Managing your energy costs

More than one in three people diagnosed with cancer say they feel the cold more. If you are going through cancer treatment, you may be at home often and spending more on energy costs. 

If you are worried about paying your energy bills, you should tell your supplier that you have cancer and find out what help they can offer. You should be placed on a register that gives you access to extra support. There are also government schemes that could help you save money on your energy costs.

You could switch suppliers to make sure you’re getting the best deal. You can find cheaper alternatives using a price comparison website.

Making changes around the house can also help you keep warm, for example having insulation fitted.

Macmillan and npower work together to help people living with cancer keep warm without the worry. npower funds Energy Advisers on the Macmillan Support Line, who can support you in accessing schemes to help with gas, electricity and water bills. Call them on 0808 808 00 00.

Talking to your energy supplier

If you are worried about paying your energy bills, you should talk to your supplier and find out what help they can offer. You should also visit their website. If you tell your supplier that you have cancer, they may be able to offer you support.

Your tariff is the rate you pay for your energy. When you contact your supplier, you should ask them if they can offer you a cheaper tariff so that you pay less. If this is not an option, you could think about switching your supplier.

Your supplier may also be able to:

  • put your name on a list of customers who need extra care or support
  • provide a grant to help with money you may owe them
  • arrange for you to make regular payments to spread your costs.

The Priority Services Register (England, Scotland and Wales)

If you are affected by cancer and you live in England, Scotland or Wales, your supplier should place you on the Priority Services Register. This is a list for people who need extra care.

Some benefits of this may include:

  • access to free extra services
  • your energy not being cut off if you fall behind on payments.

Care registers (Northern Ireland)

Northern Ireland Electricity and Northern Ireland Water have critical care registers for people who strongly rely on electricity or water for their health needs. Customers on these registers will get extra support if their power or water supply stops working.

Energy companies in Northern Ireland also have customer care registers. Customers who are disabled, elderly or have certain health needs can join these registers to get free extra services. Contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland to compare the extra services offered by different companies.

Company funds and trusts

Your energy supplier may be able to provide a grant to help with your energy costs. The help they give will depend on your situation. Most of the major energy companies have funds or trusts that:

  • help people in difficult situations, by reducing their bills or granting them money to reduce their debt
  • help people make their homes more energy efficient, which can reduce their energy bills.

Some trusts, including the British Gas Energy Trust and the E.ON Energy Trust, can help clear debts you might have with other energy suppliers.

A booklet called Help with water and energy bills has details of the funds and trusts offered by the major energy companies in England, Scotland and Wales. For details of support available in Northern Ireland, contact Bryson Energy.

Regular payments

Your energy suppliers may allow you to set up a regular payment plan. This means you pay a fixed amount on a regular basis (for example every week or month). This can help you spread the cost of your bills and help you to budget for your energy costs.

You could also pay your bills monthly by Direct Debit or online, to help you keep track of your energy costs.

Support from npower

Since 2004, npower has been working with Macmillan  to help people living with cancer keep warm without the worry.

This partnership includes npower’s Macmillan Fund, which can help people living with cancer by capping bills and writing off debt. npower also funds Energy Advisers on the Macmillan Support Line.

Complaints and advice

If you have a problem with your energy supplier or need advice about dealing with a company, contact:

  • the Citizens Advice consumer service in England, Scotland or Wales on 0845 404 0506
  • Consumerline in Northern Ireland on 0300 123 6262.

Try to resolve the complaint with the company if you can. If this isn’t possible, you could contact the Ombudsman Services: Energy (in England, Scotland and Wales), or the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland.

Getting help

If  you need help with your energy costs, you should always contact your supplier and ask what help they offer. You could also visit their website.

Citizens Advice and the Energy Saving Trust offer free energy advice to people across the UK.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can get free energy advice by calling the Bryson Energy Advice Line on 0800 1422 865 or emailing advice@brysonenergy.org.


Switching your supplier

There are lots of gas and electricity companies and they offer a range of tariffs. By making sure you are on the best possible tariff for your needs, you could reduce your bills. It’s good to check that you are on the best tariff about once a year. The best deals are often those where you pay by Direct Debit or online.

Switching your energy supplier can be simple. Before switching, you will need to know:

  • how much energy you use
  • the name of your current tariff.

