Winter can be cold and dark. Are you having difficulty affording to heat your home this winter? At Citizens Advice we often see clients who do. Sometimes people can’t pay their gas and electricity bills and they get into arrears. If these arrears are not paid, the energy supplier may pass the debt on to a debt collection agency.
If you are finding it difficult to afford your energy this winter but you are not yet in arrears there are a few things you can do to help ease the burden. You could think about switching your supplier. By switching you can take advantage of cheaper tariffs.
If you’ve had energy arrears for less than 28 days you can still switch supplier. If you’ve had arrears for more than 28 days you will have to pay the debt off before switching.
If you’re on a prepayment meter you can switch supplier even with a debt of up to £500 for gas and £500 for electricity. You’ll need to ask the new supplier to agree to transfer your debt along with your supply. To get started visit www.uswitch.com (or call 0800 6888 244) or you can ask your local Citizens Advice to help.
If you are on a low income you might be able to get £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Contact your supplier to check your eligibility.
If your energy arrears are building up, it’s important that you contact your supplier to discuss a repayment plan. If you don’t negotiate with your supplier they might threaten to disconnect your supply. You can tell your supplier that you want to pay off your debt in installments. Tell them what you can afford to pay and they will suggest a payment plan that covers what you owe plus your current use.
If you’re in receipt of benefits you may be able to pay off your arrears direct from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme. You can contact the Jobcentre to let them know this is what you want to do. NEVER AGREE TO A PLAN YOU CAN’T AFFORD
Vicky* rang Citizens Advice Waverley because she was struggling with energy arrears and a low income. Without working out a realistic budget, Vicky had agreed to a payment plan with her energy supplier that she couldn’t afford. It was putting an intolerable strain on the household budget. Vicky was really stressed. An adviser spoke to Vicky’s energy supplier and negotiated a new payment plan that took into account Vicky’s other living expenses. Vicky is now paying off what she can afford and is in a much better position to manage her household finances.
*This is a representative story of someone with energy debts. Client confidentiality is never breached.
You may be able to get charitable help to pay off your gas and electricity debts. Citizens Advice work with local charities to help the most vulnerable and those with priority need. If you would like to know more about help available from local charities, or YOU WOULD LIKE US TO CHECK IF YOU COULD SAVE ON YOUR ENERGY BILLS contact us using the details below.
If you’re worried about anything….
Don’t put it off – Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help.
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0344 848 7969
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