There are many reasons why disabled people, and their families, face higher energy and food costs. This page gives you information about the help available and ways to reduce your energy and food bills.
On this page:
- Help with energy costs
- Help with food costs and other essentials
Help with energy costs
Children and adults with complex disabilities often have no choice but to use more electricity to power vital equipment.
This can include electric wheelchairs, stair lifts, hoists, ventilators, monitors and feeding machines. You may need to keep equipment on for long periods, including overnight.
Laundry costs may be higher due to incontinence or the need to change clothing after eating.
You may need a hot tub to provide essential hydrotherapy for your physical health. You may need to keep heating on constantly.
These are not luxuries. They’re essential for keeping yourself, or your loved one, safe and healthy.
It’s important to make sure you’re getting all the help you may be entitled to.
Cold Weather Payment
What is a Cold Weather Payment?
Cold Weather Payments are a bit of extra money to help with energy costs during very cold weather.
Very cold weather means the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
If you’re entitled to Cold Weather Payments, you’ll get around £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather in your area between 1 November and 31 March.
Who can get a Cold Weather Payment?
You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you get certain benefits.
These include Universal Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support and Pension Credit.
How to apply for a Cold Weather Payment
You don’t need to apply. If you’re eligible to get a Cold Weather Payment, you’ll be paid it automatically.
Warm Home Discount
What is the Warm Home Discount?
Under the Warm Home Discount Scheme, you could get £140 off your winter electricity bill between October and March.
This £140 is not paid to you. The discount is applied directly to your electricity bill.
Who can get the Warm Home Discount?
Whether you qualify for the Warm Home Discount depends on your energy supplier. Each supplier has different criteria for the scheme. Not all suppliers offer the discount.
If your supplier offers the Warm Home Discount, and you qualify, you should get a letter telling you about it.
Important: eligibility for the Warm Home Discount is changing
The eligibility for the Warm Home Discount is changing from October 2022.
This means that many disabled people who used to get the discount will no longer be eligible for this scheme.
We’re calling on the government to reinstate the Warm Home Discount as part of our demand for more support for disabled people and their families during the cost of living crisis.
How to apply for the Warm Home Discount
How you apply for the Warm Home Discount depends on which qualifying group you’re in.
Winter Fuel Payment
What is a Winter Fuel Payment?
A Winter Fuel Payment is a payment of between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills.
The government awards it automatically to people who receive certain benefits.
The amount you get includes a pensioner cost of living payment of between £150 and £300. You’ll get this extra amount in both winter 2022 to 2023 and winter 2023 to 2024.
Who can get a Winter Fuel Payment?
You’re eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment if you were born on or before 25 September 1956. You usually need to live in the UK, but some people who live elsewhere are eligible if they have a genuine link to the UK.
How to apply for a Winter Fuel Payment
Most people don’t need to make a claim for their Winter Fuel Payment. You should receive it automatically if you’re eligible and either:
- Get the State Pension.
- Get another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit).
If you do not get either of these, or if you live abroad, you may need to make a claim.
If you’ve got a Winter Fuel Payment before, you do not need to claim again unless you’ve deferred your State Pension or moved abroad.
If you’re eligible, you should receive a letter telling you how much you’ll get in October or November.
Priority Services Register
What is the Priority Services Register?
The Priority Services Register is a free support service offered by energy suppliers and network operators to help people in vulnerable situations.
Each supplier or network operator keeps their own register.
How to apply for your supplier’s Priority Services Register
You need to contact your energy supplier or network operator to get on the Priority Services Register.
Energy rebates if you use an oxygen concentrator
If you use an oxygen concentrator at home, you can get a rebate for the electricity it uses from the company that supplies your concentrator.
They can make payments into your bank account.
To find out more, click on the links below or call the freephone numbers:
- BOC Home Oxygen Service. Electricity rebates freephone 0800 136 603.
- Air Liquide Healthcare. Electricity refund freephone 0800 781 9939.
Getting help if you can’t afford your energy bills
There are no specific disability-related discounts on energy bills. But if you’re struggling to keep up with yours, you could:
- Speak to your energy supplier about how they can support you.
- Make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to.
- Check you’re getting the disability cost of living payment if you’re entitled to it.
If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, there are more places to get more information and advice, including on payment plans, schemes, grants, benefits and energy-saving tips.
- Ofgem: Help with high energy bills.
- Citizen’s Advice:
- Contact: Help with utility bills.
- Turn2us: Struggling with energy and water bills.
Help with food costs and other essentials
How to reduce the cost of your weekly shop
With the rate of inflation running higher than it has for many years, many people are feeling the pressure on the weekly shop for food and essentials.
But people with complex disabilities are feeling the squeeze even harder, because they have always faced higher living costs than most people.
There is no easy answer, but you might find the following sources useful for general budgeting advice, cost-savings tips, shopping deals, low-budget recipe ideas and more.
- Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis): Covers all aspects of personal finance. In particular, take a look at:
- Cooking on a bootstrap (Jack Monroe): Cost of living blog and a wide range of affordable recipes.
- Which?: Consumer advice on all aspects of shopping, including rights, refunds, vouchers, sales and more.
Using a food bank
Food banks are community organisations that can help if you’re struggling with the cost of the essential food and household items you need.
It can be hard to admit you need the help of a food bank. But there is no shame.
You’ll be welcomed with respect and without judgement. And it could make all the difference helping you to survive this crisis.
How to be referred to a food bank
To use a food bank, you usually need to be referred with a voucher.
You can get a referral from Citizens Advice or from a community organisation. For instance, local charities, schools, children’s centres, faith communities and GPs.
Find out more about using your nearest food bank
- Citizens Advice:
- Northern Ireland Debt Solutions:
- The Trussell Trust: Supports a nationwide network of food banks, providing emergency food and campaigning for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
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This content was last reviewed in July 2023. We’ll review it again next year.