Below is some information about energy bills, including examples of the help available for getting better deals on your bills, and debt management advice and support that could be available so you are not paying more for your energy and water bills than you have to.
If you have a low income and struggle to pay your bills, contact us for home energy and water use advice. We have helped residents save an average of £200 a year off their bills, and might be able to help you.
Support for people struggling with energy bills
If you are struggling to pay for gas or electricity as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the government and energy companies have agreed a range of support measures:
The best place to access help first is your energy supplier, so contact them and explain your specific circumstances. For example, you might have a pre-pay meter and are currently unable to top it up because you are self-isolating.
- Full agreement between government and energy suppliers
- Guidance from Citizens Advice
- Money Savings Expert: Coronavirus finance and bills help (commercial website)
Collective switching scheme
Reduce your energy bills through the power of bulk buying – the more people join, the more you might save!
We support the Cambridgeshire Collective Switching Scheme, which has saved local people an average of more than £200 per year.
- Sign up for free
- An auction is held to see which energy suppliers offer the best deals
- Auctions are held four times per year
- You are not under any obligation to switch
Price comparison websites
There are many price comparison websites out there. To make it easier for consumers to get a better deal on their gas and electricity bills Ofgem who are the independent national regulator for energy companies have developed an online guide to assist consumers with comparing energy tariffs. This can be accessed at www.goenergyshopping.co.uk.
Another source of information is the Citizens Advice Bureau which has comprehensive information on switching energy suppliers and finding the best deals for electricity, gas and water using price comparison websites.
Do note that not all energy companies offer the Warm Home Discount Scheme (see below for details). So to receive this discount customers must fulfil eligibility criteria and be the customer of a company running this scheme.
Financial support for paying bills
Priority Services Register
The Priority Services Register was set up for vulnerable customers. These customers are eligible for free services from gas and electricity companies if they meet certain criteria.
If the customer is of pensionable age, disabled, chronically sick, blind or visually impaired, then they can apply to join the Priority Service Register.
Warm Home Discount
Provides a one-off payment of £140 to help with energy costs. It is paid automatically to pensioners on a low income, but people receiving certain benefits will need to contact their energy supplier every year to apply for it.
Cold Weather Payments
Payable to those receiving certain means tested benefits. A payment of £25 is paid for each seven-day period of cold weather (the local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days) between 1 November and 31 March.
Winter Fuel Payments
Universal pensioner benefit to help towards the cost of heating bills of between £100 and £300 tax free. Most payments are made automatically between November and December.
Cambridge Water special tariffs
Cambridge Water offers a number of special tariffs to support low income households. Check whether you are eligible for a special water tariff on the Cambridge Water website, or contact Cambridge Water by phone on 01223 706050.
Cambridge Water Direct
A scheme where payment for water bills is deducted directly from benefits. You may be eligible if you are in debt to your water company and in receipt of certain benefits.
Social Funds and Charitable Trusts
Energy and water companies contribute to support funds (independently run social funds and charitable trusts set up to help clear customer’s energy and water debts and provide support and advice on how to manage debt in the future. An example is Charis grants.
Further information on all of the above including eligibility criteria visit the following links:
Help for those struggling to pay
All energy and water companies provide ways to help customers who are struggling to pay and in some cases can even offer reduced bills. The sooner you speak to your provider the better so you can agree a more suitable repayment plan. Companies have obligations relating to debt and how they deal with consumers including flexibility in payment frequency, payment method or the option for special arrangements. Some sources of help for managing debt include:
Money Advice Service is a free and impartial money advice resource set up by the government to help you make the most of your money. Their 5 minute ‘financial health check’ assesses your finances confidentially, with practical advice on how to improve them, tailored to your situation
Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides free, independent and confidential advice on a whole range of issues including money and debt advice.
Cambridge Water offers support to people struggling to pay water bills through flexible payment options and access to debt and money advisors.
Step Change Debt Charity provides free and tailored advice on all areas of debt.
Age UK Cambridgeshire is an independent charitable organisation which supports people over the age of 65. They can provide advice on keeping your warm home, information on benefits and advice on debt management. Following the link for information on Help with Winter Heating Costs.