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Budgeting and Debt advice

This page sets out advice and guidance on budgeting and debt advise, for further support on fuel poverty including energy bills, energy efficiency, grants and tips, visit our Fuel Poverty webpage.   

Debt Advice scheme - support towards Winter Energy Costs 

The scheme opened on 16th January 2024, and will close on 31 March 2024 or when all allocated funds are spent.

About the scheme: 

As part of the fourth phase of the Household Support Fund scheme, Kent County Council is seeking to support residents on low incomes who are taking positive steps to address their debts.  

Subject to eligibility, Kent residents who have recently engaged with, or are engaging with specialist debt advice could receive support towards their winter energy costs up to the value of £500. Terms and conditions will apply (see below) and are subject to available HSF* funding.  

(*Funded by the UK government, the Household Support Fund scheme supports vulnerable Kent households in need of help with significantly rising living costs). 



To be eligible for this scheme, residents must at minimum

  • Complete ‘initial debt advice’   
  • Be responsible for paying the household energy bill (one award per household) - if a partner is awarded an energy card, but is NOT the main energy account holder, they can still use the card against the household energy costs
  • Be a Kent resident, permanently living within one of the 12 local authorities covered by Kent County Council (this excludes Medway, Bromley, and Bexley)  
  • Be aged 16 or over 

Other eligibility criteria will apply and be assessed through the debt advice process.


How you can support residents to access the scheme: 

If the resident has not yet sought debt advice but wants to do so, they could contact the Kent Money Advice Hub direct.

The Kent Money Advice Hub is a partnership between KCC and Citizens Advice to help residents in the county who are struggling financially or need support to manage the cost of living. Their trained Advisers can help residents with a range of money-related matters.  They will help residents to take stock of the issues they’re facing and work with them to take those next steps towards a more stable financial future. 

 The Kent Money Advice Hub provide free, confidential, independent, and impartial advice, available Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.  There is also an option for residents to have a video call from the comfort of their own home or visit one of the 5 kiosks located in Kent to speak to an Adviser via a video call (Aylesham, Margate, Gravesend, Ramsgate and Ashford). Further details available on this link Kent Money Advice Hub


What to do if you fall behind with rent 

As a Dover District Council tenant, if you fall behind with paying your rent, we will try to contact you to find out if you are having money troubles.  If we can’t get in touch by text, phone or post we may arrange a visit to your property. 

How you can contact your rent team: 

  • Contact the team 

  • Write to us at: Housing Team, Council Offices, White Cliffs Business Park, Whitfield, Dover CT16 3PJ 

Fallen behind with your rent or need a little help with your benefits? 

We have two dedicated Benefit and Money Advisors employed especially to help and signpost tenants regarding their Benefits, including claiming for housing costs. Our specialist will be able to advise you on claiming housing costs and maximising your income and where appropriate, refer you to other agencies, who may be able to help. 

To check which benefits you're entitled to, click the link below and see if you could be better off!

 What benefits am I entitled too

Appliance Calculator  

We’ve put together an appliance calculator to help you understand what appliances are costing you the most money! To visit this appliance calculator click here. To download a more advanced applicance running cost table from the Consumer Council visit the link below:

Consumer Council Appliance running costs table 

Struggling to pay your bills 

What to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills?  

If you are struggling to pay for your energy bills, contact your supplier as they have a list of Standard Licence Conditions they must comply with. A fuel supplier must offer a range of services when they are aware, become aware, or have any reason to believe that a customer is having difficulties or will have difficulties paying all or any part of their gas or electricity charges (SLC 27.5 to 27.8) this includes finding out about the customer’s ability to pay, offering a range of ways to repay the debt, and giving energy efficiency advice. The energy provider also must set repayment rates which are reasonable for the individual’s circumstances (case by case). 


Agree a payment plan with your supplier. 

Tell your supplier that you want to pay off your debts in instalments as part of a payment plan. You’ll pay fixed amounts over a set period of time, meaning you’ll pay what you can afford. The payment plan will cover what you owe plus an 5 amount for your current use. Your supplier must take into account. 

Your energy provider must offer the following services when agreeing a payment plan to pay off debts:  

  • Fuel Direct - deducted at source from a social security benefit received by the customer.  

  • Regular Payments – regular instalments which are calculated to suit the customers affordability and circumstances (SLC 27.8).  

  • Pre-Payment Meter Install - where it is safe and reasonably practicable to do so, and where the instalments are set to what the customer can afford (SLC 27.8) 

You should agree a payment plan that suits your individual circumstances and is realistic for you to be able to afford the repayments. 


If you can’t afford the payment plan? 

Contact your Supplier again if you cannot keep up with the repayments. The energy provider should already be monitoring the failed repayments and repayment rates, so they should be re-engaging with the customer to discuss the payment plan and suggest a different payment plan or method that may be more suitable. 


Pay off your debt through your benefits 

You might be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme. A fixed amount will automatically be taken from your benefits to cover what you owe, plus an extra amount for your current use. It can be more convenient than having a prepayment meter fitted and you won’t risk running out of gas or electricity. To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits: 

  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance  

  • Income Support 

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance  

  • Pension Credit  

  • Universal Credit 


Contact the Jobcentre (or the Pension Service if you are on pension credit) and provide the following: 

  • details of who you owe and how much  

  • your customer reference number (for bills)  

  • your National Insurance number  

They will arrange for some of your benefits to be paid directly each month to the company you owe.


Save money on your gas and electricity bills by switching suppliers 

Thousands of people save money every year by switching energy supplier. If you’re still on your original fixed energy tariff after the contract has ended, it’s likely you’re paying more than you should. Check the market and make the switch! 

Fixed Tariffs in general are normally a cheaper option to the Standard Variable Tariff (depending on the energy market conditions). 

