Bills and Debt

Keeping on top of your money and dealing with money problems

Here is a 2 page Money Help in Cambridgeshire Checklist that you can use to help yourself or others.

Services near me

Energy

These are your heating and lighting and cooking bills and are usually the biggest cost after housing and food bills. You can get big savings by checking the costs, switching suppliers and making sure you are getting the help you are entitled to.

Please note that the site recommends switching suppliers to save money.  At the moment that is unlikely to be the case as many energy companies are struggling. If you don’t find a better tariff than the one you’re on it’s probably better to wait until deals are available again”

There is help and advice available if you are struggling to pay your energy bills.  See below for more information.

Advice Services

Cambridgeshire Home Energy Support Services (CHESS) – provided by PECT and Cambridgeshire ACRE

Provides advice and support to households in Fenland, Huntingdonshire, East Cambs and Cambridge City around heating and energy. Following a referral or self-referral a call or home visit will be booked in with one of our energy advisors who will help with any relevant issues. Frontline workers can be kept up to date on this project by signing up to be a volunteer on the project.

To refer, email warmhomes@pect.org.uk or fill in the referral form on – www.pect.org.uk/projects/warmhomes

LEAP

Households in Peterborough and South Cambs can receive a similar service from LEAP to help with issues around heating and energy.

Call 0800 060 7567 or email support@applyforleap.org.uk to refer in or visit www.applyforleap.org.uk for more info

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Help with Energy Bills

If you are worried about how to pay your bills or can’t afford to pay there is free help available. Let your supplier know you are struggling and get advice from:

  • Your Housing Association if you live in social housing
  • Local Citizens Advice

Warm Home Discount

Households in Cambridgeshire on a low income or in receipt of benefits may be eligible for a £140 payment from their energy supplier every winter. Applications must be made directly to the energy supplier annually, except for those on Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) who should receive this automatically.

Household Support Fund

Provides help with paying for gas, electric, oil and water. As well as supermarket vouchers for food and essentials, it can help with other necessities such as boiler repairs and white goods. Applications can be done by a Trusted Partner or households can apply themselves online. Available to households in Cambridgeshire. Only available until 31st March 2022.

Household Support Fund – Cambridgeshire County Council

Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme

If you live in Cambridgeshire, and are eligible, CLAS can provide information, advice and practical support and assistance in times of exceptional pressure. Following an assessment, you may be eligible for a CLAS award. The awards can be in the form of supermarket vouchers, energy vouchers, new cookers, or recycled white goods and furniture. CLAS energy vouchers for people on prepaid meters are available via Cambridge & District Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Rural Cambs.

Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme

Stay Well Grant

Grants of up to £400 are awarded for vulnerable individuals and families living in Cambridgeshire facing fuel poverty. For those that are homeless, other costs of keeping warm (such as sleeping bags) will be considered.  Online application form for professionals only.  

Stay Well (previously Warm Homes) – Cambridgeshire Community Foundation (cambscf.org.uk)

Warm Welcome Project

Warm Welcome Project, supporting low-income and vulnerable expectant and new families in fuel poverty in Cambridgeshire. This includes the potential of a small grant fund of around £50 per household for essentials.

Online referral form for professionals.

Email Molly.chambers@nea.org.uk for further information

PECT fuel vouchers

PECT are able to provide households in Fenland, Huntingdonshire, East Cambs and Cambridge City, on prepayment meters, with fuel vouchers if they are struggling or worried about topping up. To authorise fuel vouchers we need household details, proof of address, proof of a prepayment meter (a photo is fine) and need to know whether a PayPoint or Post Office voucher is needed. Email Nikki.dekker@pect.org.uk to request this for a household you are working with.

CHESS debt relief

Households in Fenland, Huntingdonshire and East Cambs may be eligible for a debt relief grant of up to £500. The household must either be in receipt of a benefit or show financial impact from Covid-19. The £500 can be used towards energy arrears or a debt relief order if energy arrears are included within this. Or it can be used for those who need oil or other solid fuels. Email warmhomes@pect.org.uk to refer a household for this.

Energy supplier grants

Some of the bigger energy suppliers have their own funds to support households in energy arrears. Main examples include Eon and British Gas. These funds are open to all, not just their customers. Would advise going through a local Citizens Advice –  Citizens Advice Cambridge & District or   Citizens Advice Rural Cambs for access to these as financial/budgeting advice appears to be evident for applications to be accepted.

 

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Help with Energy Debt

If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, it is important that you get in contact with them to discuss a payment plan.

If you are on a low income you may be able to access a grant to help you pay it off.  You will need to provide detailed information about your finances.  If you think you might struggle with this your local Citizens Advice should be able to help you.

