Get help if you’re struggling to pay your bills

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

There are things you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills - for example your energy bills, rent and council tax.

If you owe money and you’re struggling to pay 

You should speak to the organisations you owe money to – they might let you pay smaller amounts or take a break from payments.

Don’t ignore bills or letters about money you owe.

You can find out how to start dealing with your debts.

Check if you can get extra help or money

You might be able to claim benefits or increase your current benefits if you’re:

  • struggling to afford essential things - such as food and housing

  • sick or disabled

  • not working

  • working and on a low income

  • a pensioner on a low income

  • a carer

  • responsible for children

It’s important to check if you can get extra help or support, even if you’re working.

Check what benefits you can get.

Check what help you can get from your local council

You can contact your local council - they might help you pay for things like:

  • your energy and water bills

  • food

  • essential items - for example clothes or an oven

This help is known as the Scottish Welfare Fund.

You must apply to your local council to get a grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund.  Read more about getting help from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

You do not have to be getting benefits to get help from your local council. If you do get benefits, they won’t be affected if you get money from the Scottish Welfare Fund. 

Check what help you can get with your bills

Contact the organisations or people you owe money to. They might agree to help by doing things like:

  • reducing your payments

  • giving you more time to pay

Each organisation is different so it’s important to check what help you could get.

If you’ve borrowed money and are struggling with the cost of living, ask your lender for support. They should:

  • give you advice based on your individual situation

  • reduce fees and charges

You should start by trying to sort out problems with your energy bills, council tax or housing costs. These are more urgent than things like credit cards or loans.

Get help with your energy bills

If you're still struggling to pay your bills you should contact your energy supplier. Your supplier has to help you find a solution. Talk to them about a payment plan that works for you - this means making payments you can afford over a fixed period of time.

Find out more about agreeing a payment plan.

If you don’t try to agree a plan with your supplier, they might say they’ll disconnect you or switch you to prepayment. This is where you pay for your energy before you use it.

You can:

You might be able to save money on your energy bills by switching to a different supplier, or to a different tariff with your current supplier. Check if you can switch.

If you’ve got a prepayment meter and you don’t top it up 

Your energy supply might stop.

Check what to do if you can’t afford to top up your prepayment meter.

Check if you can apply for grants and schemes 

You might be able to get help to pay your bills.

Check if you can apply for grants and schemes to help with the cost of your energy bills.

If you use an oxygen concentrator

You can get money back for the electricity it uses. This is called a 'rebate'. 

If your rebate hasn't been set up, contact the supplier of your concentrator.

Get help paying your rent

If you can’t pay your rent, explain the situation to your landlord straight away. They might give you more time to pay. 

You might be able to get benefits to help with your rent, for example Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. You’ll usually get Universal Credit if you’re under State Pension age. You’ll usually get Housing Benefit if you’re over State Pension age.

Check if you've reached State Pension age on GOV.UK.

You can find out more about dealing with rent arrears.

If you’re already getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all your rent, you can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is extra money from your local council to help pay your rent.

You need to be getting Housing Benefit or the housing costs part of Universal Credit to get a DHP.

Contact your local council and ask how to apply for a DHP. You might have to apply by phone or online. You can find out how to contact your local council on GOV.UK.

When you apply, explain why you need a DHP. For example, you should tell them:

  • why you can't afford to pay the rent

  • why you can't move somewhere cheaper

  • if it's causing problems for someone you look after, like a child or elderly relative

  • if you have a disability and how this makes it more difficult to pay

You’ll need to send any evidence you have, for example a letter from your doctor or details of debts you're paying off.

It's a good idea to keep a copy of your application. For example, you can take photos of your paper form or print a copy of an online application.

Your local council will decide whether to give you a DHP  - it depends on your situation. If the council decide to give you a DHP, they'll write to tell you:

  • how much you'll get

  • when the DHP will stop

If you still need a DHP after it stops, you can apply again.

Get help with your council tax

You might be able to pay less council tax or not pay it at all - it depends on your circumstances. 

Check if you can pay less council tax.

If you’ve missed a council tax payment

You should contact your council straight away. Find your local council on

If you ignore Council Tax arrears, your council will:

  • issue a summary warrant

  • add a 10% charge on to your bill

You’ll also have to pay sheriff officer fees as well as your debt. 

Find out more about dealing with council tax arrears.

Get help paying your mobile, phone or internet bill

Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help. They might agree to:

  • reduce your bill

  • give you more time to pay

  • increase your data or download limit

  • move you to a different contract

If your provider won't help you, you might be able to switch to a different provider. If you owe money to your old provider when you switch, you’ll still have to pay the money you owe. 