Dover District Council take part in Energy Deal, a partnership between Kent Councils and iChoosr to help residents save money on their energy bills by using combined buying power to access highly competitive tariffs. Participation is completely free with no obligation to switch. For more information visit the link below:

Energy Deal - Collective Energy Switching Scheme (dover.gov.uk) 

Alternative energy switching options are available through Ofgem accredited comparison sites, for more information visit the link below:

Switch supplier or energy tariff | Ofgem  


Can I change my energy supplier if I’m in debt?

If the consumer owes money for less than 28 days (for example, the most recent statement has not been paid), then normally you are able to change supplier as soon as the outstanding amount is settled. . If the consumer is in debt because of a mistake by their supplier, they can still switch but will have to pay any debt. 

If the supplier increases their prices and blocks a consumer from switching because of an outstanding debt, the consumer has thirty days to pay the amount. If the debt is paid within this period, the consumer can switch without having to pay the increased price. If the consumer does not have a prepayment meter and they have a debt, the supplier can stop them from switching until the debt is paid. This is known as ‘debt-blocking’. If the supplier blocks the consumer’s request to switch in this instance, they must offer advice on the best tariff they offer, managing debt and energy efficiency advice. 

If you have a prepayment meter - If the consumer has a prepayment meter, they can switch supplier with a debt up to £500 for electricity and for gas. The consumer will have to continue using a prepayment meter with a new supplier at least until the debt is paid off. This situation is covered by the Debt Assignment Protocol (DAP). This allows prepayment meter (PPM) users with a debt of up to £500 per fuel to switch and transfer the debt to a new supplier. 


Grants to help pay off your energy debts 

If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you might be able to get a grant from a charitable trust to help pay it off. The following energy companies offer grants and schemes that are open to anyone - you don’t have to be a customer. 

Charis Grants 

Charis Grants exists to facilitate charitable and corporate giving by designing, developing and managing a range of services in support of vulnerable members of society. For more information please visit the link below:

Charis Grants: Supporting Individuals and Businesses 


British Gas Energy Trust 

Helping families and individuals facing financial hardship and fuel poverty across England, Wales and Scotland, awarding grants to households that remove energy debt, fund emergency fuel credit and provide boiler replacements where boilers have been condemned. For more information please visit the link below.

 Independent fuel debt advice – British Gas Energy Trust 


Scottish Power Hardship Fund  

Scottish Power has a Hardship Fund to help customers get their energy payments under control. The Fund can help by clearing or reducing arrears by crediting a customer’s Scottish Power energy account. For more information please visit the link below:

 Support Centre (scottishpower.co.uk) 

Ovo Energy Fund 

The OVO Energy Fund is a fund to help people who’ve fallen behind with their energy payments to OVO. If you’ve fallen into debt and want to become more financially stable in future, we’ll make a payment directly into your OVO account. For more information please visit the link below:

 Struggling to Pay Your Energy Bills? We Can Help (ovoenergy.com) 

EDF Customer support fund 

The Customer Support Fund awards grants to our customer households. It aims to provide customers with a fresh start and financial stability. It can help you stay out of fuel debt and better able to afford ongoing energy costs. For more information please visit the link below:

Extra support and personal assistance | EDF (edfenergy.com) 





Grants to help pay off your energy debts 

There are various grants and schemes available to help you cover the cost of fuel bills and make your home energy efficient. 

Winter Fuel payment 

A Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off, tax-free payment made during the winter to help with heating costs for people born on or before 26 September 1955. You usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you get the State Pension or another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit). Most payments are made automatically between November and December. For more information please visit the link below:

Winter Fuel Payment Overview


Warm Home Discount Scheme  

You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter. The money is not paid to you - it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill, between October and March. You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. For more information please visit the link below:

 Warm Home Discount Scheme: Overview 


Cold Weather Payment  

You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you’re getting certain benefits. Payments are made when your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days. You’ll get a payment of £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. Payments will be paid within 14 working days into the same bank/ building society as your benefit payments. For more information please visit the link below:

 Cold Weather Payment: Overview


DDC Grants/Schemes 

DDC have Grants/Schemes available, which cover energy efficient measures such as cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, room in roof insulation , solid wall insulation, and boiler repairs/replacement for homeowners, or tenants who live in privately rented properties, who are in receipt of certain benefits, or on a low income with a vulnerability to being in a cold home (age/health conditions).  

This is subject to meeting qualifying criteria, and the type of measure and the amount of financial assistance is dependent on survey by the contractor. For more information please visit the link below:

 Discount and Energy Efficiency Grant Schemes 


Priority Service Register  

The Priority Services Register is a free support service to help people in vulnerable situations. Energy suppliers and network operators offer it. Each keeps their own register. You need to contact your energy supplier to check if you are eligible and register. Click here for more information and what help you can get by being on the priority services register. 


Local Supportive services  

Disability Assist

Disability Assist’s vision is a world where disabled people can live as independently as possible. They provide benefits support, advice and guidance.

01233 633187



Citizens Advice Bureau 



For help 

General enquiries 

For debt enquiries 

For Universal Credit enquiries 

ALL 9.30am - 4.30pm 

03448 487978 

01304 374333 

01304 202442 

01304 202030 


Family Lives 

Charity supporting vulnerable and lower-income families 

Free helpline 

0808 800 2222 


Job Centre (DWP) 


For DWP advice call this number. 

01304 866190 

Money Advice Service 


For advice regarding finances and debt 

0300 500 5000 



National Debt Line 


Coronavirus hub for money worries 

0808 808 4000 



Step change 

Free debt advice online or over the phone 

0800 138 1111 



Christians Against Poverty 

Debt help 

0800 3280006 http://www.capdebthelp.org/ info@capuk.org