This information should be on a recent bill. Remember that when you change companies, your previous supplier will charge you for all the energy you use until the date you switch. Make sure you can afford this before you change companies.

Depending on which tariff you are on, your supplier might charge you a fee for switching. You should ask your supplier about this before you switch.

How to switch supplier

There are two ways you can find the best deal and switch supplier:

Use a trusted energy price comparison website

In England, Scotland and Wales, some of these websites are approved by a scheme called the Confidence Code. Ofgem have a list of recommended websites.

Citizens Advice has information to help you compare prices, and a comparison tool.

In Northern Ireland, the Consumer Council has information to help you compare energy supplier rates.

Phone different gas and electricity companies directly

You can ask them for the best deal for you, and they can organise the switch.

If you receive a payment called the Warm Home Discount, it’s worth checking if the new supplier is part of this scheme before you switch.

If you don’t use a mains gas supply

If your home isn’t connected to a mains gas supply, it may be worth getting several quotes when you buy fuel.

If you use heating oil, you may be able to save money by stocking up on fuel early in the autumn rather than waiting until winter. Heating oil users can also sometimes receive discounts if they buy in a group, for example through an oil club. You can find out if there are oil clubs near you through Citizens Advice.

You could also spread the cost by paying by Direct Debit, or through a monthly budget plan. Ask your heating oil supplier if they offer this.

Solid fuel and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) customers may also benefit from comparing prices, stocking up on fuel in the autumn and speaking to their supplier if they are struggling to pay their bills.

We switch our suppliers every time our contract runs out. We use a switching website to find the best deal.

Helen


Saving energy in your home

There are many simple things you can do around your home to reduce your energy costs, as the diagram below shows.

Ways to save energy in your home
Ways to save energy in your home

View a large version

Read a description of this image

Insulation and draught proofing

Fitting insulation into your home is a big step but it could help you make savings. The better a home is insulated, the less money you will spend heating it. Consider insulating your loft and walls.

You could even think about draught proofing or putting in new windows. We’ve listed some schemes further down this page which may help with these costs. All of the major fuel companies provide either free or discounted insulation.

General tips

  • Make sure you understand your energy bill. Check to make sure all the details are right and that you’re on the right tariff. You can watch a video about how to understand your bill that you may find helpful.
  • Give your supplier regular meter readings. This means you can get accurate bills (rather than estimates) and you only pay for the energy you’re using.

Smart meters

Smart meters are a new type of gas and electricity meter. As well as measuring the energy you use, they also:

  • tell you when you have used it and how much it costs
  • allow your energy supplier to take meter readings without you having to contact them.

With a smart meter you get an ‘In-Home Display’ unit (IHD), so you can see all the details of the gas and electricity you are using. This could help you see where you can save money.

The government has planned for every home in the UK to have a smart meter for gas and electricity by the end of 2020. Your energy supplier will contact you when you are due to have a smart meter installed. There is no charge for getting a smart meter.

For more information, contact your energy supplier.

More tips and advice

For more information about how to save energy in your home, contact:

In some parts of the UK, there are independent advice centres that can offer specific advice about making your home warmer. They may even be able to visit you in your home. Your local council can tell you if there is an energy advice centre in your area.

Keeping warm without the worry

This animation has tips and advice on how to best manage your energy bills whilst you're being treated for cancer.

About our cancer information videos

Keeping warm without the worry

This animation has tips and advice on how to best manage your energy bills whilst you're being treated for cancer.

About our cancer information videos


Accessing payments

You may be able to get extra help with your energy costs from payments and schemes run by the UK government or regional governments. The government have a grants calculator to help you find out what is available for your situation.

There are several government payments available to help you with higher bills during the winter months. Find out how to apply for these at gov.uk, or nidirect.gov.uk if you are in Northern Ireland.

Cold Weather Payment

When a winter has been particularly cold (if there are temperatures of 0°C or lower for seven days in a row), the UK government makes a weekly payment of £25 to people who receive certain benefits. Cold Weather Payments will automatically be made on top of your usual benefits.

Winter Fuel Payment

This is a UK government scheme to help older people keep warm during winter. You could get this extra payment if you were born on or before the 5th May 1953 (the date changes every year). The amount you receive depends on your individual circumstances, such as whether you live with another qualifying person and how old they are.

