Get help if you’re behind with your energy bills

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Talk to an energy adviser

Call our consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Lines are closed on bank holidays.

Calls from mobiles and landlines are free.

Check the different ways to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.

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.

Example

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 ask your supplier to pause your repayments for a short amount of time. They must consider your situation but they don’t have to agree to a pause.

You can explain why pausing your repayment will help your situation. For example, tell them if you’ve lost your job and you’re looking for a new one or you’re waiting for a benefit payment.

If your supplier doesn’t agree to a repayment pause and you don’t think they’ve considered your situation, you can complain to your energy supplier.

If your supplier agrees to pause your repayments, you should agree with them how long your repayments will be paused for. 

Your supplier should contact you before they start taking any repayments again. They should check if you can afford the repayment amount.

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

You can check if something is a 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 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.

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:

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.

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.

Talk to an adviser

if you need for help filling in forms.

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:

  1. Find an adviser using the debt advice locator on the Money Helper website

  2. Check if the adviser or their firm is on the FCA register

  3. Contact the adviser to arrange a conversation where you’ll complete a budget sheet

You can get ready for your conversation by using the Budget Planner on the Money Helper website.

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 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.

You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.

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 find other ways to get help with your mental health on the Mind website.

If you need to speak to someone

You can speak to a trained volunteer at organisations like Samaritans or Shout.

Samaritans

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 find other ways to get in touch with Samaritans on their website.

Shout

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.

You can also find a list of urgent mental health services on the Mind website.

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