Last updated on 09/01/2023
This blog was first created before the current cost of living crisis and the increases in energy bills seen in 2022. Whilst we have checked this information is up to date, you may find our blogs specific to the cost of living crisis more helpful:
January is a particularly tough month, after the expense of Christmas and receiving an earlier pay in December, many people across the UK are having to make challenging choices about whether they can afford to heat their homes. Our work shows that blood cancer patients often face financial difficulties following a diagnosis; one of the reasons for this is an increase in energy bills. For example, if you are going through treatment, you may find you are spending more money to keep warm. Additionally, many patients and their families have spent more time at home over the pandemic, due to being asked to shield. Living in a home without adequate heating can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing so it is important that you access any support that is available to help with your heating expenses.
This blog will highlight ways to overcome difficulties if you are struggling with energy-related issues. Making simple changes can make a big difference, such as switching energy suppliers or changing the tariff you are on, accessing discounts or grants, or improving your home’s energy efficiency. It will also contain information on how to get financial help, for example claiming all the benefits you are entitled to or getting help in a crisis and accessing schemes.
How can I make my home as energy-efficient as possible?
See our top tips to save energy at home:
- Try keeping the room you spend the most time in warm, rather than the whole house. It is a myth that it’s cheaper to keep the heating on low all day and this has been debated a lot over the years.
- By closing your curtains as soon as it gets dark, or just before, will keep the heat in.
- Insulate your roof to stop heat escaping from the house. You may be eligible for free loft insulation if you claim certain benefits. https://www.government-grants.co.uk/free-insulation
- Change your light bulbs to LEDs. These are more expensive to buy but are more energy-efficient long term.
- Turn lights off when you leave the room.
- Air seal your home. Add insulation by sealing cracks, gaps and leaks and save up to 10% on heating costs. Keep the heat in by shutting doors behind you.
- Use heating controls, such as thermostats if you have them, to heat your home without wasting energy. Setting the thermostat to come on only when you need it, for example, half an hour before you get up in the morning. By turning your thermostat down by 1 degree, you can save around 10% on your energy bill.
- Turn off electrical appliances such as computers, TV, mobile phones, when not in use, and don’t leave them on stand- by. Many new appliances come with an energy rating, choose the best energy rating you can.
- Make use of special cycles on your appliances. Turn off the dishwasher early or use an eco-friendly cycle and air dry the dishes instead. Wash clothes at a cooler temperature. Only boil a kettle with the amount of water you need to use.
- Set your refrigerator temperature to the manufacturer’s recommendation to avoid excessive cooling and wasting energy.
- Ensure that refrigerators and freezers are as full as possible as they operate more efficiently. Be careful though not to overfill as this will cause the appliance to work harder.
- Use a water-efficient showerhead, as they are designed to regulate your water usage. Some water companies provide these for free; you can check if you are eligible here: https://www.savewatersavemoney.co.uk/. For more suggestions on cutting water bill, visit: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/cut-water-bills/
- Consider replacing your windows if your home has single-pane windows; replace them with more energy-efficient windows (e.g. double or triple glazing) or add solar shades. For help making this change, please see below information on the new Green Homes Grant.
What can I do if I’m still struggling to pay the bills, or I can’t afford to make the changes you suggest?
Financial assistance is available in a variety of situations, with the emphasis on keeping warm for less. Each scheme has its own eligibility criteria.
Energy Company Obligation (ECO)
You could be eligible for support through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) (available in England, Scotland and Wales) if someone in your household is receiving benefits such as Income Support or Universal Credit. This scheme is a government initiative that helps vulnerable people and those on a low income make energy-saving improvements to their homes such as insulation, a new boiler, double glazing. To qualify you will be in receipt of certain benefits and have an income of £16,190 or less. Detailed information about the ECO programme can be found on Ofgem’s website here: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/eco
Winter Fuel Payment
During the winter, the winter fuel payment is available if you were born on or before 25th September 1954. This is an annual, tax-free payment to help with heating costs. Ensure that you are registered to get it, then you will receive this every year. Find out how to claim on: https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment
Cold Weather Payment
A Cold Weather Payment is a one-off payment to help pay for extra costs when it is very cold. Whenever the temperature drops below a specific temperature for a set period of time, you will get an automatic payment with your benefits. You are eligible if you receive pension credit, income support, income-based jobseeker allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and/or universal credit. Find out more at https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment
Warm Home Discount
The Warm Home Scheme has changed this year, eligible customers in England and Wales will receive payments automatically rather than having to apply to your energy supplier as they had to in previous years.
The Warm Home Discount provides a one-off payment of £150 off to eligible customers to reduce their bills over the winter period. The scheme is open between October 2022 and March 2023. Provided your energy supplier is part of the scheme and you or your partner is on the energy bill, you will get the warm home discount if the following applies and you are in the two groups listed.
Core Group 1:
You should qualify if you are State Pension age and receive the Guaranteed Element of pension credit on 21st August 2022, you or your partner is named on the bill, and your energy supplier offers the Warm Home Discount.
Core Group 2:
If you are on a low income and receive means-tested benefits, you may also qualify, if the government decides after looking at your circumstances, that (you have high-energy costs) and are at risk of fuel poverty.
If you are living in a home that is expensive to heat, you will get the warm home discount if you receive any of the following list of qualifying benefits on the qualifying date, which is 21st August 2022.
- Income related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Universal Credit (low-income elements) For Universal Credit you must also be receiving the child element for children aged 5 or under, Disabled child element or a disability or pensioner premium
- Child Tax credits with low household income
- Working Tax Credits with low household income
- Pension Credit Savings Credit
In Scotland and Wales, you are assessed as being in fuel poverty if you spend more than 10% of your household on energy costs.
To find out more information about the Warm Home Discount, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme
Finally, you may be able to get a budgeting loan to help you with unexpected expenses, such as an unexpected increase in your energy bills if you spend more time at home after diagnosis. To qualify you need to be receiving Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. Please see: https://www.gov.uk/budgeting-help-benefits for further details.
Additional services that may help you to manage your bills
Register as a vulnerable customer. Let your supplier know that you have blood cancer if possible, as this should mean you are eligible to register for its priority services as a vulnerable customer. The priority services include:
- Notice of any planned power cuts and more support during power cuts
- Your energy supply not being disconnected if you are behind on your payments
- Priority in an emergency (this could include providing alternative heating and cooking facilities in the event of supply disconnection)
If you are in receipt of certain benefits and are already in debt on your energy bills, you can arrange to have a fixed amount deducted directly from your benefits to cover what you owe. Contact your local Jobcentre or your local pension centre, who liaise with your energy supplier and agree an amount, usually around £3.70 to be taken out of your benefits. The fee is a little different if you claim Universal Credit; 5 percent of your total benefit will be taken each week until the debt is paid off.
Assistance in an emergency
Local councils can provide emergency financial support under the local welfare assistance scheme. If you don’t have enough money to meet your immediate, short term needs, you may be able to get support. Your local council may be able to give you some vouchers or a prepaid card to pay for your energy. Ask your local council for more information. https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council
If you are worried about your financial situation, employment, benefits or struggling to pay bills, please contact our Welfare Officer at Leukaemia Care. You can contact them by completing the form below or call our helpline on 08088 010 444. The team will take note of your details and then the Welfare Officer will call you back.