Debt Advice

Where can I get help to sort out my debts?

Our freephone helpline can provide details of both national and local debt advice services. Depending on where you live, we may also be able to put you in touch with a specialist debt counselling service for families with disabled children. Remember you do not need to pay for debt advice and this can help you reduce the amount you are paying out each month.

I feel overwhelmed by debts. I just don’t know how to start sorting them out. What can I do?

There is a standard process for starting to sort out your debts. You will be able to get free confidential advice to help you through this process.

I’ve heard about priority and non-priority debts. What’s the difference?

Some debts are more serious than others because of the consequences if you don’t pay them. Generally priority debts are more serious than non-priority debts. For example, mortgage arrears are a priority debt because you could lose your home.

You should not ignore any of your creditors, but when dealing with your debts make arrangements for your priority debts first.

Think about your personal situation too. For example, payments for a car are not considered priority debts. However, if you rely on it because you have a disabled child then you might want to treat it as a priority.

Problems with borrowing

If I am unable to receive credit from a bank or credit card company, what are my options?

I applied for a credit card and have been turned down but don’t know why.

I feel that I am being harassed by my creditors. They keep calling me very late in the evening and it’s really difficult to get my daughter back to sleep. I’ve asked them to stop phoning me late at night.

Help with utility bills

The Warm Home Discount scheme

This scheme may lead to a rebate worth up to £140. The scheme applies in England, Scotland and Wales only and is offered on a first-come-first-served basis. The discount is not paid to you – instead the £140 is deducted from your electricity bill.

You will qualify if your energy provider is part of the scheme and:

For you to be eligible to claim, you or your partner’s name must be on your energy bills and your supplier must take part in the scheme. The Gov.UK website lists all the firms that currently participate.

Do I fall into the broader group?

As a result of our Counting the Costs campaign, the government agreed to standardise eligibility criteria for a discount across all suppliers.

From winter 2015, the government has introduced new rules making clear who should qualify for a warm home discount under the ‘broader group’ of vulnerable customers. This includes:

The number of discounts each company gives to customers in the ‘broader group’ is usually limited, so discounts tend to be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis.

Who else might be eligible?

Other groups such as low income families with a child under five also qualify. Full details of the eligible groups can be found at table three on pages 28-29 of OFGEM’s guidance [PDF].

Suppliers also have the discretion to apply more generous rules offering discounts to other groups on a low income. Contact your supplier for more details.  

To find out if your supplier is taking part in the scheme, visit the government’s Warm Homes Discount Scheme webpage.

Cold weather payments (UK-wide)

You may qualify for cold weather payments if you are on an income-related benefit, such as:

and you have any of the following:

or you receive:

You will receive an automatic payment if the average temperature recorded or forecast over seven days in a row in your local area is zero degrees Celsius (freezing) or less. You do not have to do anything to receive the payment. You can use the government’s Cold Weather Payment tool to find out if your area is due to receive a payment.

Water Sure (England and Wales)

In England and Wales, help with water bills may be available under the Water Sure and Water Sure Wales schemes, which work in exactly the same way.

These schemes cap your water bill so you won’t pay more than the average metered bill for the area your water company covers. To qualify you must:

Children who have certain conditions may automatically qualify under these schemes. Contact your water company directly to find out more and to apply. Your supplier may also offer additional help for customers struggling to pay their bills.

Help from water providers

Vulnerable customers who are finding it difficult to pay their water bills might be entitled to help from their water company.

England

In England, some providers offer social tariffs to households with low income or receiving certain benefits. Social tariffs are usually capped at a lower amount than normal bills. The Consumer Council for Water has details of water companies that offer social tariffs.

More help on reducing water bills

For more tips on reducing your water bill, visit the Consumer Council for Water page.

Other sources of financial help

Social services departments may help with problems related to fuel bills or fuel supply or provide financial assistance to help a child. This could be a cash payment, a loan or payment in kind.

Some charities provide grants for heating costs, expenses or arrears to families with a disabled child. 

Check that you’re not missing out on benefits that are available. Check the turn2us calculator online.