Are you struggling to afford heating? Here’s what support is available – and some ways to keep warm on the cheap | UK News

Temperatures are well below freezing, but the cost of turning on the heating is at record highs – so what support is out there, and how likely are you to be cut off if you can’t pay?

Snow can be fun, but in the midst of a cost of living crisis, it can also cause problems for some.

The government advises you to heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you, and to keep the rooms you use the most (such as the living room and bedroom) above 18C if you can.

This is especially important if you have an existing medical condition.

What help is available?

Firstly, if you are sitting at home in the freezing cold, there is help to be had.

The The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a top schemecalled the Cold Weather Payment, to help some people through the winter.

There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills.

Support measures are also in place to help with living costs.

More information can be found on Age UK’s website.

Local councils often have support available, including discretionary grants, so contact them to see what’s available.

Notify your energy supplier

It is important to contact your supplier as soon as you have a change in circumstances, including if you are unable to pay your bill. They might be able to help you.

Some energy companies have funds and emergency funds that can make payments to help clear energy debt.

Your supplier may also be able to help you with the costs of a more efficient boiler, or other energy efficiency measures.

If you have a medical or mental health condition that makes it more difficult for you to manage, ask your provider to register you on their Priority Services Register so you can get extra help.

The reasons why you may be added to the Priority services register are varied – from being a pensioner to being recently bereaved or pregnant.

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Check that you receive the energy discount

Every household in England, Scotland and Wales connected to the mains will be eligible for the grant, which will provide £400 to help with their energy bill.

Check that this amount is credited to your account – it works out to be around £67 a month, every month, from October to March.

If you are on a prepaid meter, you will either be sent redeemable coupons by SMS, e-mail or post, or you will receive automatic credit when you top up as usual.

Double check with your energy supplier to make sure you receive the money.

Is it better to have heating on plots, or short bursts? Cold weather experts answer your questions

A jogger runs through the snow in Greenwich Park, south-east London
Picture:
A jogger runs through the snow in Greenwich Park, south-east London

Disconnections are rare

If you miss a payment, the supplier will first send you a reminder. If they still don’t hear from you, they may try to visit you at home to find the best way to pay – but some may add the cost of this visit to your account.

If you don’t agree to a repayment plan, they may try to force you to have a prepayment meter installed. This means you have to pay for your energy in advance, as well as a weekly amount to cover any debts.

If you have not paid the bill after 28 days, you may be threatened with disconnection of the supply.

Although this is rare – with one campaign group claiming as few as eight people were disconnected in 2018 – it can still happen.

Families sledding through the snow in Greenwich Park, south east London.  Snow and ice have swept across parts of the UK, with cold wintry conditions set to continue for several days.  Photo date: Monday 12 December 2022.
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Families sledding through the snow in Greenwich Park

How to stay warm cheaply

In the midst of a cost of living crisis, it’s not always practical or realistic to keep warm if you’re freezing.

If you have a spare room that is rarely used, make sure the radiator is turned off (or turned right down) to ensure you are not heating an empty room. Don’t forget to bleed your radiators too, to ensure they are working at their best.

Also check when your heating comes on. There is not much point in wearing it during the day if you are out at work.

If bills are still a struggle, heat one room in your house and try to spend most of your time there.

Electric blankets and garments can also work as a cheaper alternative.

A big sweater may seem cozy, but wearing many layers works better to trap the heat. Base layers, including thermal vests, are quite affordable. Keep an eye out for clothes made of wool, cotton or a fleece fabric.

A South East train makes its way through Ashford in Kent as rail services remain disrupted in the freezing weather.  Snow and ice have swept across parts of the UK, with cold wintry conditions set to continue for several days.  Photo date: Monday 12 December 2022.
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A Southeastern train makes its way through Ashford in Kent

Draft proof your house

If you dry clothes inside, it may be worth leaving one room ventilated (with the door closed) to avoid dampness and mould. Closing doors throughout the home is a good way to keep the heat in.

Try to block off areas of the home that are particularly drafty, including around window frames, keyholes and under doors.

Keep the curtains open during the day to let in light and heat, but draw them just before dark to avoid losing extra heat during the day.

A general view of the Angel of the North in Gateshead.  Snow and ice have swept across parts of the UK, with cold wintry conditions set to continue for several days.  Photo date: Monday 12 December 2022.

Hot food and drink

The British Heart Foundation recommends sticking to a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables to keep your immune system going in winter.

Regular hot drinks and food including porridge, soups and stews can also help keep you warm.

Frozen or canned fruit and vegetables (if they have no added salt or sugar) are just as healthy as fresh and can be less expensive if they are out of season in the winter.

If you’re trying to keep cooking costs down, an air fryer or slow cooker can be a cheaper way to keep costs down, even if you have the initial outlay.

Opening the oven door after you finish cooking will also direct any remaining hot air into your home.

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