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Navigating Fuel Poverty: How to keep your home warm this Christmas


Picture this: Christmas is just around the corner, and the weather is getting much colder. You want to turn up your heating, only to be faced with the thought that your bills will go up as well. Despite the festive season, it is overshadowed by a harsh reality: things are getting too expensive in this cost-of-living crisis, and you simply cannot afford to heat your home. You might not even have to picture it, as you might be one of those struggling right now. In that case, you might be experiencing fuel poverty.  

According to the Scottish government, a fuel-poor household is one where you pay more than 10% of your net income for reasonable fuel needs after housing or renting costs.  Around 860,000 households were estimated to be in fuel poverty in Scotland during October last year with the number expected to rise this 2023.  

Despite recent legislation to relieve this, fuel poverty can be particularly difficult for people in some remote areas. In a National Rural Mental Health Forum survey administered by Change Mental Health, one Sutherland respondent mentions: 

"Rural areas are being discriminated against as the current price cap is based on certain gas and electricity [suppliers], which is not the case in rural areas like Sutherland. […] This means that people in Sutherland are paying way more per head than other areas. This inequality needs [to be] addressed."

It is a challenge that affects many, but the good news is that there are some ways to tackle this. As we acknowledge Fuel Poverty Awareness Day on November 30th, Change Mental Health and Mental Health and Money Advice provide simple, actionable tips to help you make your home warmer this Christmas. 

Tip 1: Be Energy Efficient

Begin by enhancing the energy efficiency of your home. Identify and seal any draughts and contemplate the possibility of upgrading your windows and doors. Studies show you can lose about 40% of heat through these gaps between doors and windows. Even though there might be some upfront costs, these changes can save you a lot on energy bills eventually. If possible, check with your local government or Change Mental Health's Advice and Support Service for help with accessing grants or subsidies to make these upgrades more affordable, especially if you are on a tight budget. 

Tip 2: Budget your heating

Be smart about how you use your heating. This can be done by: 

  • Regularly maintaining your heating system by cleaning filters 
  • Drawing curtains at night 
  • Making sure your furniture is not blocking the radiator 
  • Lowering the thermostat when possible 
  • Using electric blankets or wearing layers whilst at home 

Although small, these tips can also contribute to a more sustainable and affordable approach to heating.

Tip 3: Consider applying for benefits

This winter, Social Security Scotland will be giving their annual support for children and young people to keep their homes warm called the Child Winter Heating Payment (formerly known as the Child Winter Heating Assistance). 

In 2023, if you have qualifying children or young individuals (up to 19 years old) and already receive eligible benefits, you will automatically receive a payment of £235.70. Even if you do not have children, you could still be in line for the Winter Heating Payment, granting you £55.05. As these figures may change, please see the relevant pages for the most up-to-date information.

Take a moment to explore additional benefits you might qualify for. Figuring out the benefits system can be tricky, but we have got plenty of information to help you. 

Tip 4: Turn off when not in use

Adopt simple and practical energy-saving habits. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use and unplug chargers to reduce standby power consumption. These habits may seem small, but they can add up to significant savings on your energy bills.  

Tip 5: Make a budget

You have heard it time and time again, but making a budget is an effective way to take control of your finances this winter. Think of it as a roadmap that helps you manage your money better. You can do this by:  

  1. Listing your sources of income.
  2. Listing all your monthly expenses such as your electricity and heating bills.  
  3. Regularly reviewing your budget.
  4. Adjusting it as needed. 

Adapting to the cost-of-living crisis is easier said than done. However, it's crucial to remember that you don't have to face these challenges alone. The Advice and Support Service is here for you if you’re facing fuel poverty or any other money-related matter. Our dedicated team has assisted thousands dealing with similar struggles, like with one of our clients, Mark:

'Mark was stressing about his energy bills and the unbelievable cost of just living day-to-day. Every time he turned up the heating, his bills shot through the roof. Mark could burn through £5 a day just trying to stay warm. His energy costs were eating into his budget big time.

Luckily, we (the Advice and Support Service at Change Mental Health) have been helping Mark out for a couple of months. We got him signed up for a Warm Home Discount. We also were able to get £900 of energy vouchers for Mark through a Home Heating Assistance grant. This really helped improve Mark’s mental health and wellbeing.

If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to reach out. Fuel poverty is a complex issue, but taking simple steps can make a meaningful difference. From making your home more energy efficient to applying for benefits, these tips are designed to help you create a warmer and more affordable home. By doing these, you can contribute to a future where fuel poverty is less prevalent and be able to enjoy a warmer home this Christmas. 

Mental Health and Money Advice Service

If you or anyone you know is struggling with fuel poverty or money in general, you can consult the following resources from our Mental Health and Money Advice Service for support: 

Or if you would like to speak with one of our specialist advisers at our Advice and Support Service for free and impartial advice, call our Advice line on 0808 8010 515 (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) or email us at

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