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Help with your energy bills as a carer

Energy costs can really add up. This can be especially true if you are at home a lot of the time or need to keep particularly warm, whether due to a medical condition or age. It is therefore common for carers to worry about how they or the person they care for will afford their gas and electricity bills.

There are some simple changes you can make to keep your bills as low as possible, as well as lots of different forms of financial support available. We give some more information below.

There are lots of simple steps you can take to cut down on your energy usage and reduce your bills. You might be amazed how much money you can save through some easy changes. For instance, you could save:

  • £75 a year by using a room thermostat and radiator valves to control your heating efficiently.
  • £60 a year by turning your heating down just one degree.
  • £40 a year by replacing your lightbulbs with LED bulbs.
  • £38 a year by fitting a water-efficient showerhead.
  • £35 a year by turning your appliances off at the plug instead of leaving them on standby.
  • £25 a year by using a bowl to wash up rather than a running tap.
  • £25 a year by draught-proofing your windows and doors and blocking any cracks in your floors and skirting boards.
  • £15 a year by turning off the lights when you’re not using them.
  • £19 a year by installing a chimney draught excluder.
  • £8 a year by only using your washing machine once a week.
  • £8 a year by spending one minute less in the shower every day.
  • £6 a year by only filling the kettle with the amount of water you need. [1]

There are also schemes available for more significant adaptations to your home to make it more energy efficient, such as installing insulation or changing your boiler. Some of these schemes are provided by the government, and others by energy suppliers or local councils. A number are open to anyone, and others are just for people with low incomes or who receive certain benefits. Take a look at the Turn2us website for further information.

The current guidance is to stay with your current provider. It is worth asking whether your provider have any reduced-rate social tariffs for people in your circumstances. Some suppliers even provide their most vulnerable customers with other support to help cut their bills such as insulation or draught-proofing.

It is good to keep your eye on any changes in advice about switching providers. Ofgem provides a list of accredited price comparison websites, all of which comply with the Confidence Code. These will allow you to compare how much you pay against other providers.

LEAP (Local Energy Advice Partnership) is a free energy and money-saving service for people who are in or at risk of falling into fuel poverty. They can come to your home and fit free LED light bulbs and draught-proofing measures to help cut your energy usage. They can also check that you are on the most cost-effective tariff for you and tell you more about other funding you might be able to access for further energy-saving home improvements. If you would benefit from a free money advice consultation they can also arrange this too.

You are eligible for help from LEAP if you are in receipt of certain benefits, on a low income, have one of a defined list of medical conditions or a physical or sensory disability. It is open to all types of householders, whether you own your own home, are a private renter or a social housing tenant.

Take a look at the LEAP website for full details of their eligibility criteria and how to access their support.

Many energy suppliers have their own charitable trusts and funds which you can apply to for support if you are struggling to pay your electricity or gas bills. Each of them has their own eligibility criteria, so it worth looking into your particular supplier’s hardship fund to see whether you are able to apply.

The British Gas Energy Trust also offers grants to anyone who is in fuel debt, whether you are a British Gas customer or not. You can find out more on their website.

Some energy providers take part in what is known as the Warm Home Discount scheme. This allows people who meet certain criteria to have a one-off annual discount of up to £140. The discount is applied to one electricity bill issued between October and March. It will not affect either your Winter Fuel Payment or Cold Weather Payment (see below).

You are automatically eligible for the Warm Home Discount if you are a pensioner who receives the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if you also get Savings Credit). This makes you part of what is known as the ‘core group’.

There is also what is known as a ‘broader group’ of people that energy companies can also give the discount to. These are people on a low income who receive certain means-tested benefits.

The application is different depending on whether you are part of the ‘core group’ or the ‘broader group’. If you are part of the core group, you should receive a letter between October and December telling you how to get the discount. Sometimes it is automatically applied and sometimes you will be required to call a helpline to confirm your eligibility. If you do not receive a letter but think you should be part of the ‘core group’ then contact the Warm Home Discount helpline using the details on the GOV.UK website.

If you are part of the ‘broader group’, then you do not have an automatic entitlement to the discount. This part of the scheme usually operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Not everyone who is eligible will receive the discount so it is important to apply as soon as you can when the scheme opens. Your electricity supplier sets the eligibility criteria and application process so you should contact them directly for further details.

In either group, in order to be eligible you or your partner’s name must be on your energy bills. If your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity, you may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead. If you have a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go meter then you can still get the Warm Home Discount, but it will just be paid to you in vouchers. If you live in a mobile home, then you need to apply in a slightly different way. In each of these circumstances, talk to your supplier for further details.

If your current energy provider doesn’t take part in this scheme and you think you would be eligible, it may be worth switching provider to one that does participate. The GOV.UK website lists the companies taking part. Take a look at the section above on switching providers for more information about this.

The Winter Fuel Payment is designed to help older people have enough money to cover their heating bills. It is an annual, tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 for people of State Pension age.

For the Winter of 2021-22, to be eligible you need to have been born on or before 26 September 1955 (the date changes every financial year). You also must have lived in the UK for at least one day of a particular ‘qualifying week’. For Winter 2021-22, the qualifying week is 20-26 September 2021.

The amount you will receive depends on a number of factors including your age, who you live with and what benefits you get. To find out how much exactly you are entitled to, take a look at the GOV.UK website.

If you receive the State Pension or another social security benefit like Pension Credit, you will receive the Winter Fuel Payment automatically. If you do not receive one of these and you have never claimed before, then you will need to make a claim. To do this, call the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0800 731 0160. They will ask you for more information including your bank details and your National Insurance number. You can also claim by post if you prefer, using the form on the GOV.UK website. You will only need to claim once, after which the payment should be made to you automatically every year. If your circumstances change, you should let them know as soon as possible as you may have to repay any overpayments made.

The payment is usually made in the final couple of months of the year, but could be as late as the following Spring. It comes as a lump sum payment rather than as a discount on your heating bills. It will not affect your other benefits.

If you live in a care home and receive either Pension Credit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support then you are not entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment. You are also not eligible if you are in hospital receiving free treatment for more than a year or if you were in prison for the whole of the qualifying week.

If you are on an income-related benefit, you are entitled to a Cold Weather Payment if the average temperature where you live drops to 0°C or below (i.e. freezing) for seven days in a row.

You will receive £25 for every week that the temperate drops this low between November and March every year.

You do not have to apply for this; it will be paid to you automatically in your benefits.

The government provides a Cold Weather Payment tool for you to check if you are due to get a payment.

For some very specific medical conditions, the NHS will make a contribution to your energy bills. For instance, if you require dialysis at home, the NHS will pay for the electricity needed to run the dialysis machine. You may need to get a separate electricity meter installed for the machine, so they know how much it uses. To find out whether this is something you are eligible for, talk to your medical team.

If none of these options work for you and you are still struggling to pay your bills, then it is important to speak to your energy company as soon as possible. They may allow you to spread your payments out using a payment plan, to make it easier to keep on top of them.

Although it won’t necessarily help with your bills, it might still be a good idea for you and the person you care for to be added to your energy company’s Priority Services Register. This is a free service for older and vulnerable customers that provides a little extra support. This support can include having a copy of the person you care for’s bills sent to you as their carer, getting supplies delivered in an emergency or being notified is advance if your supply is due to be interrupted. Just get in touch with your energy company and ask to be added.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

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