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Help if you cannot pay gas and electric bills

Worried about energy bills?

We can help

Get free debt advice online now if you have more than one unpaid bill.

Lots of people are struggling right now. Use this guide to:

  • Help lower energy costs
  • Check charges are correct
  • Deal with increased bills
  • Learn about the rules about prepayment meters

Click on the links below to jump to the help you need now.

I am behind on payments or my supplier said to contact you

I cannot heat my home or cook

I need to budget for rising living costs

Frequently asked questions about prepayment meters and dealing with your supplier

Owing money to an energy company is called ‘being in arrears’.

Energy bills are ‘priority bills’ because missing or late payments have consequences.

We can help you make a payment plan to avoid being disconnected.

We can also suggest ways to write off your debts if you cannot pay arrears. Get debt help online now.

Confused by the changing rules on prepayment meters?

OfGem recently announced that some energy suppliers can start installing involuntary prepayment meters again.

They cannot do this if you:

1. Have a health condition that requires continuously powered medical equipment

2. Have a medical condition that requires a warm home, like:

  • A terminal illness
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Sickly cell disease
  • And others

3. Are over 75 years of age and do not have support in the house

4. Live with a child under the age of 2

5. Cannot top up the meter for physical or mental reasons

Contact your supplier if you get a notice saying a meter is going in your home.

  • Explain you belong to one of the above groups
  • Ask to them to put you on the Priority Services Register
  • See if they can offer any other extra support

Read more on the OfGem website here.

See our prepayment FAQs here.

I need help with my energy bills

We can:

  • Give you a StepChange reference number
  • Create a budget to show your supplier what you can afford
  • Work out which debts you should pay first
  • Work out what you need to spend
  • Suggest ways to repay what you owe
  • Help you understand how your supplier can help you
  • Help you find out if Breathing Space is an option for you

We cannot give emergency grants or help pay for your energy.

If you receive a means-tested DWP benefit like:

  • Universal Credit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit

You can choose to have an amount deducted from your benefit each week instead of paying your supplier.

The DWP call this ‘third party deductions’ but it is also known as ‘Fuel Direct’.

Your estimated annual bill is split evenly into weekly amounts, plus you get £3.70 per week towards arrears for each utility.

For example, if your estimated annual bill was £52, your weekly amount would be £1. Then, add the £3.70 to this, and you would pay £4.70 weekly.

Benefits of Fuel Direct:

  • The maximum of £3.70 per week for the arrears may be less than your supplier would be willing to agree to outside of Fuel Direct
  • You cannot be disconnected while paying by Fuel Direct

Risks of Fuel Direct:

  • The DWP will only agree to Fuel Direct if they think it is right for you
  • It may be refused if you already have other benefit deductions
  • It will normally stop once the arrears are paid off
  • If the usage is estimated incorrectly, the deduction may be too high or low. That could lead to you having further arrears

You need to contact Jobcentre Plus to apply for Fuel Direct and let your supplier that you are doing this.

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

Your supplier and local council may have emergency funding for certain situations.

There is help from local government in Scotland and Wales.

If you need help paying for energy right now:

They may have emergency credit to give you. Sometimes they can offer an extra top-up to people who have already had help.

This is a loan. You will need to pay it back.

Make sure you understand the conditions of borrowing.

You may be able to get fuel vouchers from your local council.

Here’s how it works:

  • Get a code
  • Take your code to a shop or Post Office that has PayPoint or PayZone
  • Top up your gas or electricity prepayment card or key

Find the website for your local council.

The government announced in March 2024 that the Household Support Fund is extending for another six months.

Contact your local council to see if you can get a small grant to help with energy bills.

Find the website for your local council.

Some households can claim a one-off £200 cash payment from their local authority for fuel bills.

Find out more about the Wales fuel support scheme.

You can apply for a grant to help with essential costs if you are:

  • Out of work
  • Waiting for your first benefits payment

Find out more about the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

This can be used for:

  • Oil
  • LPG gas
  • Solid fuels
  • Heat networks

Visit the website for more.

More government help with bills

There are several government schemes to help with rising costs.

Government help with bills

More funding from grants and trusts

Energy suppliers, local authorities and charities have grants for people on low income or benefits.

Grants and funding to pay for electricity bills

3 quick steps for dealing with rising energy bills

Make a budget

  • Look at your monthly income, spending and debt repayments
  • Work out what you have left over after paying household bills
  • Can you save anywhere?

