What support is available if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills?

Many households have dialled down their energy usage in hopes of keeping a lid on rising bills. Credit: PA

Help is available for households struggling with soaring energy bills, as heating and electricity costs rocket.

Rising inflation and a supply crunch sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine have driven the crisis.

The issue has led to some falling into energy debt, opening them up to the risk of suppliers applying fitting controversial prepayment meters in their homes.

Here, ITV News outlines some of the support measures open to those in need of help with their bills.

Speak to your provider

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the cost of your energy bills it’s recommended that you first get in contact with your supplier.

They are legally obliged to help and work with you on a payment plan, which will spread your payments out and ideally make them more affordable.

Those who are on prepayment meters and can't afford a top-up can also get temporary credit from their supplier - but be warned this will need to be paid back.

Seek out hardship funds and grants

British Gas, E.On and Octopus are among the companies offering hardship funds and grants to customers who are in energy debt.

You do not need to be a customer to apply for them, although the eligibility criteria does vary depending on the firm.

For example, British Gas says that its grants are open to customers with energy debt up to £1,500. The debt must also apply to your primary residence and on an active energy account.

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Get in contact with local services

Parents who are feeling the strain of soaring energy bills are advised to get in contact with their children’s schools to see if any extra support is available.

Education providers across the UK have set up uniform swap shops, food banks and emergency parcels to help alleviate some of the burden.

High energy bills can also increase pressure on other household outgoings, such as food. So, in recent months, there has been a growth in the number of food pantries - places where you can get discounted food.

The service works by asking people to become a member for a £5 monthly fee, and gives access to £30 worth of shopping.

Check if you're eligible for government support

Until March 31, some residents in England and Wales are eligible to receive the Cold Weather Payment - a scheme designed to support people with their heating expenses during periods of particularly cold weather.

Eligibility depends on how cold it gets in your area and if you are already receiving benefit support.

Those who meet the criteria will be sent a £25 payment for each seven-day period of very cold weather - if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius.

You’ll only be eligible for a Cold Weather Payment if you already get:

  • Pension Credit

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Universal Credit

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In January, it was announced that some households with smart meters would be paid to cut back their energy use.

The National Grid's Demand Flexibility Service was activated in response to concerns electricity supply margins may be "tighter than normal".

Although a short-term fix, similar tactics could in future offer some financial relief to residents.

Meanwhile, millions of households on low incomes will receive fresh cost-of-living support from this spring.

More than eight million eligible means-tested benefits claimants will be sent £900 in cash support, which will go directly to bank accounts in three payments.

The Department for Work and Pensions has also said there will be a separate £150 payment for more than six million people with disabilities and £300 for over eight million pensioners on top of their Winter Fuel Payments.

According to the government, exact payment windows will be announced closer to the time, and payments will be spread to ensure consistent support throughout the year.

Elsewhere, before the end of 2022, the government declared that all households in England, Scotland and Wales will receive £400 in energy bill discounts.

The support is being issued in six instalments over six months - starting in November 2022 and ending in March 2023 - to some 29 million households.