Cost of Living Support

We are still in a phase of financial hardship that is almost unprecedented. At this time, many will be struggling to pay bills and worrying about the future.


There is, unfortunately, no simple solution or fix for the problems many are facing. We have gathered some links to resources that may be able to offer help or, at the very least, advice on what you can do.:-


Available Grants



If you are unable to obtain a grant from your own supplier, you might be able to get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust. These grants are available to anyone – you don’t have to be a British Gas customer to be eligible.


You may also be able to access local grants. You can see what’s available in your area on the Simple Energy Advice website.

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way we live our everyday lives and caused great concern for our health, it has also impacted our financial well-being too. With the Cost of Living Crisis added to this worry, it can be difficult to plan and budget for the future and many worry about mortgage payments, rent and other bills.


We have put together some tips below that may be able to help you through the coming months:-



  • Spring clean your finances. 

Have a look through your old bank statements to see where you were spending your money every month. Many people have direct debits and standing orders set up for services they simply no longer use, so making sure you are not paying for a gym that you no longer go to is a great start!


  • Check out the extra help for University staff.

Have a look online for any university employee or student deals at the moment. Various firms have special offers and discounts for University staff and this is an ideal time to find out where you can make some savings. Every little bit can help!


  • Have a look on the Money Saving Expert. 

We would definitely recommend having a look on the Money Saving Expert for useful advice on any number of ways to cut bills and save money that may help you during this time. This information gets updated regularly so it’s great for keeping you well informed about any changing Government advice. They also have a budget planner which is great to help you plan each month.


  • Take out a Share Secured Loan.

If you’re worried about using your hard earned savings then why not take out a Share Secured Loan at 6.7% APR with SUCB? This is great if you need some cash but want to continue to build your savings at the same time.


  • Resist online retail shopping.

Lockdown saw a surge on impulse purchases so if it’s not essential try and resist the temptation to splurge. Instead why not put the money you were going to spend into your credit union savings account?


  • Have a look at a variety of Food Budgeting tips and ideas – we have included links to several of these below:-


BBC Food Collections


Asda Budget Meals under £1


Goodto: Cheap Family Meals


Savings4SavvyMums 50 Budget Meals


Get the Too Good to Go app which allows you to find and buy food that would otherwise go to waste, enabling you to pick up fresh food at discount price and save on waste.

We have put together a number of useful articles that may be of interest in relation to the current hardships relating to energy and the cost of living crisis. We hope you find these useful and we will keep them updated as new information comes to light over the coming months.

New Energy Tariffs



Please note that those who are still on a fixed-term tariff will not see any change until that ends.


How much is the cap increasing by?


The Government confirmed on 8th September that the cap will be limited to £2,500. It’s important to note that the figures are based on an average consumption of 2,900kwh of electricity and 12,000kwh of gas so your own bill will differ from the headline average.


The existing price cap, to the nearest pence, is £0.28p/kwh of electricity, plus a maximum daily charge of £0.45p and £0.07 for gas, plus a daily charge of £0.27. Note how electricity is four times more expensive than gas per kwh, so if you rely more on electricity for heating etc then it is worth seeing what changes you can make.


At the moment, gas central heating is usually the cheapest way to heat your home and provide hot water. If you haven’t already done so, try to find out how much gas and electricity, in kwh units, you used in the last 12 months. That figure should be provided by your energy provider, either on paper bills or online. That will help you to compare any future quotes and understand what your mix of energy use is.


What’s the cheapest method of paying?


Direct debit is the cheapest way to pay your energy bills. It’s estimated that it will cost about 7% more if you pay by cheque or cash and 2% more through a pre-payment meter. We have a specific article on pre-payment meters but it’s worth just pointing out that you may wish to consider loading credit on to your meter now at the existing rates before the October increase.


Is it worth going for a fixed cost tariff?