Follow our guide on how to make a budget

Make savings and increase your income

  • Can you get a better deal on your phone or broadband?
  • Can you increase your income?
  • Are you entitled to any benefits or a council tax reduction?

Read our guides to saving money and increasing your income

Use our benefits calculator

  • Did you know millions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed each year?
  • Are you claiming everything you could?
  • Use our benefits calculator to find out

Use our benefits calculator

How can I reduce my energy costs?

National Energy Action (NEA) offer a range of advice and support.

Property owners in England or Wales can get suggestions to make heating your home cheaper.

Use the service on Gov.UK


The Nest scheme offers a range of free, impartial advice.

You may be able to get free home improvements, like:

  • A new boiler
  • Central heating
  • Insulation
  • Solar panels

Warm Wales gives free advice and support for warm and safe homes.


Visit Home Energy Scotland to learn how £5,000 of energy saving home improvements could be funded by the Scottish Government.

Northern Ireland

Visit NI direct for help with energy costs.

Frequently asked questions about gas and electricity arrears

There are steps the supplier must take first.

And, as of September 2023, you can’t be forced to have one if:

  • You are over 75, with no support in your home
  • There are children under two years old living in your home
  • You need a continuous supply. Such as for medical equipment
  • You have a condition that means you need a warm home
  • Nobody in your home is able to top up the meter. This could be due to psychical or mental health reasons

Before installing a pre-payment meter, your supplier must:

  • Make at least 10 attempts to contact you
  • Carry out a site welfare visit in your home
  • Wear audio or body cameras when visiting your home. The footage will be made available
  • Make sure you do not lose supply when a meter is fitted, by giving you a £30 voucher

When you have repaid your energy bill debt, suppliers must:

  • Assess if a meter is now the best way for you to continue to pay
  • Agree that you can move off your pre-payment meter – if you have passed the credit checks they need to make

Prepayment meters are more expensive than Direct Debit payments.

Any arrears are added to the meter and a set amount deducted each week. You must pay the arrears or risk being cut off.

Call your supplier but check these things first:

  • Is the current meter reading correct?
  • If your bill is estimated, you can provide up-to-date readings to your supplier.

    Correct readings are better in the long run even if:

    • The current reading is higher
    • The new bill is more
  • Were your previous meter readings correct?
  • For example: If the last bill was a low estimate, your new high bill may be ‘catching up’

  • Is the bill for the same meter?
  • There can be confusion about which meter to read, especially in flats.

    • Write down the serial number (the mix of numbers and letters printed on the meter)
    • Write down the current meter reading
    • Contact your supplier with these details
  • Are there any new appliances?
  • Some appliances, like heaters, use a lot of energy.

    Older appliances can use a lot of electricity too, especially if they’re faulty.

    • Spend a day checking units used whenever a certain appliance is on
    • Turn it off the next day
    • Compare the amount of units used

    You could also:

    • Take a meter reading at the same time each day for a week
    • Work out your average daily usage
    • Call your supplier with this information


In 2018, Ofgem ruled that energy suppliers cannot ‘back-bill’ customers for energy used over a year ago.

Back-billing is when:

  1. A supplier does not have regular or accurate meter readings
  2. They decide to estimate a bill instead
  3. Later meter readings show the estimate was
  4. The supplier sends a “catch-up” bill to get what they lost

The only exception is if a customer stops an energy company from taking accurate meter readings, like by refusing access to the meter.

If you get a bill from over a year ago and do not think you owe it you can:

  • Lodge a complaint with the company
  • Escalate your complaint to The Energy Ombudsman

You must not ignore letters about energy bills.

You may owe money even if:

  • You disagree how much
  • It is from an old supplier

The company may consider enforcement action.

Read about court action in Scotland here.

Smart meters are compact devices with a screen that tells you:

  • How much energy you are using
  • How much it will cost

They also tell your supplier:

  • How much energy you use each month
  • What your bill should be

Many energy companies recommend smart meters to help people save money on energy bills.

Small changes to energy consumption should appear quickly on smart meters.

Visit the Smart Energy GB website for more information.

Mix ups at suppliers can cause a lot of needless stress.

  1. First, check whether you have:
  2. Contact the creditor
    • Tell them the debt is not yours
    • Explain the situation
    • Contact should stop

Details of how to handle debts not in your name can be found here.

The Priority Services Register is a free support service that helps people in vulnerable situations. It can stop you being switched to a prepayment meter if it would be hard for you to make payments.

Worried about money?

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