What to do if you can’t afford your energy bills

Citizens Advice Braintree, Halstead & Witham (CABHW) has released advice on what to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills this winter as part of their annual Big Energy Saving Week campaign. This comes as many people across the Braintree District are expected to face fuel poverty for the first time this winter, as energy prices continue to rise.

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills this winter, the most important thing to do is to contact your gas and electricity supplier to discuss ways to pay what you owe them. Your supplier has to help you to come to a solution and you should negotiate a payment plan that suits both of you such as paying off any debts in manageable instalments. Your supplier should take into account how much you can currently afford to pay and, how much energy you are estimated to use, to figure out a reasonable payment plan. If you don’t contact your supplier to discuss your situation, you may be at risk of your supply being cut off.

If you pay for electricity and gas through a prepayment meter, you can get temporary credit if you cannot afford to top your meter up. Contact your supplier and inform that you are unable to top your meter up, they should issue the temporary credit automatically against your meter. You’ll have to pay back any temporary credit your supplier provides as part of a payment plan agreed with them. Each time you top up your meter, you’ll pay back a bit of the debt you owe. If you can’t afford these repayments, contact your supplier and negotiate an amount that you can manage.

To stay on top of your energy bills this winter, our Warm Homes Team have released their 5 Top Tips below:

  • Provide regular meter readings to your energy supplier to ensure your bills are accurate.
  • Ask your supplier for a free Smart Meter to properly track your energy usage.
  • Set your heating thermostat between 18-21 degrees.
  • Turn appliances off instead of leaving them on standby.
  • Adjust your thermostatic valves on your radiators to focus your heating in the most used rooms in your house, such as your living room.

Jon Baldwin, Energy Advice and Engagement Specialist at CABHW, had this to say: ‘’OFGEM’s price cap limits the rates you pay but not your total bill, so the only way you can meaningfully save is to reduce your energy consumption. The best way to stay on top of your energy bills is to follow our top tips and to reduce your energy consumption where you can – even small savings can help. Claim any welfare benefits you’re entitled to receive and speak to your supplier if you can’t afford to pay”.

If you’re worried about paying for your energy, CABHW may be able to help. Contact our Warm Homes team on 0300 3033 789 or visit warmhomesessex.org.uk.

What do the new Cost of Living measures mean for you?

It’s impossible to ignore the increasing cost of living as prices continue to rise on our daily essentials such as food and fuel. As more of us find ourselves worrying about money and debt and the impact on our mental health, it is important to know what support is coming.

So far, we’ve seen the Government introduce the £150 Council Tax rebate which if you pay by direct debit, should have reached your account by now. If you pay by a different method, the Council should have written to you advising you on how to claim it. If you have any issues or are yet to receive your payment, you can speak to the Council Tax team on 01376 557755.

In May, the Government announced a further set of measures to help support households with the rising Cost of Living:

  • Each household will receive a £400 payment, paid in instalments to energy suppliers starting in October.
  • If you receive Universal Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits or Pension Credits, you should receive an additional £650 across two lump-sum payments starting in July.
  • If you usually receive a Winter Fuel Payment with your State Pension, you’ll receive an additional £300 on top of this in November or December.
  • If you receive Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance you should also receive a payment of £150 in September.

Jon Baldwin, our Energy Advice and Engagement Specialist had this to say: ‘’Contrary to previous announcements, the good news is that none of these grants or payments need to be paid back. I’d encourage you to set the money aside to help with your energy costs over the next few months. Although household bills are rising, energy bills have seen the biggest increase so far and we’re likely to see a continuation of this trend in the coming months.’’

If you’re worried about paying your bills or unsure of what you’ll receive, CABHW may be able to help. Speak to us on 0808 278 7852 so we can help you find a way forward.