Prior to the April increases, fixed tariffs were more expensive than the standard tariff and were being revised upwards regularly by the energy suppliers so the general advice at the time was not to change to a fixed rate and term.


After the Government’s announcement on the 8th September, Martin Lewis has advised that there are no fixed deals worth considering as switching to a fixed deal wont save you money.


We cannot advise members what to do only that they need to be aware of their own estimated future costs and compare them to any fixes offered by energy companies; the calculations are not straightforward though.


Smart Tariffs


A brief mention here that Smart time-of-use tariffs are likely to become more available in future and could be cheaper depending on how you manage your energy use. At the moment though the tariffs expose customers to wholesale rates and are more expensive than other fixed tariffs.

Government Financial Assistance



What assistance is the government providing?


The government has announced various packages of support, some of which relate specifically to energy use and others more broadly to help with the rising cost of living.


The rebate on Council Tax bills of £150 for those living in properties rated A-D on the Council Tax banding should have already come through automatically if you pay by direct debit. If you pay by other means then you should have had contact from the council and also received this but if you haven’t and think you qualify then contact the council.


There is also a Cost of Living Payment worth £650 to those in receipt of certain benefits and that is being paid in two lump sums, with £326 being paid in July and the rest in the autumn.


Full details of that and who is eligble are available on the government’s website


There are also extra payments for those qualifying for either disability or pensioner cost of living payments. In respect of disability, that’s an extra £150 which is due to be paid in September. For the pensioner cost of living payment this is in the form of a top-up to the normal Winter Fuel Allowance of £200 and should be worth an extra £300 to most households depending on your age and your living circumstances. Again, all of the details are set out in the link above; this extra amount will be paid in November.


There will also be a £400 discount on electricity bills starting in October with equal payments spread over six months. Originally this was to be in the form of a loan but the government has now decided that it no longer needs to be repaid.


There’s further discretionary funding of £144m for councils to help those in need of support but who don’t qualify for the Council Tax rebate; that might include those on Income Support living in properties in bands E-H. Councils will need to work out how to distribute this and we will provide an update once we know more.


Is there any other government help available?


The Warm Homes Discount scheme is being raised to £150 and eligibility increased, although no details have yet emerged as to the changes. At the moment this payment is available to households in receipt of the Guaranteed Credit Element of Pension Credit and is paid as a discount on electricity bills between October and March. It’s also available to others on low incomes who receive certain means tested benefits, but in those cases an application has to be made to your energy provider and they will decide who gets the
discount. If you think you may qualify because you receive means tested benefits it’s important to contact your energy supplier and provide them with details.


Finally, the Energy Company Obligation is being extended to 2026 and the budget increasedin order to fund energy saving measures for low income households. The scheme aims to improve the energy efficiency of homes occupied by low income groups and there’s a list of qualifying benefits, but each energy company has slightly different criteria. Note that you
must have the landlord’s permission for any works if you rent your home.

There’s more information about this assistance at

Other sources of Financial Assistance and Advice



Financial assistance


The first source of assistance to consider is your energy supplier. They may have changed in the last year because many went out of business, with customers transferring to a new company. It’s possible that you will have been placed on a higher tariff as part of that transfer if you were previously on a fixed-rate tariff. At the time of writing these were the remaining energy companies:


British Gas
Scottish Power
Pozitive Energy
Yu Energy
SmartestEnergy (Business)
E.ON Next

* Bulb’s operations are being supported by the government after it went into


We’ve already mentioned the Warm Homes Discount scheme in our previous article and that is something you should consider applying for if you are on a low income. You will need to contact your energy supplier either online or by telephone; they all have an option for customers who are struggling with their bills.


Even if you don’t qualify, it’s still worth contacting your energy supplier because they may be able to help you in other ways. Most of the companies have hardship funds and a few have charitable trusts.


Applying to the hardship fund of your energy supplier can be complicated and if you are struggling to complete the form then one of the advice agencies mentioned below may be able to help you.


