The past two years have been tough for many of us. Covid 19 brought about lockdown restrictions that left us isolated from loved ones and cost a lot of people their livelihoods. Now, millions of people in the UK are facing even further struggles with the rise in living costs.
Food and tax prices are rising but it’s the energy bills that are the biggest increase. Prices went up from 1 April this year, with a typical energy bill going up by about £700.
When you take all of this into account it’s not surprising that many of us are struggling to pay our energy bills. But there are ways that you can get help if you’re struggling. Read on to find out more.
Why are energy bills rising?
The energy ‘watchdog’ Ofgem is responsible for setting the highest price we can be made to pay for our energy. However, there has been an increase in the price of wholesale gas (what energy companies pay) which means that our energy bills have seen an increase as well.
There are a few other factors at play here as well. One is that countries are using more gas as they lift their Covid restrictions and the other is the devastating war in Ukraine. The war means that countries like the UK will stop buying gas from Russia.
They only supply a small amount of gas to the UK, if the prices are to go up in one place then they are likely to go up everywhere.
How is it affecting people?
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your situation. This hike in energy prices means that a typical working household is set to be £1,100 worse off in 2022-2023.
What can you do if you’re worried about your bills rising or you’re struggling to pay?
Talk to your supplier
If you’re struggling then it’s key that you speak with your supplier as soon as possible. Under the rules set out by Ofgem, your supplier has to help you if you’re falling behind with payments. This will usually be in the form of a payment plan that is affordable to you.
Other options include:
- An affordable debt repayment plan
- Payment breaks
- Payment reductions
- More time to pay
These options are decided on a case-by-case basis but there is help out there for you.
There is also plenty of help out there for prepay customers as well. Again, your supplier has to help you come up with an affordable way for you to pay your energy bill so be sure to get in touch as soon as possible.
Prepay customer options include:
- Small amounts for emergency credit (All suppliers offer this) Speak to your supplier to see how this works. You’ll usually get £5 emergency credit for both meters.
- Friendly credit (you can’t be cut off during certain times if your meter runs out) This option is helpful if you’re about to run out of credit on weekends, evenings or bank holidays. Again, speak to your supplier as soon as possible, you’ll need to pay back anything you’ve used the next time you top-up.
- Additional support credit (the help you can get depends on your supplier) Helpful option for those in vulnerable circumstances ( Such as those of a state pension age and those with a disability or long-term medical condition) who have exhausted other options.
The government has set out a package of support to help households with the rise in energy costs for the year 2022/2023. You can visit Gov.UK for more details.
However, you may be eligible for some of their over schemes as well, these include:
- The Winter Fuel Payment – a payment of £100-£300 for people who were born before 26th September 1955
- Warm Home Discount – a £140 for some people who are getting pension credit or in low-income households.
- Household Support Fund– a package set up to help vulnerable households during the winter. You’ll need to contact your local council for further advice and help in accessing the fund.
- The Cold Weather Payment- this is a payment of £25 for every 7 days of very cold weather between November and March
- Fuel direct scheme – a government scheme that allows those in receipt of pension credit or benefits to repay a debt from their payments. You’ll need to contact either the Pension Centre or the Job Centre to set this up.
Help From Charities
There’s also help available through some charities. Turn2Us has grants search and adviser locator tools. While Charis (an administrator for grants and funds for companies, authorities and charities) has a list of grants from various charities, they also provide you with all the information you need to apply.
- Debt advice
If you’re struggling due to debts then you must get on top of them as soon as possible. These organisations below can help you find a solution but ultimately they are there to help you with debt management and budgeting. These organisations include:
- Citizens Advice – For those in England or Wales, you can speak to an adviser on 0808 223 1133 or fill out an online form. If you’re in Scotland then you’ll need to speak with your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Money Helper – This organisation is sponsored by the Department of Work and Pensions. They provide free, impartial and confidential money guidance to help anyone in the UK. you can contact them on 0800 138 7777 o, or via webchat, email or WhatsApp
- National Debtline- A charity that gives free independent advice to people in England, Scotland and Wales. I have a free budgeting tool and can help you work out a debt management plan. You can speak to an adviser via webchat or by calling 0808 808 4000.
Energy supplier hardship funds
When it comes to suppliers, all of the big energy firms have charitable trusts and funds that can help if you’re in debt and struggling to repay. However, you’ll need to be a customer of theirs to apply. You’ll need to speak with a debt advisor before applying. And provide a full income and expenditure budget sheet along with proof of income and details of how your arrears have occurred.
The cost of living is on the rise and it’s an incredibly stressful time for most of us. But remember, you’re not alone and there is help out there for you if you’re struggling.
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