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Extra help with energy if you're vulnerable or on a low income

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You may be classed as vulnerable if you are:

  • a pensioner
  • disabled
  • chronically ill
  • unable to look after your own welfare or living with someone who is unable to look after their own welfare

If you fall into one of these categories, or are on a low income, you may be able to get extra help with managing your gas and electricity services or paying the bills.

This page outlines the different schemes available to vulnerable and low-income customers and explains who can access them.

Customer Care Register

Each energy supplier has a Customer Care Register and offers free services for older people and those with disabilities. These include:

  • a service more tailored to your needs. For example, you can ask to have your bills and meter readings in Braille, large type or audio tape
  • home appointments on request to discuss bills, queries or complaints
  • moving your meter free of charge to make it easier for you to access
  • having controls or adaptors provided to make your meter or appliances easier to use
  • free visit to read your meter on request if you tell your supplier you can’t read it yourself
  • additional protection from bogus callers with a password protection scheme
  • a nominee service for a carer or relative to look after billing etc.
  • free gas safety check or boiler service

If you switch supplier, you will have to re-register with your new supplier.

  • For a list of the features offered by suppliers to customers on the register, go to the Consumer Council website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk

Critical Care Register

If you have a serious medical condition and rely on electrical equipment for your day to day care, you can register with Northern Ireland Electricity’s Critical Care Register.

Once you are registered, if NIE schedules an interruption of supply they will contact you at least three days beforehand to let you know how long the interruption will last and keep you updated.

If there is an unscheduled power cut, they will call you as a priority and then contact you regularly during the power cut with up to date information.

You can register online on the NIE website at www.nie.co.uk.

Annual gas safety check

If you are a tenant, your landlord is responsible for making sure that an annual gas safety check is carried out on each gas appliance and flue.

If you are on your supplier’s Customer Care register they may offer you a free gas safety check or boiler service.

Extra help with bills in the winter

There are several government schemes which offer extra help with higher bills during the winter months. These are:

The Winter Fuel Payment

If you are of the state pension age during the qualifying week (which always begins on the third Monday of September), or live with someone born on or before that date, you may be able to get the Winter Fuel Payment. It is also often known as the Winter Fuel Allowance.

Cold Weather Payments

Cold Weather Payments can help people who get certain benefits with their additional heating costs if it is very cold during the winter.

Affordable Warmth scheme

If you need help paying for heating and insulation improvements in your home, you may be eligible for the government’s Affordable Warmth scheme. It is only available in areas being targeted by your local council.

To see what energy efficiency measures are available and whether you are eligible, go to the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

Boiler replacement scheme

If you are an owner occupier you could get a grant of up to £1,000 to help you replace an old inefficient boiler with a more energy efficient condensing oil or gas boiler or with a wood pellet boiler.

For further information go to the nidirect website at www.nidirect.gov.uk

Help if you’re in debt to your energy supplier

If you are a pensioner, have long-term ill health, are disabled or have severe financial problems you may also have extra protection from being disconnected.

Next steps

More information about help with energy

Energy Wise

The Energy Wise website gives advice on how to control what energy you use, a list of energy saving grants on your area and an online home energy check to find out where you could make savings on your bills.

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