This information could help if you find yourself in fuel debt

Fuel Debt can cause worry, depression, embarrassment and financial hardship. It isn’t talked about as much as other debts such as loans or credit cards however, in Sunderland 14% of people struggle to adequately heat their homes due to high energy costs and low incomes.

There are a number of factors that can cause households to go into arrears but help and support are available from a number of different organisations including:

  • Your energy supplier
  • Grants and trusts
  • Gentoo fuel debt champions
  • Gentoo Money Matters Team
  • National Energy Action (NEA)
  • Citizens Advice/Step Change/Age UK Sunderland/Mind
  • Affordable Warmth Government Grants for those eligible (e.g. Warm Homes Fund, Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments)
  • The NEA have a whole range of information and advice to help you with fuel debt. 


Yes – If debt has been added to a prepay meter of up to £500 you can switch supplier under the Debt Assignment Protocol (DAP).

No – Your energy supplier can stop you switching if you are in debt. In this case, they must offer you the best available tariff.

If the debt is under £500, you can ask to be switched on to a pre-payment meter. However, prepay tariffs are normally more expensive than credit tariffs so you will be paying more per unit going forward.

Yes – make sure you give the correct number of digits on your meter. Contact your Neighbourhood Coordinator or energy supplier if you don’t know where your meter is or how to read it.

Yes – Energy suppliers offer Trust Funds and Grants to help customer’s clear energy debts. Anyone can apply either for themselves or on behalf of someone else.

If you apply, you’ll need to have some key information to hand including; recent meter readings, details of any benefits received, age of homeowners and any exceptional personal circumstances.

Supporting information can also be considered. E.g. a letter from a GP, Social Worker, Debt Charity.

Your Gentoo Money Matters Support Coordinator and Fuel Debt Champions can help you to submit an application. Please contact your local Gentoo office to make an appointment.

Yes - They can help with payment plans and advice on discounts that might be available.

Useful information to collect prior to calling them is:

  • Name and address
  • Meter serial numbers (Bill and Meter)
  • Mpan Number (Bill and Meter)
  • Is anyone in the home elderly, disabled or under 5
  • Is there other factors to financial hardship like multiple debt
  • Up to date meter readings
  • Payment method
  • Benefit information

No – There are a number of reasons why bills can be incorrect including:

  • Wrong name or address
  • Wrong supplier
  • Wrong meter details (linked to another home)
  • Estimate readings
  • Gas could be charged as metric or imperial units or vice versa (4 or 5 digit readings)
  • Billing to a day and night tariff the readings could be back to front

No – It can take up to 6 months depending on your energy supplier and personal circumstances. You have 28 days from receiving your statement to make a payment or advise your energy supplier if you’ll have difficulties making payment before any formal action is taken.

Disconnection is a very last resort.

If you have received a pre-disconnection letter you can still contact your energy supplier for help. If you would like assistance with this please book an appointment with a Gentoo Money Matters Coordinator or a Fuel Debt Champion by contacting your local Gentoo office.

Useful links and Telephone Numbers



0808 802 2000


01733 421 020

0800 138 1111

0300 330 1194

0808 808 4000

0191 565 7218


Funds and Trusts


01733 421 021

01733 421 060

0330 400 1188

01733 421 021

0808 800 0128

0800 072 7201


Energy Suppliers


0345 052 0000

0800 073 3000

0333 202 9802

0345 026 2658

0330 333 7442

0800 056 2422