Help with arrears


If you are in arrears it’s likely that you will already have been in touch with your supplier. If your supplier has changed, any arrears accumulated with the previous supplier will be transferred to the new company and you may need to agree a revised payment plan.


An obvious difficulty facing people with arrears is that if bills were unaffordable in the past then they are going to present an even bigger challenge under the higher tariffs. It’s important therefore that you don’t just limit yourself to trying to arrange a payment plan:


  1. Make sure you are able to claim any government financial support that’s available.
  2. Contact your energy supplier to see if you can get help via their hardship fund.
  3. Contact a debt or general advice centre.
  4. Look at ways in which you can reduce your energy use.


Any payment plan should be affordable and one option, if you receive certain benefits, may be the Fuel Direct Scheme where a fixed amount is deducted from your benefits (no more than 5%). If you don’t agree a payment plan there’s the risk of the supplier fitting a prepayment meter, which is usually more expensive for you.


Sources of advice


Advice can be wide-ranging but we are focusing on those organisations offering financial or debt advice in relation to energy bills; we’ll cover those providing energy efficiency advice in a future article. Please note that all of them are very busy at the moment dealing with enquiries about rising fuel costs so you may have to be patient.


Citizens Advice

has created a dedicated energy section on their website and has trained
advisors who can be reached on 0808 223 1133. Click their name above to go to their website.


Step Change

provides advice on debts in general, including energy bills. They will be able to
explore a range of options with you including debt management plans, debt relief orders etc. They can be contacted on 0800 138 1111 or by clicking their name above.


National Debt Line

is a debt charity which also covers debts in general. They can be
contacted on 0808 808 4000. Click their name above to go to their website.



is an online and independent resource. Call 0800 011 3797. Click their name above to go to their website.



is a national charity providing practical help to those who are struggling financially. They have an Edinburgh based support team and can be contacted on 0131 243 (2795/2796) or by email at You can access their website by clicking on their name above.

Prepayment and Smart Meters



Prepayment meters


Being on a prepayment meter is more expensive than a standard credit meter (2% on average) and there are fewer tariffs to choose from; although at the moment, the standard price capped tariff is the cheapest. It can be a helpful way of budgeting for some people, but it comes at a cost.


It’s often the case that energy companies will have insisted on a prepayment meter if a person has arrears. In order to change to a standard credit meter those arrears will need to be repaid and, additionally, a satisfactory credit check will normally be required. If you are successful in changing a prepayment meter for a standard credit meter remember to arrange your payments via direct debit because it’s the cheapest means of paying.


Your supplier may want to move you to a prepayment meter if you have arrears but there are certain circumstances where they aren’t allowed to do that. Those are where a person is disabled or has a chronic illness and they would be harmed if their energy supply was cut off.


Citizens’ Advice has more information on the rules that energy companies must follow.
Remember that if you rent your property you must ask the landlord for permission to change from a prepayment meter to a standard credit meter.


If you have a prepayment meter you can still request a smart meter from your energy supplier and this can work on a prepayment setting. It would have the usual benefits of a smart meter (see below) and give you more options for topping up, such as online, rather than having to add credit at a local shop or Post Office.


Smart meters


There’s plenty of information available on these meters, which are being rolled out to all households, with the aim being that everyone will have been offered one by mid-2025. The Energy Savings Trust Guide has a
good section on the topic.


The meters got a bad press when the original models were installed because they often went dumb when the energy supplier changed, but that isn’t the case with the secondgeneration ones which have been fitted over the last few years (SMETS 2).


  • In summary, the advantages of having them are:
  • They are free.
  • Readings are sent wirelessly to your energy provider so you don’t need to supply meter readings.
  • Accurate regular readings mean no more estimated bills.
  • They come with a home energy display showing live data on the amount of gas and electricity used. This helps you to understand your consumption and make changes.
  • In the future, they will allow you to access ‘time of use’ tariffs (when available) where the cost of energy is re-calculated every 30 minutes based on variable wholesale rates. This enables you to plan when your use of appliances to avoid peak rates. However, for the moment, with wholesale energy prices so high, these tariffs are not advisable.