Warm Home Discount (England, Scotland and Wales only)

The Warm Home Discount is a UK government policy that gives certain people a discount on electricity bills.

  • The payment is made by your electricity supplier.
  • It helps vulnerable customers and people on a low income to heat and insulate their homes.
  • All the major energy suppliers are required to make this payment, and some smaller suppliers may offer it.

Some people automatically qualify for the Warm Home Discount, including people who get certain benefits. If you are affected by cancer you may be able to get the discount, but you will need to apply for it. Whether you get the discount will depend on your circumstances and which energy supplier you are with.

To apply, contact your electricity supplier. If you cannot get the discount under your supplier’s scheme or if they don’t offer the Warm Home Discount, you could consider switching to another supplier.

To find out more, call 0345 603 9439.

You can also call our Energy Advice Team on 0808 808 00 00 for information and support. Energy suppliers in Northern Ireland don’t offer this payment, but do have an Affordable Warmth Scheme.


Accessing schemes

There  are lots of schemes from energy companies and the government to help you make your home more energy efficient.

Energy Companies Obligation (England, Scotland and Wales)

Under the Energy Companies Obligation, the major energy companies in England, Scotland and Wales are legally required to help their customers save energy. This includes people on a low income or with health problems.

The help available could include things like fitting a new energy-efficient boiler or upgrading insulation.

You don’t have to be a customer of an energy company to get help from their scheme. If your energy company is included in this scheme, they should explain the help they can offer on their website.

Nest (Wales)

Nest is a Welsh government scheme. Nest provides advice about saving energy, managing money, whether you’re on the best tariff and whether you can get any benefits. You may also be able to get some free home improvements to help save energy, such as central heating and loft insulation. You can call Nest free on 0808 808 22 44.

Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland

The Home Energy Efficiency Programmes are a package of schemes for people in Scotland. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get:

  • a free home energy check
  • free checks to see if you can claim benefits or tax credits
  • free insulation, or money towards insulation and other measures to make your home more energy efficient.

Call Home Energy Scotland free on 0808 808 2282 for more information.

Affordable Warmth Scheme (Northern Ireland)

The Affordable Warmth Scheme is for people who are on low incomes. It aims to help them make their homes more energy efficient by adding things like loft insulation. Call 0300 200 7874 for more information.


Accessing charitable grants and other help

A number of charities, including Macmillan, provide grants for people who are having difficulty paying their energy costs or meeting other expenses.

You need to apply for a Macmillan Grant through a health or social care professional or a Macmillan Welfare Rights Adviser. To find out more, call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Local help

In extreme cases, if you don’t have enough money to meet your immediate short-term needs or your family’s needs, you may be able to get help from a discretionary support scheme. Contact your local council for more details. In Northern Ireland, call the Crisis Loan claim line on 0800 028 8822.

Following Macmillan’s advice I got a discount on my heating bills. If Macmillan hadn’t have helped me, I may have had to sell my house because of this illness.

Cath


Our partnership with npower

Since 2004, npower has been working with Macmillan to help people living with cancer keep warm without the worry.

npower funds Energy Advisers on the Macmillan Support Line. They offer support and advice to help source funding for people living with cancer, regardless of who supplies their energy. The Energy Advice Team will help you access schemes available to support you with your gas, electricity and water charges.

The partnership between Macmillan and npower includes npower’s Macmillan Fund (in England, Scotland and Wales only*). This is the only programme in the UK that offers support to people living with cancer by capping energy bills and writing off debt. Through this programme, npower customers who are being treated for cancer or are terminally ill pay no more than 10% of their income in fuel bills. Macmillan’s Energy Advisers can check if you are eligible for this programme.

npower also runs the Health Through Warmth scheme (in England and Wales only*). This scheme helps fund heating and insulation for eligible, low-income home owners, who have a long-term illness. You don’t have to be an npower customer to apply.

Find out more at macmillan.org.uk/keepwarm or by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

*npower’s services are not available in Northern Ireland. Other energy providers across the UK have their own schemes to help vulnerable customers. Contact individual companies for more information.

Back to Help with bills and housing costs

Council Tax Reduction

Council Tax Support can help people in England, Scotland and Wales who are struggling to pay their council tax.

Help with energy bills

There are schemes to help you manage the cost of fuel bills and to make energy-saving changes to your home.