The recent round of energy price increases from the big gas and electricity suppliers has inevitably increased the concerns of those households on low income as to whether they are going to be able to afford to stay warm this winter. With an estimated 5 million households in the UK in fuel poverty the “heat or eat” problem is a harsh reality for a large number of people in the UK.
Is There Help Available for Low Income Households to Help with Energy Bills this Winter?
The simple answer to this question is yes, but as with any government help, there are eligibility criteria. We’ve tried to summarise what is available and where low income households can go to try and get further help
There are three main sources of help with energy bills that are available:
- The Winter Fuel Payment / Winter Fuel Allowance – if you are of pensionable age or live with someone who is, you are entitled to the winter fuel payment which is a tax free payment paid every year during the winter. The winter fuel payment amount does depend on you age and who else you live and is designed to help with energy bills. Payments are from £100 to £300 a year. In the majority of cases the payment will be made automatically. To find out full details of the scheme and eligibility, click here.
- The Warm Home Discount Scheme – this benefit is available to both pensioners and people on low income and is a rebate on your electricity bill of £135 for winter 2013-2014. The rebate is run by the main energy companies and, whilst they have to provide this scheme by law, the eligibility criteria for those claiming due to low income rather than age does vary from supplier to supplier. The Citizen Advice Bureau gives more information about this scheme here.
- Cold Weather Payments – This is a payment made to both those of pensionable age and those on low incomes or claiming certain benefits. The benefit is only paid when the temperature averages zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days between 1st November and 31st March. A payment of £25 is made for each week that qualifies. Payments are made automatically if you claim the eligible benefits. See more information here.
Help with Reducing Bills
As well as help with energy bills, there is help available for low income and vulnerable households to make long term changes to reduce bills through energy saving measures. The main schemes available are:
Energy Company Obligation (ECO) Scheme – a subsidy from the 6 large energy suppliers to help low income households obtain insulation and even a replacement boiler. Energy saving measures such as these can save households several hundred pounds a year on their fuel bills. The eligibility criteria for the ECO scheme is complex but is worth investigating.
The Green Deal – this a government scheme to help households on any income fund energy saving measures such as a new boiler or more insulation. The scheme is effectively a loan that enables you to pay back over time through your electricity bill.
Council-run Schemes – some local councils also have funds available to help householders improve energy efficiency so it is worth contacting your local authority to see what is available in your area.
More information about ECO and the Green Deal can be found on the Energy Saving Trust website.