Universal Credit and reducing energy costs

Helping tenants to budget monthly and switch their meters

Project duration: March 2014 ongoing

Thanks to Big Lottery funding, we are working in partnership with the Pennywise Project and social housing providers in Bristol to provide support to householders struggling to pay their fuel bills and/or keep their homes warm. The highest demand for our services comes from those in rented accommodation including social housing tenants. Following the introduction and roll out of Universal Credit, it will be important for households to understand monthly budgeting, managing bank accounts and paying their rent directly to their landlord or housing provider.

An opportunity to leave prepayment meters behind

The best energy tariffs and offers are available to customers who pay monthly by direct debit, while topping up a prepayment meter is the most expensive way to pay. But for people running a weekly budget, it can be often too difficult to save for a monthly payment, leaving those with the lowest incomes topping up a meter and paying the most expensive rates. Receiving monthly payments of Universal Credit into a bank account will present some people with a new opportunity to pay for their energy monthly and take advantage of cheaper energy tariffs.

This project is supporting households with prepayment meters to make the switch to standard meters if they want to. We'll offer support to social housing tenants who have no debt or minimal debt, and to those who have inherited a prepayment meter on moving to a new property or had one installed a long time ago to deal with a debt that is now cleared.

Free budgeting and switching workshops

This project's emphasis will be on explaining how Universal Credit will work and the opportunities it offers to save money, especially on energy bills when you have the option of budgeting monthly. We will be running a number of workshops for tenants and offering one-to-one support to develop monthly budgets, help set up bank accounts where needed and to negotiate the process of changing from a prepayment meter to a standard meter avoiding the costs and obstacles often imposed by the energy suppliers. The support workshops aim to:

  • Help tenants understand Universal Credit and what it will mean for their household
  • Introduce monthly budgeting and explore the savings available
  • Assist with opening bank accounts and understanding standing orders and direct debits
  • Explain the benefits of switching to a standard meter for gas and electricity
  • Show tenants how to reduce fuel bills further by making their homes more energy efficient

The Home Energy Team will promote the support service to housing providers, front line staff working in the community and the wider partnership network to ensure that households do not miss out on the opportunity to switch meters and benefit from the potential savings.

One workshop participant shared how she lived in fear of being cut off if her prepayment credit ran out unexpectedly. "I'm excited that I might be able to save some money by getting a different meter," she said. "It's great that this workshop is free!"

See below for details of the workshops:


Workshop time


Tuesday 25 March


Withywood Centre

Tuesday 8 April


Southmead Community Centre

Wednesday 23 April


North Bristol Advice Centre

Wednesday 7 May


Barton Hill Settlement

Saturday 17 May


CSE meeting room

Wednesday 4 June


Lawrence Weston Youth Centre
Wednesday 25 June09:30-12:30Hartcliffe & Withywood Community Centre

To find out more about the project, to enrol on a workshop or to help promote it, please contact Simone on 0117 934 1400 or email simone@cse.org.uk

Image: Lydia, flickr (cropped)

For further information contact:

Kate Thomas | 0117 934 1429

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