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Are you eligible for extra help with energy costs?

Written by: Emma Lunn
Vulnerable energy customers can get extra cash from a variety of schemes plus support from the Priority Services Register (PSR).

Households struggling with their energy bills are being encouraged to sign up for extra help as temperatures start to fall.

The regulator Ofgem is backing calls from the Energy Networks Association (ENA), Citizens Advice and National Energy Action (NEA) for eligible households to sign up for the Priority Services Register (PSR) this winter.

What is the Priority Services Register?

Run by energy suppliers, the PSR provides elderly and disabled customers and those with long-term medical conditions with extra help in the event of planned engineering work, routine faults or storms interrupting supplies.

Though the service cannot exempt properties from potential power cuts, it aims to provide extra information and support to those who need it.

Help can include aspects such as tailored customer care, benefit checks, more accessible formats for energy bills, more frequent meter reading and free gas safety checks.

Gillian Cooper, head of energy policy for Citizens Advice, said: “If you’re not on the Priority Services Register, you could miss out on support you’re entitled to. As we head into winter, check if you’re eligible and register if you can. Even if you’re not eligible for this one, there may be other support you can get. Have a look at the Citizens Advice website for more information or give us a call to talk through your options.”

Neil Lawrence, director of retail at Ofgem, said: “We know this is going to be a tougher winter than usual for a lot of people, so it’s vital that customers get all the support available for them.

“That’s why, as we head into the colder months, we want to urge people to check with their supplier whether they may benefit from services available through the Priority Services Register – we know that not everyone eligible is currently benefitting.

What other help can you get with energy bills?

  • The winter fuel payment

If you were born on or before 25 September 1956 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. This is known as a ‘Winter Fuel Payment’.

The amount you’ll get this year includes a ‘Pensioner Cost of Living Payment’. This is between £150 and £300. You’ll only get this extra amount in winter 2022 to 2023.

  • Grants

Some energy suppliers offer non-repayable grants to people suffering financial difficulties.

Big energy firms such as EDF, E.on Next, Shell and Scottish Power tend to offer the cash just to their own customers. But the British Gas Energy Trust offers grants to anyone who is struggling – regardless of whether they are a British Gas customer.

You need to contact the schemes directly and check their eligibility rules and how to apply.

  • Warm home discount

This is a £150 rebate paid by suppliers at some point between October and Match. If you’re eligible, and your provider is part of the scheme you will usually receive it automatically.

You’ll qualify if you’re on pensions credit or on specific benefits and have high energy costs.

  • Cold weather payments

This winter might be mild so far but if temperatures drop in England and Wales, older people and those on specific benefits will get £25 for each seven-day period between November and the end of March that the average temperature is below freezing.

The payment is different in Scotland – if you’re eligible, you’ll get a £50 one-off payment in February, regardless of how low the temperature gets.

  • The Household Support scheme

Cash from this scheme is distributed by local councils in England and aims to help people in really desperate circumstances. Each council will have specific criteria and an application process, so get in touch and ask.

  • Contact your energy supplier

If you don’t qualify for the above help, and you’re struggling with your bills, contact your energy supplier. Ofgem rules mean suppliers have to offer a number of potential options to help you pay, including affordable payment plans, payment reductions or time to pay.

  • Get help with debts

If you’re struggling with energy bills, other household costs or existing debts, a debt charity such as StepChange or Citizens Advice can work with you to find a solution.

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