help you with your energy costs.
The Fuel Bank Foundation
The Fuel Bank Foundation gives emergency financial support to households identified as being in fuel crisis. The Scheme is being run jointly by NPower and the Trussell Trust. Selected Trussell Trust Foodbank locations around the UK also have Fuel Banks. These provide fuel vouchers to customers who’ve been referred by a third party because they’re at crisis point. Each voucher has enough money to top up the customer’s prepayment meter for around two weeks – so customers don’t have to choose between eating, heating and lighting their home. You can only get a Fuel Bank voucher if you’re in need of food support.
In order to qualify for this scheme, you will need to:
- be referred by a third party who has categorised you as someone in urgent need of food
- have a prepayment meter
- be classed as eligible for fuel as well as food vouchers.
You can get a referral from your local Citizens Advice Bureau, your GP, social services, or any organisation offering support services. Find out more about The Fuel Bank Foundation here.
Charis Let’s Talk Energy Fund
Charis partner with some Energy companies to support households, who may be struggling, through the Let’s Talk Energy Fund. The Fund aims to help people in England, Scotland or Wales. The scheme opens in September and if you need help you can register your interest now. Registering does not mean that you have applied for a grant, however, Charis will contact you again as soon as the scheme is open. Register your interest here.
Macmillan Grants offer a one-off payment of £350 to help with the extra costs that living with cancer can bring. They can be used to help with things like:
- energy bills
- home adaptions
- cost of travel to and from hospital
- any extra costs you might be experiencing due to your cancer diagnosis.
Find out more about applying for a Macmillan Grant here.