With energy bills set to rise by more than £500 a year for the average family, there is help available for anyone struggling.
This April will also see price rises in other areas, including water bills, phone bills and council tax, putting even more pressure on household budgets.
But help is out there – and if you’ve run up debts on your gas and/or electricity, energy grants can help to pay them off.
So how much are your energy bills likely to rise, how do you apply for a grant, and who is eligible?
Here’s what you need to know.
How much will my energy bills go up in April?
From April, the good news is that the energy price cap is coming down from £4,279/year to £3,280 from April 1 – which is the maximum amount that suppliers can charge customers for each kilowatt of energy they use.
But the temporary additional ‘cap on the cap’ – the energy price guarantee – will also rise from £2,500 to £3,000, increasing many bills. Plus, the Energy Bills Support Scheme – which paid out £400 to eligible households to help with energy bills – is being scaled back and, for many, will end.
The charity Citizens Advice has a useful calculator which will help you work out how your bills will change.
What is an energy grant?
An energy grant is a non-repayable sum which can help you clear debts you’ve run up on gas and electricity bills.
To be clear, you do not have to pay the money back at any time and it is credited directly to your energy account.
When you apply, you may need to give full details of your household income, and may also need to provide up-to-date meter readings.
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Depending on the type of grant, some suppliers will ask you to take money advice first, from a free debt adviser.
Which suppliers offer energy grants?
Until February, British Gas offered grants from its Individual and Families Debt Write Off Fund and you didn’t have to be a British Gas customer.
This fund is now closed to new applications – but if you have a prepayment meter and have debts on your energy account of up to £1,500, you still have until March 31 to apply.
It is expected to re-open for new applicants in the summer.
In the meantime, British Gas customers with gas and electricity debts between £250 and £1,500 at their main residence can still apply for a grant.
If you’re a Scottish Power customer on Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Pension Credit or Employment and Support Allowance, you have a low household income or special circumstances such as illness, the company’s Hardship Fund may be able to help.
You can find out more and apply here.
Ovo Energy has a Hardship Scheme for its users which offers ‘tailored support based on each customer’s needs’.
To apply, visit their dedicated support page, with your monthly disposable income amount and meter readings to hand.
The charity StepChange offers an online tool to help you work out disposable income.
E.ON has set up the Next Energy Fund initiative for its customers, which could help you pay your current or final E.ON Next energy bills and even replace old appliances.
You can find out more and apply here.
EDF Energy has a Customer Support Fund which can help with energy debts and appliances – after taking free debt advice you can apply here.
You’ll need your EDF account details and current energy balances to hand, plus details of your household finances.
Bulb Energy has a dedicated fund for its customers – your first step is to contact Bulb on 0300 30 30 635 and asked to be referred to the Energy Fund service. Once you’ve done that, you can access it here.
Octopus Energy has set up a £15 million ‘Octo Assist Fund’ to help its customers in a range of ways – the first step is to find out if you are eligible.
Shell Energy has a £20m ‘Helpfund’ which is to ‘alleviate some of the financial hardship and energy debt for our customers who need it most’.
To access it, your first step is to contact the company – either by online chat, email or phone.
What if my supplier isn’t listed?
Citizens Advice says it is worth contacting your supplier directly anyway to see what support they can offer.
You can also contact Citizens Advice’s consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 (it’s free to call).
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