Get help if you’re behind with your energy bills
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.
You can get more advice from Home Energy Scotland. Find guidance and contact details on the Home Energy Scotland website.
You might also be able to apply for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund.
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.
Check if something is an energy scam
Some scammers are pretending to be from energy companies to get your personal information.
If you think something might be a scam:
don’t give out any personal information or bank details
don’t use any contact details from the possible scam
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. If you agree, they might take 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-related Employment and Support Allowance
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.
Contact your energy supplier to set this up for you. You’ll need to:
submit a meter reading to make sure you get an accurate bill
give them your consent - either on the phone or in writing
agree on an amount that covers the cost of the energy you use
Your supplier can ask you to start paying for your energy bills through your benefits. You have to agree before any payments can be taken.
If you’re already paying through your benefits your supplier can ask you to increase the amount. You have to agree before the amount can be changed.
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.
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.
Check if you can get a grant to help pay off your energy debt
If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you might be able to get a grant to help pay it off.
The following energy suppliers offer grants to their customers:
British Gas Energy Support Fund - apply for a grant on the British Gas Energy Trust website
Scottish Power Hardship Fund - apply for a grant on the Scottish Power Hardship Fund website
Ovo Customer Support Package - apply for help on the Ovo Energy Fund website
E.ON Next Energy Fund - apply for a grant on the E.ON Next Energy Fund website
EDF Energy Customer Support Fund - sign up to the priority services register to apply for a grant on the EDF Energy website
Octopus ‘Octo Assist Fund’ - apply for a grant on the Octopus website
Shell Energy Support Fund - apply for help on the Shell Energy website
If your supplier isn’t listed it’s a good idea to contact them directly to see what extra support they can give you.
If you can’t get a grant from your supplier, you might be able to get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust. These grants are available to anyone - you don’t have to be a British Gas customer.
You'll need to get debt advice before applying. Find support on the Money Talk Team website.
If you've already spoken to a debt adviser - check if you can get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust.
Before you apply
When you apply for a grant, you'll have to provide detailed information about your financial situation in your application. It could take a while to complete, and it might be worth getting help from a friend or family member.
You can get help with the application from a Citizens Advice Bureau. Find out where to get advice.
It’s worth checking on the trust or fund website if there’s anything else you need to do before you apply.
For example, if your supplier is E.ON Next or EDF you’ll need to show you’ve completed a budget sheet with a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approved adviser. To do this:
Contact the adviser to arrange a conversation where you’ll complete a budget sheet
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 your local Citizens Advice bureau.
If you're deaf or hard of hearing, you can get help with energy issues from Deaf Action's Bright Deal service. It can give you advice in BSL, either online, on a video call or by arranging a home visit. Find out more on Deaf Action's website.
If you're struggling with debt problems, check how to get help with debt.
If you need somewhere to stay warm
You can ask your local council if they have information about nearby ‘warm spaces’. These are public places that anyone can use to stay warm - for example a community space like a library.
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.
If you’re finding things difficult
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. You should talk to your GP if your money problems are affecting your mental health.
You can also get help on the Breathing Space website.
If you need to speak to someone
You can speak to a trained volunteer at organisations like Samaritans or Shout.
Helpline: 116 123 (Monday to Sunday at any time)
Welsh Language Line: 0808 164 0123 (Monday to Sunday 7pm to 11pm)
Calls to Samaritans are free.
You can also text 'SHOUT' to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained Shout 85258 volunteer. Texts are free, anonymous and confidential from anywhere in the UK.
If you think it's an emergency
If you think your life or someone else’s is at risk, you should call 999 or go to A&E if you can.
If you need support you can call NHS 24 on 111, the Mental Health Hub is open 24/7.