Energy bill hardship funds - where you can still apply

Could you be eligible for help with your energy bill from your provider?

Man cooking on gas hob
(Image credit: Getty images)

As the cost-of-living crisis reaches boiling point, with the energy cap expected to rise 82% in October, we explain what help you could get via a hardship fund run by your energy provider.

Millions of people have seen their energy bill rise dramatically since the start of April when the energy price cap, which sets the limit for how much firms can charge customers, was hiked by 54%. Other household costs are also soaring, such as food prices and tax bills

Several energy suppliers offer hardship funds - and earlier this year some suppliers even increased the amount of money they put into these hardship funds. In some cases they include grants that don’t have to be repaid and debt being written off up to a certain amount. 

In most cases you need to be an existing customer - with the exception of British Gas which can be accessed by anyone (we explain below how to get help from British Gas for your energy bills).

So if you are on low income and struggling to keep up with your gas and electricity bills, then you may be eligible for help with energy costs via certain providers’ financial hardship funds.

It’s crucial to contact your provider as soon as possible if you are struggling, as these hardship schemes are in high demand, with some having already closed.

We explain which suppliers offer hardship funds and whether you could be eligible for support.

How to get help from Octopus Energy's hardship fund?

Octopus told The Money Edit its hardship fund, Octo Assist, is still open and has no criteria for eligibility. Instead the supplier decides whether a customer will get help on a case-by-case basis after speaking to them directly. The firm has helped 50,000 customers this way since the energy crisis began last year.

The fund offers monetary credits to cover a negative balance or temporary support. For example, if a customer has lost their job and won’t be able to pay the bills going forward, the fund might support them even if they are in credit and historically have always paid their bills on time.

To apply for help you have to fill out Octopus’ online form. Octopus told The Money Edit it aims to answer any calls in less than 2 minutes, and emails within a few hours. 

Aside from financial support, Octopus Energy also offers its customers payment holidays, free electric blankets, as well as the free loan of thermal imaging cameras to identify draughts in their homes.

How to get help from British Gas for your energy bills? 

The British Gas Energy Support Fund is now open. It helps British Gas customers with grants between £250 and £1,500 to put towards energy debts. Funds are limited, however, so it’s crucial to apply as soon as possible.

The British Gas Energy Trust fund is also open and supports both British Gas and non-British Gas customers. It offers grants of up to £1,500 to those in financial hardship. Again, funds are limited.

When you apply online you’ll have to show proof of household income and a meter reading of your gas and electricity. 

Help with energy costs: what is Shell Energy doing? 

Shell’s new £5m hardship fund that it launched in April to support its customers is still active. 

Its fund has no criteria for eligibility and decides whether a customer will get help on a case-by-case basis. The firm has also not confirmed how much its grants are worth.

Shell advises that customers get in touch as soon as possible and speak to its payment support scheme. Any grant will be used to reduce your energy debt. Other help on offer includes temporarily reducing your direct debit, setting up a new payment plan and payment holidays.

What is Bulb Energy doing to help with energy costs? 

Bulb Energy’s fund is now closed. We’ll update this if this changes - though bear in mind the supplier is in administration after going bust in November last year. It told The Money Edit it is processing applications and arranging appointments for those who’ve already applied.

Can E.on Energy customers get help with bills?  

E.on’s Next Energy Fund doesn’t specify how much its grants are worth but they are used to pay off energy bill debts, and replace household white goods and gas boilers.

The grant comes with a price tag: customers must demonstrate that they are committed to being financially stable by making agreed regular payments for their energy use over a three-month period during which time any debt will be suspended.

If your application is successful then the grant will be awarded. At this point E.on will clear any debt and offer customers a replacement appliance such as a cooker, washing machine or fridge.

Does Ovo Energy have a hardship fund to help with energy costs? 

The Ovo Energy Fund is currently not accepting new applications. We will update this article when we get word of this situation changing. 

The fund offers one-off payments to customers who have an energy bill debt. Customers must have a debt of at least £150, earn less than £16,190 a year and be able to show they have a 'valid reason affecting your ability to pay'.

Help with energy costs: what is EDF doing? 

EDF has not confirmed the value of its grants but they will go towards bills and more energy-efficient white goods.

Customers must first register with EDF Priority Services to be given the go-ahead to apply for help from the Customer Support Fund on the Let’s Talk website. 

What is Scottish Power doing to help low income customers? 

The Scottish Power Hardship Fund is open all year round and its eligibility criteria for the fund is the same as the Warm Home Discount Scheme, so open to customers on lower incomes such as those on income support, jobseeker’s allowance, pension credit, employment and support allowance or disability living allowance.

The fund can provide cash which is then used to clear or at least reduce arrears, by crediting your Scottish Power account.

Be aware the regulator Ofgem has recently criticised the way Scottish Power deals with customers in difficulties after finding serious failings - so serious that it issued the energy firm with an enforcement notice which will require Scottish Power to carry out specific and urgent actions. 

It means you might need to remind Scottish Power that it has to work with you to agree on a payment plan that suits your circumstances if you are struggling.

Additional help with energy costs

If you are unable to get help via your supplier's energy bill hardship fund, then you may be able to get help in other ways. We explain this in our article 'Help with energy costs: Grants and benefits to support you with rising gas and electricity bills.'

There are also specialist energy debt charities:

Home Energy Scotland

National Energy Action (NEA)

NI Energy Advice

Katie Binns

Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities.  Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.