Informal caregivers and energy bills

Informal caregivers, who help care for vulnerable friends or family members with little or no financial support, pay energy bills that are, on average, £ 200 more per year than others bill payers.

An estimated 6.5 million people in the UK act as informal caregivers, providing support that is not part of paid employment. Many informal caregivers live with friends or vulnerable family members, which can affect their bills.

Juggling the twin demands of care and work can mean more gas and electricity are used, but less money is coming in to pay for them.

Uswitch’s research found that more than a third (35%) of informal caregivers struggle to pay their energy bills. Disturbingly, the same percentage even went into debt as a direct result of paying their utility bills, and 21%, at times, chose not to turn on the heat because they didn’t have it. means – potentially to the detriment of their health or the person they care for.

Here are some ways to alleviate some of the pressure of rising bills when looking after a friend or family member:

Support from suppliers for vulnerable consumers

Ask your provider what initiatives or programs they manage that could help you. Customers suffering from a critical illness, who are in a vulnerable situation or who have additional communication needs can receive assistance through their energy supplier’s priority service register.

Either themselves or their caregiver can sign up for services such as advance notification of a planned power outage, or priority emergency assistance such as a power interruption. To register, you or your caregiver simply needs to contact your energy supplier.

Suppliers also have additional assistance. Here’s what some of the biggest energy providers have to offer:

British Gas operates an assistance program for customers with dementia and offers those who need additional assistance the opportunity to register for its Priority Services Registry. The British Gas Energy Trust also helps settle the energy debts of struggling customers and pays for new energy efficient appliances. Discover the British Gas program here.

E.ON provides benefit eligibility checks and access to hardship funds for clients it identifies as potentially vulnerable. Learn more about the E.ON Energy Fund here.

EDF Energy will subsidize certain insulation costs to help make homes warmer. Learn more about EDF Energy’s Trust here.

ScottishPower operates a financial aid fund to help customers who may have difficulty paying their bills. Learn more about the ScottishPower Hardship Fund

SSE offers discounts on attic insulation, cavity wall insulation and new Class A condensing gas boilers. Learn more about SSE discounts on energy efficiency measures here.

OVO Energy operates a fund to help its customers who are behind in their energy payments and need help getting out of debt. Learn more about the OVO Energy fund here.

Energy saving in the house

Read your meter: Uswitch’s research found that more than a fifth of households do not regularly submit energy meter readings to their supplier, which can lead to inaccurate bills. Once they provided a reading, two-thirds of Brits saw they were owed £ 161 on average.

Get help reading your meter here.

Bleed your radiators: Air trapped in radiators prevents them from working efficiently. If there are any cold spots on your radiators, especially at the top, it’s a sign that they need to bleed. This frees the air and ensures that your heating system is operating at its full potential.

Find out how to bleed your radiator here.

Lower the temperature: About 90% of a washing machine’s energy expenditure is spent on heating water, so the lower the temperature, the more money you save. And if it’s safe to do so, lowering your thermostat by 1 degree Celsius can save you up to £ 85 a year.

Savings in standby: Turn off the technology; keeping televisions and game consoles on permanent standby costs £ 45-80 a year and we waste almost £ 29million a year in this country leaving our phone chargers on even if we aren’t charging our phones.

Go green: Turn on power saving settings for your TV, computer, game consoles, and any other device – and make sure to turn them off properly when you’re not using them. They will thus use a third less energy. Three-quarters of us (76%) leave devices on standby, wasting £ 227million a year.

Water pressure: A powerful high-pressure shower is a big luxury to have, but you’d be surprised how much hot water they use – sometimes even more than a bath.

Energy saving: Lighting can represent up to 20% of your electricity bill. Installing five low-wattage bulbs will cost around £ 15 and could save you up to £ 32 per year. LED bulbs are the most energy efficient – they use up to 90% less energy and can last up to 50,000 hours (that’s over five and a half years if they are on continuously).

Insulation: Insulating your home is one of the best ways to lower your energy bills and make your home warmer and more comfortable. Grants are available from some energy suppliers under a program called Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), you must meet certain criteria to be eligible and more information is available on the suppliers’ websites.

Fireplaces: Another common way for heat to escape is unused chimneys. If you are still using your fireplace, a removable fireplace flask can be used to prevent excessive heat loss when you do not have the fire lit. If you are not using your fireplace at all, consider having it plugged by a professional.

The Windows: Draft protection strips work well around windows. Drafts can also emerge from cracks between window frames and surrounding walls. If so, try using putty or putty to fill in the gaps.

Doors: Draft sealing strips are also useful between doors and their frames, both inside and out. For the spaces between the bottom of the door and the floor, you can purchase a special “brush” or hinged flap windbreaker.

Timed extractor fan: If you have an extractor hood in your bathroom or kitchen without a timer, you risk leaving it on unnecessarily, which can make the whole house cool. A timed exhaust fan will automatically turn off and eliminate this risk.

A radiator shelf: A shelf placed directly above a radiator helps project heat forward into the room, rather than letting it rise to the ceiling. Most hardware and home improvement stores have specially designed shelves that easily clip onto most radiators.

Disused vents: If you upgrade your boiler it is likely that it has a balanced flue which means you no longer need an air brick in an exterior wall with the boiler. If you plug disused vents, you can prevent valuable heat from escaping.

Curtains: Curtains are great for preventing heat loss. You can purchase heavy-duty curtains or a thermal liner for your existing curtains, for additional insulation. But try not to let your curtains hang over the radiators, as this can prevent the heat from warming the room.

Switch: Changing energy supplier can save you an average of £ 216* but to make sure you don’t run the risk of losing your Warm Home discount, you can call the Uswitch call center on 0800 049 9722 and we’ll check the details for you.

Additional help from government plans

Discount for warm house: you could get £ 140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. This is a discount applied directly to your invoice each year. Not all vendors participate in the program, so it’s important to verify that you are indeed with a vendor who does if you think you qualify for the rebate.

You are eligible if you have the collateral credit element of the pension credit, or if you have a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the program.

Cold weather payment: For those who qualify, the Cold Weather Payment is a government grant given when the temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius for a consecutive week.

You will receive £ 25 for each seven day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.

If you are eligible, you will be automatically paid.

Winter fuel payment: If you were born on or before October 5, 1954, you could receive between £ 100 and £ 300 to help pay your heating bills.

You generally benefit from a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you are eligible depending on the State pension or another social security benefit (excluding housing allowance, municipal tax reduction, family allowances or universal credit).

You can find out if you are eligible for government energy programs by using our interactive tool here.

* Between July 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, people who switched energy providers for gas and electricity with Uswitch saved an average of £ 216.

About Chris Stevenson

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