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Help if you can’t pay gas and electric bills

Can't pay your energy bills? If you’re worried about not being able to keep up to date with payments or you already have arrears on your gas or electricity bills, we’re here to help.

If you need help with more than one debt, don’t wait to get free debt advice online now.

With high gas and electricity prices, it’s not a surprise that many people are struggling to pay their energy bills. We’ve put this guide together to help you reduce your energy costs, make sure you’ve been charged correctly and deal with any extra money you may owe.

Jump to the help you need now.

My supplier has asked me to contact you or I've missed payments

I won't be able to heat my home or cook

I need help with budgeting due to rising living costs

Frequently asked questions about prepayment meters and dealing with your supplier

If you owe money to an energy company, it’s an example of ‘being in arrears’. Energy bills are a priority because there can be consequences to missing or being late on a payment. We can work with you to put together a plan to make the repayments and avoid being disconnected. Or, if you’re unable to repay your energy arrears we’ll recommend ways to write off your debts. Get debt help online now.

I need help with my energy bills

Your supplier may have asked you to get in touch with us and provide a reference number to show we’re helping you. Or maybe you’re worried about what can happen when you’ve missed payments.

If you come to us for help, we can:

  • Create a budget which you can share with your supplier showing how much you can afford to pay
  • Work out which of your debts are a priority and what you need to spend
  • Usually recommend ways to repay what you owe to your energy supplier and any other debts you have
  • Help you understand what your supplier can do to help you
  • Help you find out if you can apply for Breathing Space, which gives you some time and space to deal with your money worries
  • Provide you with a StepChange reference number that shows you’ve come to us for help

We’re not able to provide you with emergency grants to pay for your energy. What we can do is look at your financial situation and work out a longer-term plan to deal with your finances.

While your supplier may be able to offer support if you explain you’re struggling to pay them, if you simply stop paying your bill:

  • Your supplier can collect the money you owe using a debt collection agency 
  • Your supplier could put you on a prepayment meter. Any arrears you have will be added to the meter and a set amount will be taken each week 
  • Your credit score could be affected
  • You could be disconnected, but this is rare 

You can’t be sent to prison if you don’t pay your energy bills. Find out more about the debt collection process.

I have no money for energy, what can I do?

If you have no credit in your pre-payment meter, or you’re worried about having to switch off your heating because you can’t afford it, your supplier and local council may have emergency funding you can access. And if you live in Scotland or Wales, you may be able to get help from your local government.

If you need help to pay for gas or electricity immediately, you need to:

Your supplier may be able to offer emergency credit. Even if you’ve already had emergency help from them, they can sometimes offer an extra top-up.

These are loans which need to be paid back, so make sure you understand the conditions of borrowing the money.

You may be able to get fuel vouchers from your local council. You’ll get a code, which you can use to top up your gas or electricity prepayment card or key at a shop or Post Office that’s signed up to PayPoint or PayZone.

Find the website for your local council.

If you live in England, you may be able to receive a small grant to support you with energy bills. Contact your local council to see if you are eligible.

Find the website for your local council.

Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 cash payment from their local authority. The money is to provide support towards paying your fuel bills. This is in addition to the winter fuel payment offered by the UK Government.

Find out more about the Wales fuel support scheme.

The Discretionary Assistance Fund provides a grant to help pay for essential costs. You can apply if you’re experiencing extreme financial hardship. Examples of hardship could include if you've lost your job or if you’ve applied for benefits and are waiting for your first payment.

Find out more about the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

If you live in Scotland, the Home Heating Support Fund can help you if you’re struggling to pay your heating bills. This payment can be used for oil, LPG gas, solid fuels and for those on heat networks.

Find out more about the Home Heating Support Fund.

Child Winter Heating Assistance is a benefit from the Scottish Government. It’s a payment to help disabled children and young people and their families with increased heating costs over winter.

Find out more and see if you are eligible for Child Winter Heating Assistance.

More government help with energy bills

There are several government schemes, including the Warm Home Discount Scheme, available to help with the rising cost of your gas and electricity bills.

Government help with energy bills

More funding from grants and trusts

If you’re on a low income or receiving benefits, energy suppliers, local authorities and charities have grants you can apply for. These can help you to pay your bills.

Grants and funding to pay for electricity bills

3 quick steps for dealing with rising energy bills

Look at your income, spending and debt repayments

Make a budget to work out how much money you have left over each month after paying your usual household bills. See if you can make savings in any areas.

