What help is available with high winter bills for vulnerable people?
WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS
The Winter Fuel Payment is a scheme designed to help older people cover the additional costs of energy during the winter months. This payment is between £100 and £300, depending on your circumstances during the week out of the year chosen for assessment (this year it was 16 to 22 September 2019). The payment is all tax free and has no effect on any other subsidies.
You usually don’t need to do anything to claim yours Winter Fuel Payment – you’ll get it automatically if you’re eligible
- you do not get benefits or a State Pension
- you only get Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit
- you get benefits or a State Pension but live in Switzerland or an EEA country
- You also need to claim Winter Fuel Payment if you have deferred your State Pension, even if you had it before. You only need to do this once.
The full eligibility criteria can be found here.
COLD WEATHER PAYMENTS
This one is only going to come up in especially cold weather. If you fill the criteria, your household can get £25 a week between November and March, but only if the temperature in your area is forecasted or recorded as being below freezing for 7 consecutive days.
The Cold Weather Payments don’t require any kind of lengthy application process either, the payments are made automatically to those on qualifying benefits. Having said that, if you or the person you care for receive Income Support/Jobseeker’s Allowance/Employment Support Allowance AND have a child under 5, you should make the Job/Pension Centre aware to ensure that you receive the payments.
WARM HOME DISCOUNT
The Warm Home Discount Scheme gives pensioners at risk of fuel poverty a one-off discount of around £140 (it changes every year) on their energy bills between October and March.
There are 2 ways to qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme; if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (basically if you’re collecting your pension) then congratulations! You are part of what’s known as the ‘core group’.
If you’re on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme – known as the ‘broader group’. How you apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme depends on how you qualify for the discount, but you have to reapply every year. It’s also worth noting that you can still take advantage of this scheme even if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter; a lot of energy companies use a voucher system for this.
No-one’s going to get rich off this payment, but it is the equivalent of a couple of months’ bills, which could help if money’s tight! £140 could be a considerable chunk if you consider that the average monthly bill is £60-£70 for a small house or flat with one or two occupants – and considerably higher for larger households.
This year, the following energy companies are part of the Warm Home Discount scheme:
- Avro Energy
- British Gas
- Co-operative energy (including Flow Energy customers)
- E Energy
- EDF Energy
- Green Network Energy
- Green Star Energy
- Octopus Energy
- Scottish Power
- Shell Energy (formerly First Utility)
- Utility Warehouse
KEEPING ENERGY BILLS DOWN
We’re big believers that prevention is the best form of medicine when it comes to curing hefty energy bills. Check out some easy energy saving tips here.
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