Help with fuel bills

Grants, discounts and other sorts of help with energy bills are available to pensioners and vulnerable groups on benefits. Find out more about some of the gas and electricity support options and how to apply.

Pensioners and people claiming certain benefits are entitled to a raft of measures to help with higher winter fuel bills

Energy bills are a major concern to many householders, with typical consumers having to set aside a large proportion of their budget to pay for gas and electricity.

More than 10% of English households were classed as being in fuel poverty in 2012, according to a 2014 report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

A household is classed as being in fuel poverty when its energy cost is above average and household income is below the poverty line once fuel costs have been subtracted.

But did you know there's help available for people who are finding it hard to pay their bills?

Most pensioners and some people claiming certain benefits are entitled to a raft of measures to help them meet the cost of higher winter fuel bills.

Winter Fuel Payment

The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off payment made every year to most people born on or before 5 July, 1952.

If you're eligible you'll receive a sum of over £100, which is usually paid automatically into your bank account in November or December.How to save money on energy

Cold Weather Payment

People on certain benefits are eligible for a Cold Weather Payment.

Cold Weather Payments are made when temperatures are recorded as, or predicted to be, zero degrees Celsius or lower for seven consecutive days.

If you're eligible, you'll receive a payment for each seven-day spell of cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.

It's paid into the bank account that your benefits are paid into within 14 working days.

To find out more contact your local Jobcentre Plus or pension centre.

Warm Home Discount scheme

The Warm Home Discount schemeis a government-backed service that's regulated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

It's designed to support vulnerable customers who need help heating their homes.

If you're eligible, you'll receive a one-off discount credited directly into your electricity account, usually between October and March.

Eligibility for the Warm Home Discount will depend both on you and your choice of supplier, so if you think you might qualify it could be an important factor to bear in mind when thinking about switching energy suppliers.

To find out more, read our guide to the Warm Home Discount scheme.

Energy Company Obligation

Under the Energy Company Obligation, help with the cost of energy-saving improvements is available to people on certain benefits if they own or privately rent their home.Gas and electricity

Improvements can include loft or wall insulation and boiler repairs.

Under the scheme, part or all of cost of the work will be covered if you receive certain benefits and earn less than a certain amount.

The energy improvements can only be carried out if you own your home or have permission from the owner for the work to go ahead.

To find out if you're eligible, contact the Energy Saving Trust.

Other help

Even if you don't qualify for any benefits or grants, it's still important to tell your gas and electricity supplier if you're struggling to pay your bills.

It might be tempting to bury your head in the sand, but the outstanding balance won't go away and you could end up in real difficulty if you ignore it.

Energy firms have a range of options to help customers who are worried about their bills and can offer lots of tips to help you save energy in your home and reduce future bills.

Finally, don't forget to regularly compare energy prices to see if you can get a better gas and electricity deal with a different energy supplier.

By Rebecca Lees