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Fuel Poverty

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Fuel Poverty

Official figures show that some 4 million UK households - or close to a fifth of the population - are living in “fuel poverty”.

But just what is fuel poverty and what help is available for the millions of Britons affected by it?

What is fuel poverty?

Energy bills take a big chunk out of most household budgets, especially during the winter months.

But whether or not you are affected by fuel poverty depends on how much of your total household income is taken up by your gas and electricity bills.

In order to ensure that the most vulnerable consumers receive the help they need to cover their home energy costs, the government therefore classifies living in fuel poverty as spending 10% or more of your household income on gas and electricity alone.

What help is available from the government for people living in fuel poverty?

The government runs a variety of schemes to help the millions of Britons struggling to cope with their home energy costs.

If you are aged 60 or over, for example, tax-free Winter Fuel Payments of between £125 and £400 are available whether you are working or claiming benefits.

For more details, click here for the MoneySupermarket Winter Fuel Payment guide.

Should your postcode be hit by a period of very cold weather, you may also get Cold Weather Payments if you already receive Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

For more details, click here for the MoneySupermarket Cold Weather Payments guide.

As one of the best ways to reduce your energy bills is to improve the energy efficiency of your home, grants for this purpose are also available to vulnerable customers in England, Wales and Scotland.

Depending on your personal circumstances, these could fully or partially cover the cost of home improvements such as installing loft or cavity wall insulation.

You can find out more about what grants may be available to you on The Energy Saving Trust website.

What help is available from energy suppliers for people living in fuel poverty?

Most energy suppliers have been offering their most vulnerable customers, often those living in fuel poverty, cheaper “social” tariffs for some years.

For more details, click here for the MoneySupermarket Social Tariffs guide.

However, social tariffs are now being phased out to make way for the government-backed Warm Home Discount, which is an annual credit that suppliers will subtract from your overall bill. This winter it will be worth £130.

Groups that can benefit from the Warm Home Discount include households that are in receipt of the guaranteed element of Pension Credit and those on low incomes, living in fuel poverty or in receipt of certain benefits.

However, only the larger energy companies will be required to offer it, so you may miss out if you are with a smaller provider.

You can find out more by reading the MoneySupermarket Warm Home Discount guide.

However, if you require further assistance, the 'Home Heat Helpline', which is funded by energy companies, also offers advice about the Warm Home Discount, social tariffs and grants for energy efficiency improvements.

You can call it free on 0800 33 66 99.