Help with the rising cost of living

  • Posted: January 31st, 2022

What's going on with the cost of living?

It's not good news for many people at the moment - millions of people are facing a cost of living crisis. Energy costs are going up and inflation is making things more expensive. In April, the Energy Price Cap (which is set by Ofgem, the energy regulator) is going to rise again, which means that energy bills may go up by over half, adding a typical £600 per year to bills.

Meanwhile, the cost of food, petrol and broadband is also going up, but those on Universal Credit had their incomes cut in October, by £20 per week.

In the UK, someone goes to Citizens Advice every 40 seconds with an issue related to energy - that's 40% up on last year.

We know that those on the tightest budgets don't have anything left to cut back on - the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that single adult households will be spending as much as 54% of their income after housing costs on energy bills after April.

Is this affecting people in North Lancashire?

Yes. Citizens Advice North Lancashire are starting to see clients who are getting in touch because their bills are larger than their income, especially for people on pensions or benefits. It's also happening to working people.

How do I deal with dizzying energy bills?

Below, we set out a few options that you could consider if you’re dealing with high energy bills.

First, the basics

It's best to know exactly what situation you're in. Whether you have £900 or £9000 coming in each month, if you're not sure what you're spending it on, it's hard to get a handle on it. The Citizens Advice website has a great budgeting tool you can use for free which will give you a clear picture of where your money is going.

If your energy bills haven't gone up yet, it's likely that they will, so it's worth planning for this, especially as National Insurance is going up in April which will have the effect of reducing take home pay. You may have to think about what spending you'll have to reduce elsewhere to make sure you can pay your energy bills.

Maximise your income

If you're not on any benefits, it is always worth checking to see if you might be eligible. You can use benefit calculators at Turn2Us or Entitled To that will give you an accurate result. You could be eligible for Universal Credit, a discount on your council tax, free school meals, healthy start vouchers or the Warm Homes Discount - all of these add up.

If you're really short of money, you could call your local council to ask about the Household Support Fund, which is available until the end of March. You could also consider joining a food club (different from a food bank) where you pay a few pounds each week and you can get quite a bit of food. In Lancaster and Morecambe Eggcup are taking on new members.

Should I switch suppliers?

Many suppliers are going bust, and entry prices for new customers are increasing rapidly. If you switch suppliers, you will probably lose protections under your current tariff which might not be offered on the same terms to new customers. It’s risky, so we currently recommend exploring other ways to save money on bills before considering switching. 

Dealing with arrears

Are you in debt? If you are falling behind on bills or rent don't ignore it, and get help if you need support. Citizens Advice North Lancashire can provide a free, confidential debt service so get in touch if you need it. You can call on 0808 278 7882 or email us at

There are useful pages on the Citizens Advice website about debt - have a read.

It’s important to make a distinction between priority and non-priority debts when working out which debts to deal with first and negotiating repayments.

Priority debts are the most serious, because if you don't pay them you could lose your home, your electricity supply or even be sent to prison. Priority costs include rent, council tax, gas, electric, water and food. Debts like credit cards, catalogues or TV subscription packages are known as non-priority costs. 

Difficulties in paying energy costs can often be resolved by improving overall financial wellbeing, by taking into account the entire household budget. When working out a budget, consider the priority costs first and work out how much money you have left to pay your non-priority costs and check what help you can get with bills

Use this information to make a plan to pay your debts and negotiate with creditors or to explore cheaper deals on offer. If you’re not able to set up a payment plan or you continue to find it difficult to maintain one, one of our debt and money advisers can probably help you with this. 

Advisers at Citizens Advice are also approved intermediaries for most charitable grants which are offered by energy suppliers and can help towards clearing arrears. There are also some grants that you might be able to apply for without the help of a debt adviser, for example the Warm Home Discount or Winter Fuel Payment

You might also be able to apply for localised grants and energy saving advice through Cosy Homes Lancashire and the Local Energy Advice Partnership, services which are subject to eligibility rules stated on their websites. The Lancaster City Council Household Support Fund also provides some financial assistance with energy vouchers to eligible low-income households struggling to afford energy this winter - currently this scheme will continue up to the end of March 2022.

If you need more help and would like to speak to a debt and money adviser, call our free helpline on 0800 278 7882, available Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. You can also visit our web chat service here or email our advice team on

Problems with your supplier

If you have a credit meter, the energy supplier might make you have a prepayment meter if you’re not paying your bills, so it’s important to take action if you want to avoid this. You should contact the supplier and tell them that you’re struggling to pay, and ask them if they can agree to a repayment plan. Don’t agree to anything if you can’t afford, and if you think the supplier is not accepting a reasonable offer, contact one of our debt and money advisers for further assistance.

Most prepayment meters are fitted with an emergency credit facility, the amount depends on the supplier you’re with but it's usually £5. If you’re vulnerable, you might be able to get additional emergency credit from your supplier, but you’ll have to pay this back from future payments. If you’re vulnerable, you should also consider registering for the Priority Services Register for additional support from your supplier. 

If you have an old style meter, you might want to consider if you can get a smart meter installed. Smart meters help your supplier to bill you more accurately for your consumption and they can also bring benefits of new tariffs that won’t be available to you on an old style meter. If you are a tenant and your tenancy agreement says you need your landlord’s permission to alter metering at your property, the landlord should not unreasonably prevent it. Find out more about getting a smart meter on this section of the national Citizens Advice website.

If you find it unusual that your energy consumption has increased dramatically, you might have a faulty meter. This section of the national Citizens Advice website explains what you can do if you think you have a faulty meter. If you need help with a problem not mentioned in this article, have a look at our consumer energy supply articles on the national Citizens Advice website.

If you need specific advice about dealing with an energy supplier not including debt advice, our national Consumer helpline can help. To contact a consumer adviser, call FREEPHONE 0808 223 1133, or use our web chat or email form here.

Problems with your landlord

If your home is cold because of disrepair and your landlord is not taking action, you probably have options to get the work done. This section of the national Citizens Advice website explains your options for repairs in private rented and social housing. 

If your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) says your home is rated in band F or G, your landlord normally has to make some improvements. You can check your home’s EPC rating on the GOV.UK website. Your landlord won’t have to make improvements if your home is exempt from the ‘minimum standard’ of energy efficiency. You can check if your home is exempt on the GOV.UK website.

Write to your landlord and ask them to make improvements to your home. Tell them the EPC rating should be at least band E. Explain that you think it’s their responsibility.

If your landlord won’t make the improvements within a reasonable amount of time, you could complain to environmental services at the local council.

If you still need help

If you need help with something else not covered in this article, please call our FREEPHONE generalist Adviceline on 0808 278 7882 or email to get in touch with one of our advisers.

  • Posted: 31/01/22
We Are a Charity