***REAP staff are working from home. All home visits and public events are suspended from 18th March and our office is closed. We are still working to promote our aims of environmental awareness, tackling fuel poverty and connecting the community. You can keep in touch via email, phone and social media. We will be able to provide free and impartial energy advice by telephone and email and will be checking the office number regularly. Call 01542 888 070 or email email@example.com***
Energy advice and worries about paying bills
The Money Saving Expert website is a good source of advice about your rights if you might be made redundant, sick pay, benefits, mortgage holidays and sources of financial help. It’s being updated all the time and they are regularly updating contact numbers and offers from energy companies to customers in difficulty.
Energy companies are dealing with high levels of enquiries and lower numbers of customer advisers so they are asking people only to get in touch if they are in crisis or facing an emergency. Most have different phone numbers than usual.
If you are worried about paying your bills there is some advice on the Ofgem website about the support measures being introduced by Government and energy companies. Credit meters will not be cut off during the Coronavirus outbreak.
If you need to entire self-isolate, a worry for many will be ensuring that they can carry on topping up. If you can, you should top up with a higher amount than you usually do. If you have a smart meter you can top up online or by using your supplier’s app. Many energy companies are contacting customers directly to explain what they are doing to help. You can use social media to contact them, see if they have a live chat on their website or call these numbers:
British Gas 0220 100 0303 chat via their website
Bulb 0300 3030635 email or chat via their website
EDF 0333 200 5100, chat available 24 hours on their website
EON 0345 303 3040 chat and email via their website
Npower 0330 100 3000 chat via their website. Minicom or text phone 0800 413 016
OVO (was SSE) 0330 102 7517 https://forum.ovoenergy.com/
Scottish Power 0800 0270072 download the app or visit the online support centre https://community.scottishpower.co.uk/
Utilita 0345 2068 333, down load the app, top up by SMS
Money Saving Expert has a list of all energy companies’ contact details here.
If you are self-isolating and ask someone else to top up for you it is advised that you:
- Only ask a trusted family member, friend or neighbour
- Disinfect your top-up keys/cards before you hand them over and again once you receive them back again
- If possible leave them on your doorstep to be picked up
- Leave your gas meter box open (if outside) for them to access and if it is safe to do so
If you’re unable to top up your meter. Your first step should be to get in touch with your energy supplier.
Suppliers must tell you what customer support is available, particularly if you are vulnerable and how you can be supported if you are unable to top up
Your supplier may help by: allowing you to nominate a third party to top up on your behalf; adding discretionary funds to your meter; sendingyou a pre-loaded top-up key or card, reassessing any debt repayment
If you can get out but you’re not sure where to top up, or if your usual location is closed you can find other locations at the following sites:
Paypoint – https://consumer.paypoint.com/
Payzone – https://www.payzone.co.uk/consumers/
Post Office – https://www.postoffice.co.uk/bill-payments/
Credit meter customers
This information is for those who pay for their energy through a direct debit, on receipt or bill or those that have a payment plan in place.
If you are in financial distress you should speak to your energy supplier and update them on the situation. There is a range of support your energy supplier could offer you including:
- Adjusting your payment amounts, providing payment breaks or reassessing debt repayment
- Not disconnecting anyone from supply
- Access to hardship funds
Your supplier must take into account how much you can afford to pay and the current circumstances.
If you have a power cut you should call 105. If you have a gas emergency you should call 0800 111 999. If you have a faulty meter call your energy supplier
Priority Services Register
You may be eligible for your energy supplier Priority Services Register if someone in your home is of pension age, a child under 5 years old, has a long-term health condition or a disability
The Register is a free service provided by energy suppliers and network operators to ensure vulnerable customers are prioritised in event of a power cut or receive suitable support when dealing with the representatives of the company. To register please get in touch with your supplier, their contact details will be on your energy bill. Due to staff shortages at the moment you are better to email them than phone.
Government – Update on emergency measures – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-agrees-measures-with-energy-industry-to-support-vulnerable-people-through-covid-19
Ofgem – COVID-19 information – https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-and-your-energy-supply
Energy Action Scotland – https://www.eas.org.uk/en/coronavirus_56247/
Reducing your energy use at home
If you are self-isolating or ill with COVID-19 you are likely to use more energy than you would usually.
- Only fill the kettle with just enough water for your needs
- Consider cooking with a slow cooker instead of using an oven. It’s cheaper and a great way to batch cook
- Keep lids on pans to reduce cooking time of dishes
- Remember to turn off appliances that can be turned off at the plug instead of left on standby such as microwaves and televisions
- Turn your lights off when you’re not using them
- If working from home, make the most of daylight to work by, unplug your laptop, don’t have it charging all the time and if you’re managing a later start to the day than usual, adjust your central heating timer accordingly
It’s important to keep warm, especially if you feel unwell.
- Your central heating thermostat should usually be set to no more than 21° if possible
- Make sure your radiators are correctly set in each room.
- Layer up – although it’s sunny it’s not that warm yet so jumpers, and thick socks to the fore
- With being at home for longer than normal remember to set your programmer to come on and off when needed
- Close doors between rooms to keep the heat where it’s needed
- If any draughts are coming from your doors, put down draught excluders or fill any gaps with old newspaper or rags
- Close blinds and curtains in the evening to keep the heat in
Current advice is:
- stay at home, only go to work if it is essential. You can still go out yourself or with one other member of your household to exercise once a day – away from other people, go shopping for food (less often) and essential supplies or medical care.
- to wash your hands for 20 seconds regularly and each time you come home, cough, sneeze or eat something
- stay at home and self-isolate for 7 days if you have a new cough, sore throat or temperature. Use the 111 NHS website for advice
- Or call 111 only if you can’t get online to see the advice. Other people you live with will have to stay at home for 14 days if you have symptoms
This is a key time to limit the spread of the virus by taking some quite easy to follow advice. We are told that life should not look like normal, we should all be doing our bit. It’s also a good time to remember not everyone can afford to stockpile. Half of the UK has to buy week by week and not everyone can jump in a car and go to another shop. We can look after each other by behaving thoughtfully.
Fraud and scams
Sadly criminals are moving quickly to take advantage of the uncertainty that coronavirus is causing. If someone calls or emails you or turns up at your door, take a minute to think about what is really happening. Even if they say they are from your bank, the Police or another trusted organisation, and have some of your details, don’t give out any information. It may look like they are calling from the correct number but lines can be hijacked so hang up and phone from a different phone if possible. Or hang up and wait 5 minutes before calling your bank and check things out. Never be rushed into making a decision. There’s good advice about Coronavrius scams and contact numbers on the Money Advice Service website and on the Trading Standards Website. Their warning poster is shared below.