Many of the fuel companies offer charitable assistance in the form of energy trusts to customers experiencing financial difficulty. Check whether your fuel supplier runs such a scheme.
You can only ask for help to clear arrears – you are usually expected to set up a regular payment arrangement to manage your future supply and prevent arrears accruing on your account again. The qualifying criteria for these trusts are relatively broad. Some trusts accept applications from you, even if you are not their customer. You must be able to show that you are experiencing financial hardship, and that a payment from the trust will assist you to pay your future fuel bills. Before applying for assistance, you are recommended to meet with an adviser for support on addressing your debts, particularly as funds are limited. Not all applications are successful and it can take a number of weeks for the trustees to decide about your case. The decision made by the trust is final and there is no right of appeal. Make sure that you give as much information as possible about your circumstances including why you have had difficulty paying your energy bills. You are also required to complete a detailed financial statement listing your other commitments and any other debts you may have and provide evidence of your hardship, including wage slips, benefit entitlement letters and evidence of debts and ill health. Some trusts offer further help in the form of ’further assistance payments’ to meet the cost of boilers, white goods, energy efficient appliances, funeral expenses and applying for bankruptcy or a debt relief order. These can be useful if you have multiple debts and want to pursue either of these options but cannot meet the cost of doing so yourself. Check whether your supplier offers this type of help.