You can request the meters via your energy supplier and all the larger ones should be able to respond, but some of the smaller ones only fit in certain areas at a time.


If you rent your property you should obtain the landlord’s permission first and if your rent includes energy then it will be the landlord who will need to apply for the new meters.

Tips for Reducing Energy Use



Some basic steps


Although none of us has control over energy costs we can all take steps to control what we use. There are plenty of sources of advice on this subject, and we’ve set those out below, but here are some examples of what you can do.

  • Turn down your thermostat.
  • Only heat the rooms you use regularly.
  • Take a shower rather than a bath.
  • Wash clothes at no more than 30 degrees and on a full load.
  • If possible dry clothes outside.
  • Don’t overfill the kettle.
  • Avoid having appliances on standby.
  • Wear an extra layer of clothing in winter.


However, just a few points you need to consider. If you are elderly or suffer from a chronic illness then staying warm becomes more important and you should aim to keep your living room at no less than 20 degrees centigrade and the bedroom at 18 degrees.


Cold housing can be a significant health hazard which increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and falls.


Drying clothes indoors can lead to condensation dampness and mould growth if there isn’t sufficient ventilation. If heating is being turned down at the same time then the risk will be higher.


DIY measures


  • Fit LED lightbulbs where you can.
  • Fit draughtproofing to doors and windows.
  • If you have a hot water cylinder, make sure it has an insulated jacket.
  • Top up loft insulation and aim to have around 250mm thickness.
  • When you replace electrical appliances, make sure they have a high energy efficiency rating.

As we’ve mentioned before, if you rent your home you will need the permission of the landlord first for some of the above measures but the landlord can’t unreasonably withhold consent.


Other sources of advice on energy efficiency


Edinburgh council provides advice on a number of issues, including Energy Support.


Energy Savings Trust is a national independent body which provides a range of advice.

Landlord's Responsibilities



Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)


Before explaining landlord responsibilities it’s helpful to understand more about EPCs. The EPC is a measure of how energy efficient a property is with a grading from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). The average rating in the UK is a D with a score of 60. The certificate will include an estimate of energy costs alongside recommendations for works to improve the energy rating of the property.


Private renting


A landlord offering a property for rent must supply a current EPC and that will allow you to consider the energy rating of the properties you view. Since April 2020 landlords, with a few exceptions, have had to ensure that any properties they let achieve an EPC of E (that will rise to band C in 2025 for new lettings and 2028 for existing lettings). At the moment there is a cap on how much a landlord can be required to spend, but as a perspective tenant all you need to do is to try and rent the most efficient property you can afford.


An EPC of E though is still not very efficient and you should try and rent one with a higher rating if possible. Additionally, if the recommendations for improving efficiency on the EPC haven’t been done, it’s worth asking the landlord if they are willing to undertake them.


There’s also a more general requirement relating to the thermal efficiency of a dwelling contained within the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. That system is used by Environmental Health Officers to assess hazards in a home so if you are renting a property which you find difficult to heat it may be possible to secure improvements via that route.


In the first instance you should always contact your landlord to explain your concerns to them and see what action they are willing to take. If the landlord won’t do anything then you can contact the health officers to discuss your situation.

For more information on how the housing hazard system is enforced see Shelter’s website here


Housing Association tenants


Housing Associations and Councils are also required to provide an EPC to new tenants and achieve an EPC band of at least E. The type of housing they let tends to be more modern and energy efficient than that within the private rented sector but there may still be some cases where energy efficiency is poor.


If you have a problem with poor insulation or heating then in the first instance you should contact your Housing Association or Council. If you don’t obtain a satisfactory response there is a complaints procedure which you can go through to try and resolve things.