The following energy suppliers offer grants to their customers:

If you can’t get a grant from your supplier, check if you can get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust. These grants are available to anyone – you don’t have to be a British Gas customer.

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Home Improvements

You may be eligible for help improving the efficiency of your home in order to lower your bills.

Eco/Affordable Warmth

This scheme helps low-income homeowners receive help with boiler replacements, insulation and first-time central heating. This can be accessed either through an energy supplier, for example Eon can offer boiler replacement at heavily reduced price, or through an appropriate installer who can access the funding on behalf of the household. Installers can be found on www.trustmark.org.uk. Available to households in Cambridgeshire.

ECO3 Scheme

Local authority

There may be grant funding available through the local authority for low income or vulnerable homeowners to assist with energy improvements in the home. Contact the local authority or PECT to see if this is available for any households you are supporting at the time.

LEAP

For those in Fenland, LEAP can offer boiler replacements and first-time central heating for homeowners in receipt of benefits.

Call 0800 060 7567 or email support@applyforleap.org.uk to refer in or visit www.applyforleap.org.uk for more info

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Using Less Energy

There are lots of ways you can save energy around the home. Simple steps make a big difference

  • Avoid leaving appliances on standby
  • Turn lights off when you leave a room
  • Use LED light bulbs
  • Only boil water in kettle that you need
  • Turn down your thermostat
  • Don’t cover your radiators with wet clothes
  • Use draught excluders
  • Take shorter showers
  • Wash clothes at a lower temperature
  • Monitor your usage with a smart meter

The Energy Saving Trust has lots of useful ideas for saving energy here

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Find out what payment plan you are on

If you are on a tariff called ‘standard variable’ for electricity and/or gas you are probably paying too much.

If you are on a prepayment meter you will also be paying more than you would on a credit meter.

To find out your plan:

  • Contact your electricity and gas suppliers and ask them, OR
  • Wait for your first bill to arrive – the plan name should be on there and explain how charges are calculated

If you don’t know who your supplier is ask your landlord or ask the distribution companies

  • For gas call the Meter Number Helpline on 0870 608 1524 (these calls are charged)
  • For electricity supplies in the East of England the regional distribution company is 0800 783 8838 / 0333 202 2021 for mobiles

REMEMBER – If you are the bill payer you have the right to change suppliers so that you can get the best deal – this includes anyone renting who pays their own energy bills

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Compare prices

There are lots of websites to help you compare prices from different suppliers-

If you don’t have access to the internet get in touch with your local advice agency, housing association or library and find out how you can get online to compare prices.

The comparison sites are easy to use and quickly show you how much you could save.

To compare prices you will need your postcode and ideally your most recent bill so that you know how much gas and electricity you are actually using -if you are new to the property and don’t have this the comparison site will estimate how much you use based on the size of your property.

Look through the offers carefully and  see which is best for you needs:

  • Is it a fixed price tariff? This means it will stay the same price throughout the deal
  • How long is the deal for? Is there a charge if I leave the deal early?
  • How will I pay? Some deals  require you to pay by direct debit

If you do switch remember to make a note of the deal offered and the contact details for the new supplier and take your meter readings on the day switch over- take a photo if you can on a smartphone

Even if you decide you don’t  want to check out comparison sites always call your existing supplier at least once a year and make sure you are on the cheapest deal with them.

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Keeping track

Make sure you know how much electricity and gas you are using

  • Always check your meter regularly. Smart meters are being introduced to help people keep track of costs more easily – more here
  • If you are unsure how to read a meter your energy supplier will be able to advise you – use their website or helpline
  • If you have difficulty reading your meter because of the location get in touch with your supplier as they may be able to help you. Check out if you are eligible to go on the Priority Services Register – this will also give you extra help in an emergency
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Prepayment (pay as you go) meters

These can be helpful in that you know how much you are spending as you go along but you will be paying more. If you are moving to Universal Credit you may find it easier to swap onto a credit meter as you will be receiving monthly benefit payments.

If you want to swap to a credit meter there may be a charge but check with your supplier – the larger companies usually do free.

Don’t forget even if you are on a prepayment meter you can still compare prices and get better deals. If you have debt (up to £500) on your prepayment meter you can still switch.

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Do you use home heating oil?

If your house uses heating oil you need to plan ahead as oil is usually bought in minimum loads of 500 litres. Make sure you work out how often you will need to top up your tank and shop around for the best deals.

You can find out the average cost of oil on the Boiler Juice website, but always try several suppliers before you buy – prices will vary and they will often compete to offer you the lowest price.

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