Cost of living crisis: What help is available if I'm struggling with energy bills?

Credit: Pexels/Gary Barnes

There are worries of a "seismic" hit to energy bills, with a potential 50% increase in prices on the horizon.

Energy sector leaders are meeting the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in an attempt to tackle the cost of living crisis.

In an emergency meeting at the end of December, they agreed to “ensure UK customers are protected”, though no resolution was reached.

But what can we do to protect ourselves or seek help if it becomes difficult to keep up?

Firstly, how bad could it get?

Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis said the government must intervene now to avoid a crisis in the energy market.

He said: “This year is going to be a very tough year for many people.

“The energy price crisis needs substantial intervention from the government.

“We are going to see a minimum 50% increase in energy prices in the system and that is unsustainable for many.”

The government’s energy price cap is due to be revised in February, with the increase put onto customers’ bills from April.

According to Cornwall Insights, an energy sector specialist, bills could rise from £1,277 a year under the current price cap to £1,865 a year when the next revision is announced, a rise of 46%.

They also predict it could spike to £2,240 a year at the following quarterly revaluation in August 2022 without a significant fall in energy prices globally.

Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Policy at Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), told ITV News: “Families are already weathering a tough winter, but with a huge hike to energy bills anticipated in April, this could be the tip of the iceberg.

"Without urgent support, more people could face desperate choices between heating and eating.

“The government must act now to prevent the cost of living crisis from escalating further. The quickest and easiest way to provide direct help for those hardest hit will be through the benefits system.”

In the three months running up to November last year, nearly three quarters (73%) of frontline staff at CAB reported an increase in the number of people coming to them unable to afford essential household costs such as food, rent and heating.

And according to its survey of 2,000 people, more than a third (37%) are worried about paying their bills this winter - this rises to nearly half (48%) of people on low incomes.

Winter Fuel Payment

The Winter Fuel Payment is an annual one-off payment to help you pay for heating during the winter.

66% of people cut back on food to pay energy bills Credit: PA

If eligible, you could receive between £100 and £300. You can usually get one if you were born on or before September 26, 1955.

Details are here on the government website.

Cold Weather Payment

As the name suggests, this scheme is designed to support households during particularly cold weather.

To be eligible, you must already be receiving some kind of benefits, such as income support of universal credit. Eligibility is broken down here on the government website.

There is no need to apply - if you're eligible, you will be paid automatically.

Energy bills could rise by hundreds of pounds next year, analysts warn.

This offers £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather and runs from November 1 last year to March 31, 2022.

Warm Home Discount

If you are on a low income or claim pension credit, you may eligible for Warm Home Discount through your supplier.

This cuts bills with a one-off discount of £140 at some point between September and March - which will be take off your bill rather than paid directly to you.

You must contact your supplier to confirm your eligibility and apply, though the number of discounts a supplier can give is limited.

In debt to your energy company? You may get a grant

If you do fall behind on payments, there are suppliers that offer grants.

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Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) lists suppliers that offer grants:

If none of these companies supply your energy, you can still apply for a grant though British Gas Energy Trust as you do not need to be a customer.

Applications can be time consuming. For help, CAB advises to reach out to one of its advisers or to contact Money Helper.

Local Energy Grant

Simple Energy Advice offers a tool on its website to locate grants available in your specific area.

Your local council may also provide various grants.