Find out more about switching to a different provider.

If you’re getting benefits

You might be able to get a cheaper deal called a ‘social tariff’. It depends which benefits you get and where you live. 

You can check which providers offer social tariffs on the Ofcom website.

Get help paying your mortgage

Ask your mortgage provider for help - they might change the way you pay your mortgage. For example, they might let you make interest-only payments for a while.

Find out more about reducing your mortgage costs.

If you’re behind with your mortgage payments

You’re in ‘arrears’ - this means you owe money to your mortgage provider. 

You need to agree with your mortgage provider a way to pay back what you owe. If you don’t, your mortgage provider might take you to court and try to take your home. They should only do this after exploring all other options with you.

Try to pay as much as you can, even if it’s not the full amount. Your provider can’t take you to court until you owe a total of 3 months' worth of payments. 

Find out more about dealing with mortgage arrears.

Get help repaying your credit card or loan

If you ask the company or organisation you owe money to, they might reduce or pause your payments. You can:

If you tell your lender you can’t pay, they must treat you fairly and take into account your situation. 

If your lender doesn’t help you, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman. They investigate complaints about organisations which lend money.  Contact the Financial Ombudsman Service on their website.

Get help repaying a benefit overpayment or budgeting loan

You might be able to pay less if the repayments mean you can’t afford things  like rent or electricity. 

Contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Debt Management centre and ask them to reduce your payments. Explain the effect the repayments have on your finances. 

DWP debt management contact centre

Telephone: 0800 916 0647 

Textphone: 0800 916 0651

Relay UK - if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 328 1344

You can use Relay UK with an app or a textphone. There’s no extra charge to use it. Find out how to use Relay UK on the Relay UK website.

Video relay - if you use British Sign Language (BSL).  

You can find out how to use video relay on YouTube.

Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233

Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm

Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Get help with hire purchase payments

Contact the company you have the agreement with. You might be able to get your payments reduced or paused. The company might:

  • reduce or stop charging interest on your missed payments 

  • change the amount you have to pay back and how long you have to pay it

  • allow you to pay a small amount or nothing for a fixed amount of time

You can also end a hire purchase in writing and return your purchase at any time. You might still have to make some payments - it depends how much of the total agreement you've already paid.

You can find out more about ending a hire purchase.

Get help paying your tax bill

If you're struggling to pay your tax bill, you should speak to HMRC straight away. Explain your situation and ask them if you can spread your payments over a longer period.

You can call them on their income tax helpline.

HMRC income tax helpline

Telephone: 0300 200 3300

Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Saturdays, 8am to 4pm

Calls cost 12p per minute from a landline, and from 3p to 45p from a mobile

If you can’t pay your tax bill, you can read more about what to do on GOV.UK.

Get help paying for your insurance

If you’re struggling to pay, think about whether you still need the insurance policy. If it’s something you need, contact your insurance provider and explain your situation. Your provider might agree to:

  • remove parts of your policy to reduce the cost - for example, cancelling breakdown cover on car insurance

  • let you pay over a longer period 

If you've already paid for your insurance and then you change your policy to make it cheaper, you should get a refund of the difference. You might have to pay a fee which will be taken off the refund.

If your insurance provider won’t agree to help

You can complain to an ombudsman. They look into complaints about companies and organisations and can make them help you. 

Find out more about complaining to an ombudsman.

If you’re struggling with the cost of an overdraft

Contact your bank or building society and ask how they can help you - for example, they might agree to temporarily pause interest or fees on your overdraft.

You should also ask your bank or building society to help you work out how to pay back the overdraft.

If you take out a loan to pay off your overdraft it could cost you more and cause problems if you can't afford the payments. Talk to an adviser before you take out a loan.

You can find out more about how to deal with your overdraft.

If you’re thinking about borrowing money to pay your bills

It’s usually more expensive to take out a loan – you’ll have to pay extra costs like interest. 

You should first contact the organisations you need to pay. You might be able to agree a plan to help pay the money you owe.

If you decide to take out a loan, you should:

If the lender isn’t on the FCA register

If they’re not on the register, don’t borrow money from them.

A lender that isn’t on the register might want to charge high interest rates or expensive fees. They might ask to take things like your passport, or a bank card as security for the loan - they’re not allowed to use these things as security. 

These lenders are often called ‘loan sharks’. You can report loan sharks to the national Trading Standards Scotland team on 0800 074 0878.

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


You can also text 'SHOUT' to 85258 to start a conversation with a trained Shout 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.

Page last reviewed on 26 May 2022