Energy advisor responds to Marin’s story
I saw your letter this morning. I’m so sorry to hear how freezing and difficult life is for you at the moment. I wanted to respond in case there’s anything I can say that’s helpful.
Firstly, I wanted to say that electric blankets are brilliant so I’m really pleased you have one. They cost about 4p per hour to run and while the World Health Organisation recommend room temperature is kept at 18 degrees it’s really your core body temperature that’s the most important for your health, and keeping your electric blanket on will be helping a lot with that.
I’m not sure if you own or rent your flat but either way if your household income is less than £31k and your home is rated E or lower for energy efficiency there is likely funding available for either you or your landlord to improve the insulation and the heating in your flat. In a few years landlords will have to bring properties up to an EPC C rating so they may well be interested if you’re able to get funding. If you contact National Energy Action (NEA), they’ll be able to tell you who oversees the funding schemes in your area. Since you’re in the South West it may well be the organisation I work for, the Centre for Sustainable Energy.
You mentioned that you’re worried about your direct debit going up if you turn your heating on. If you can’t afford this please speak to your supplier. As you know, 7° is too cold for someone to live at. I can’t give financial advice but bear in mind that it’s an option to cancel your direct debit and pay by standing order until you feel more in control of your bills. As long as you’re paying towards your bill and telling your energy company that you can’t afford the whole monthly cost, they’re unlikely to take action. There are also Trust Funds that you can apply for in future to reduce any debt you build up. And we’ve got more information about what to do if you can’t pay your bills here.
Have you contacted your local Citizens Advice and your local council to see what support they offer? The government have provided a lot of additional funding to local councils and support organisations to help people in your position this winter. They might take days or weeks to process your request but it’s going to be cold for much longer than that so it’s worth making enquiries and putting in applications.
Have you checked if you’re entitled to a top-up of welfare benefits to your wages? Benefits for working people are the most missed out on of all benefits. You can go to entitledto, put in your details and they’ll tell you if you’re entitled to anything. It might be a headache to apply but for the sake of your physical and mental health I really hope you do.
Please also check if your water company offers a discount for people on low income: most of them do.
If you can, have a look at our ‘How to Stay Warm for Less’ information for some more day-to-day tips. It sounds like you’re already doing what you can given your circumstances but please do have a look, there might be something in there that’s helpful to you.
All the best to you Marin. I hope this cold storm eases for you soon.