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What to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills

This advice applies to England

If you’re struggling to afford your gas and electricity bills, contact your supplier to discuss ways to pay what you owe them.

Your supplier has to help you come to a solution. You should try to negotiate a deal that works for both of you.

If you don’t try to negotiate with your supplier, they might threaten to disconnect you. Check what to do if you’ve been told your energy supply will be disconnected.

If you’ve missed payments because of coronavirus, you should explain this to your supplier. They might agree not to disconnect you. For example, tell them if your income has been affected by long-term symptoms. 

If your supplier doesn’t disconnect you, you should still arrange to pay what you owe them. This protects you from being disconnected in the future.

Find out how to contact your supplier about a problem.

This page can help you if you pay for your energy after you use it - for example by monthly direct debit or quarterly bill. There are different things you should do if you can't afford to top up your prepayment meter.

If you have more than one debt

Energy arrears are a 'priority debt'. 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. 

Agree a payment plan with your supplier

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 payment 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, debts and personal circumstances
  • how much energy you’ll use in future - they’ll estimate this based on your past usage, but give them regular meter readings to make this more accurate

If you’re not sure how much you can afford to pay, use our budgeting tool to help you.

You owe £400 to your supplier for debts. Instead of paying this in one go, you speak to your supplier - you tell them the maximum you can afford to pay is £40 a week. You agree with them to pay £10 a week to cover the debt, and £30 a week to cover your current energy usage until the debt’s paid off.

If you can’t afford the payment plan

Speak to your supplier again if you think they’re charging you too much or you're struggling to afford the repayments. You can try to negotiate a better deal. If you don’t, your supplier might make you have a prepayment meter installed.

Pay off your debt through your benefits

You might be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.

A fixed amount will automatically be taken from your benefits to cover what you owe, plus an extra amount for your current use.

It can be more convenient than having a prepayment meter fitted (which your supplier might try to do if you can’t agree a payment plan) and you won’t risk running out of gas or electricity.

To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit 

If you’re getting Universal Credit and you’re working, you’re only eligible for the Fuel Direct Scheme if your earnings are less than your ‘work allowance’. If you’re not sure, contact the Jobcentre.

Apply for the Fuel Direct Scheme

If you get Pension Credit, contact the Pension Service. If you get another benefit contact the Jobcentre. Tell them you want to set up Fuel Direct. They’ll contact your supplier and tell them you want to pay off your debt under the Fuel Direct Scheme - your supplier must agree to it.

Your supplier will set up the repayments and let you know how much you’ll be paying.

Pay for your gas and electricity bills through benefits

If you’re already paying off energy debts through your benefits, you can also ask to start paying your energy bills directly from your benefits.

If you get Pension Credit, contact the Pension Service. If you get another benefit contact the Jobcentre. Tell them you want to use your benefits to pay your gas and electricity bills.

If you want to change how much you pay from your benefits, contact the Pension Service or the Jobcentre and tell them.

Before you contact the Pension Service or Jobcentre, submit a meter reading to make sure you get an accurate bill. If you can afford to increase the payments from your benefits, it can help you avoid getting into more debt. If you do get into more debt, your supplier could make you have a prepayment meter installed.

Until April 2023 your supplier can't make you start paying for your energy bills through your benefits - you have to ask for it. They also can't make you increase how much you pay them through your benefits.

Paying for current energy use through benefits 

From 26 April 2022 to 6 April 2023 your client's supplier can't:

  • make your client pay their energy bills through their benefits

  • increase your client's payments for energy bills

It might be worth your client increasing their existing payments to make sure they don’t get further into debt. If they do get into more debt, they could be at risk of their supplier installing a prepayment meter.

If you don’t come to an agreement

If you’re not able to agree a payment plan with your supplier, or you don’t stick to a plan you previously agreed to, your supplier might try to force you to have a prepayment meter installed.

In very rare cases your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.

Extra financial help

There are a number of energy companies who offer grants and schemes that are open to anyone - you don't have to be a customer.

You might be able to get a grant from a charitable trust to help pay off your debts. Let's Talk has more information on available grants and how to apply.

If you’re disabled, elderly or you get benefits, check whether you can get other help paying your energy bills.

Further help

If you can’t come to an agreement with your supplier about repaying your debt, or you’re not happy with the option they’ve given you, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for advice.

If you're struggling with debt problems, check how to get help with debt

If you’re struggling with living costs

If you’re struggling with money, there are things you can do to save on your regular living costs. Check what to do if you need help with living costs.

If you’re finding it hard to pay your bills, you can get help. Find out more about getting help with your bills.

You can also get help with debts.

If you're struggling to pay for food, find out how to get help from a food bank.

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