Cost of energy and food

The cost of energy and food is so high now. With the kids home from school for the summer, I’m having to pay more for lunches and snacks. I’m worried about how I’ll put food on the table. I’m on a prepayment meter and I’m really scared we’re going to be left without any gas or electric if I can’t top up. What can I do?

First of all, I’m really sorry to hear how tough things have been for you. You’re doing the right thing in seeking support and there are things you can get help with.

As a prepayment meter customer, your energy supplier will be able to give you temporary credit if you can’t afford to top up your meter. They might add this to your meter automatically, but if they don’t, you can call them and ask them to do this.

If you run out of temporary credit, speak to your supplier to explain your situation. They may give you extra temporary credit if you’re struggling with living costs. There are other reasons why they might give you extra credit too, including if you’re disabled, have a long-term health condition, or you have children under the age of 5. You’ll have to pay back anything extra you get, but you can agree how to do this in a way you can afford with your supplier.

As you say, the cost of living is really high but there is help available. If you pay council tax and you’re in bands A-D, you should get a payment of £150 automatically. It could take until the end of September, but if you’ve not had it already you might need to make a claim. You can check how to do this on your council’s website.

You might also be able to get a fuel voucher, which you can use to add credit to your meter. Contact your local council about this. If you live Reading details can be found here, for Wokingham check here and for West Berkshire council, check here.

There’s more government support coming from October, including a £400 payment to help you with your energy bills. If you have a prepayment meter, you’ll be given vouchers in the first week of each month from October, via SMS text, email or post. Make sure your energy company has your up-to-date details. If you pay by direct debit or on a smart prepayment meter, you’ll get a discount on your bill each month.

To help manage other costs, it’s also worth checking you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to. There are benefits calculators you can use online. On the Citizens Advice website, there’s advice on how to reduce living costs and information on other ways to increase your income.

The school holidays can be a really tough time and we know the food shop isn’t stretching as far. Contact your local council to find out what extra support you can get over the holidays.In Reading, you may be eligible for the Holiday Activities and Food scheme. If you can’t afford to buy food, your local Citizens Advice can help you get a referral for a food bank or have a look at this list of organisations offering food and support.

We know this is an extremely worrying time and everyone’s situation is different. Don’t struggle alone. If you need further support, contact your local Citizens Advice or call the local advice line: 0808 278 7819.

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