Many people are struggling to manage finances and keep on top of bills. With everything that’s going on right now, attempting to maintain control over your finances is tough. If you are doing so alongside managing a disability, the challenge may seem impossible to overcome.
If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t stay silent. Talking to your supplier really can help.
Each individual will have specific needs and challenges. To meet those needs, make sure you are giving your supplier accurate information. This will help them to give you the best possible advice. It is also important to note that not all energy suppliers are able to offer support for every scheme. This makes it important to check with your supplier to find out whether or not they can support your needs.
Cold Weather payments and the winter fuel payment
Once you are registered and proven eligible for these payments, they should be made automatically. The Cold Weather payments are made when the temperature outside reaches a defined threshold. This can be on more than one occasion during the winter months. The Winter Fuel Payment is a benefit paid once a year to anyone that is eligible. As usual qualifying criteria apply before you will receive any of these payments.
The Warm Home Discount
This is a one-off payment, made annually. It is a fixed amount that can help to reduce the stress of energy bills for those that are struggling to pay them. A successful application will net you the full amount available, currently set at £140. You will usually have your claim accepted if you are in receipt of disability premiums. After the claim has been processed and accepted, the benefit will be received by the customer as a rebate.
Switching your energy supplier can save you hundreds of pounds per year. Most customers prefer a fixed term contract such as over 12 or 24 months. When the fixed term contract ends, you will be transferred to a variable tariff. This will be more expensive than the fixed term and will remain in place until the account holder does something about it. When this happens, switching to another supplier is likely to save you money. If you are already on a variable deal, regularly check for better deals and switch once you find one.
Pre-paid meters aren’t for everyone but can be a useful tool if you are struggling to pay your energy bills. Using an App or pay-point store, your account is quickly and easily ‘topped-up’, providing prepaid energy to your home. Once you have added credit to your account, you use your gas and electricity as normal. Once your credit is running low, you can top it up again and carry on. This will make unexpectedly high bills a thing of the past.
Some disabilities can involve physical impairment. This may make getting to your gas or electricity meter difficult. In these cases, it is important to contact your energy supplier and explain your circumstances. They can move meters to make them more accessible, usually with no fee. Your energy company may also offer to install a smart meter. This will mean that you won’t need to worry about providing meter readings.
As mentioned earlier, you may find that not all energy suppliers participate in each and every scheme that is available. It is therefore important to check with your supplier before you apply.
Are energy companies offering any deals aimed at helping the disabled?
Most of the schemes described are from the government. This means that you can get the same support from most energy suppliers. Some have set up additional schemes of their own:
British Gas Trust/ Scottish Gas Energy Trust/ EDF Energy Trust/ Npower Energy Fund- Exists to provide grants to those most in need. You don’t need to be an energy customer of any of these suppliers to apply. You can use them; to clear outstanding debt, boiler repair/ replacement and to help purchase white goods (ovens, fridge/freezer, washing machine etc.).
E.on- E.on offers its customers financial assistance with home improvements that increase energy efficiency. This can include wall or loft insulation, or replacing an old boiler.
Scottish Power- Scottish Power have created a hardship fund to help people that are struggling to pay their energy bills. To access cash from this fund, you must meet qualifying criteria, dependent on applicable benefits or a low household income.
It is essential that if you are struggling to pay for your gas and electricity, that you acknowledge the problem. Suffering in silence or pretending that you do not have a problem will not help you to pay the bills. Talking to your energy supplier or Citizens Advice really can make a big difference and help you to take back control of your finances.