A key step in balancing your budget is to look at all your debts and expenses and investigate ways to reduce them. It can feel overwhelming to face a pile of bills, but if you are having trouble paying, assistance is available.

– George

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Utility bills

If you are finding it difficult to cover the cost of your utilities, such as electricity, gas, water, phone or internet, you can explore:

  • hardship programs
  • rebates or concessions
  • payment vouchers and grants
  • energy efficiency programs.

Each of these options is described below.

Apply for hardship programs

Most essential service providers are required to assist customers who are having trouble paying their bills. Check whether your utility companies have hardship programs that allow for flexible payment options.

How a hardship program works will vary according to the individual service provider. The details are usually available on the company’s website, or you can call them and ask for a copy to be sent to you.

Once you register with a hardship program and are actively participating (e.g. by paying something off your bill), your supply cannot be disconnected.

How to apply

To register with a hardship program, contact your service provider to tell them that you are having trouble paying. They will try to help by setting up a payment plan so you can:

  • pay later (deferring the payment), or
  • pay several smaller amounts over a period of time (paying by instalments).

Check if you can get a rebate or concession

Rebates and concessions can reduce the amount you owe on your utility bills. They are usually available to customers on low incomes, people receiving certain Centrelink payments, and some concession card holders. Special rebates and concessions may be available to customers who are medically unable to regulate their body temperature, or who use an eligible life support machine (such as a dialysis machine) at home.

How to apply

Contact your provider to apply for a rebate or concession on your electricity, gas or water bill.

Ask about payment vouchers and grants

In most states and territories, customers in financial hardship can receive payment assistance vouchers or grants to put towards their utility bills. These may be distributed through community welfare agencies such as the Salvation Army, or directly by the relevant state or territory government department.

How to apply

Get in touch with a participating community organisation or the relevant government department – for contact details, see the list of rebates and vouchers at (type ‘utility bills’ into the search bar).

Register for an energy efficiency program

If you use less power and water, you will also reduce your bills. Some states and territories offer free energy and water efficiency assessments to help customers reduce their usage. They may also offer assistance with energy-saving or water-saving repairs and modifications, such as a reduced fee for a plumber to fix your leaking taps.

How to apply

Visit for energy-saving tips and to see what assistance is available in your state or territory.

For more information on rebates, concessions, vouchers, grants and energy efficiency programs that are available in your state or territory, read Cancer Council’s Help with bills fact sheet, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Read more about ways to manage your utility bills

Council rates

Many local councils have a rate assistance or rebate policy for people in financial hardship. You may be able to:

  • claim a concession rate – available to holders of a Centrelink Concession Card or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card
  • negotiate a payment plan – you may be able to pay your rates by instalments.

How to apply

Contact your local council to find out how they might be able to help you manage payment of your rates.

This information was last reviewed in October 2015
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