Follow our guide on how to make a budget

Make savings and increase your income

You might not be able to switch energy providers, but maybe you could get a better deal on your phone or broadband? There could be ways to increase your income and there may be benefits and council tax reductions you’re entitled to.

Read our guides to saving money and increasing your income

Use our benefits checker

Are you claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to? Millions of pounds worth of benefits go unclaimed each year.

Use our benefits checker to see if you’re missing out on any benefits or tax credits.

Use our benefits calculator

How can I reduce my energy costs?

If you or someone you know can’t afford to heat their home, NEA offer a range of advice and support.

If you own a property in England or Wales you can get recommendations for home improvements that could make your property cheaper to heat and keep warm.

Use the service on Gov.UK


If you live in Wales, the Nest scheme offers a range of free, impartial advice. You may be eligible for free home improvements, like a new boiler, central heating, insulation or solar panels.

Warm Wales offers free advice and support to ensure people across Wales and south west England have warm and safe homes.


If you live in Scotland, you could get up to £5,000 of energy saving home improvements funded by the Scottish Government. Visit Home Energy Scotland to find out more.

Northern Ireland

If you live in Northern Ireland, visit NI direct for help with energy costs.

Frequently asked questions about gas and electricity arrears

Paying for your energy on a prepayment meter is more expensive than paying by Direct Debit.

Any arrears will be added to the meter and a set amount will be deducted each week. This means you must pay the arrears each week or risk your supply being cut off, although this is rare.

Large energy bills are rarely the result of a faulty meter. If you receive a bill that seems unusually high, you should check a few things first:

  • Is the current meter reading correct? If the bill's estimated, make sure you can provide a more accurate up-to-date reading to your supplier. Even if the current reading's higher and the new bill would be more, it’s better to make sure your readings are correct
  • Have your previous meter readings been correct? For example if the last bill was based on a low estimate, your current bill may be higher to ‘catch up’
  • Are you sure that the bill is for the same meter? There can be confusion about which meter should be read, especially if you live in a flat. You should note down the serial number and current reading on your meter and contact your supplier with these details. The meter’s serial number will be a mix of numbers and letters printed on the meter itself
  • Have you had any new appliances fitted? People often underestimate how much electricity some appliances, such as heaters, can use. Older appliances can also use a lot of electricity, especially if they’re faulty. Check the amount of units used in a day whenever a certain appliance is on, then turn it off for a day and compare the amount used

If you've checked all of these and you're still worried your bill is high, speak to your supplier for advice. You could also take a meter reading at the same time each day for a week to check your average daily usage, and have this information to hand when calling your supplier.

In April 2018, Ofgem ruled that energy suppliers couldn’t ‘back-bill’ their customers for energy that was used more than a year ago.

Back-billing is when suppliers estimate bills due to not having regular, accurate meter readings. Once they have the meter readings, the supplier might send a catch-up bill if the estimated amount was too low. The only exception to this ban is if a customer prevents an energy company from taking accurate meter readings, for example by refusing access to the meter to take a reading.

If this happens to you, and you don’t believe you owe this money, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the company. If you don’t receive a satisfactory response, you can escalate your complaint to The Energy Ombudsman.

You must not ignore any letters you receive about your energy bills, whether it’s from your current supplier or a previous one. Even if you disagree with the amount that you’ve been billed, there’s still a possibility that you owe some money.

If the company that sent the letter doesn't hear from you, they may consider pursuing enforcement action through the courts if you live in England and Wales or through the courts if you live in Scotland. This would further complicate the problem.

Smart meters are compact devices that you can display in your home. They have an easy-to-follow screen that accurately tells you how much energy you're using and how much it will cost. They also tell your supplier each month how much energy you used, meaning your bill is more likely to reflect your actual usage.

Many energy companies recommend smart meters as a way to help people save money on energy bills. If you make small changes to your energy consumption – for example by switching off appliances when not in use or keeping the heating low - you should see the benefits very quickly on your smart meter.

Visit the Smart Energy GB website for more information on smart meters and how they could help you reduce your energy bill.

The Priority Services Register is a free support service that makes sure extra help is available to people in vulnerable situations. If you’re eligible, getting yourself on the register can stop you being switched to a prepayment meter, if you’d have difficulty accessing places to make payment. Find out more about the Priority Services Register and see if you’re eligible.

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