Government energy schemes

Can I get government help to pay my energy bill?

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The government offers help to vulnerable and low income homes – see if you’re eligible for discounts on your fuel bill

Can I get help with my energy bill?

The government offers a range of grants and schemes to help people in vulnerable or low income households pay their energy bills, and if you’re eligible you could get a discount on your fuel costs.

What grants and schemes can I benefit from?

You might be able to take advantage of one of the following government heating benefit schemes:

  • Cold weather payment
  • Winter fuel payment
  • Warm home discount
  • Affordable warmth obligation
  • Fuel direct

How do I know if I’m eligible for energy grants or schemes?

Each of the available benefit schemes have different sets of criteria you’ll need to fulfil, usually related to your household’s income, benefits or age of individuals.

11.8 million people are eligible for winter fuel payments, and 3.8 million for cold weather payments

According to data collected by the UK government for cold weather and winter fuel payments, accurate as of October 2019

What is the cold weather payment?

The cold weather payment is a government scheme offering a £25 discount on energy bills per week of cold weather between 1 November and 31 March to households receiving certain benefits. ‘Cold weather’ is defined as the average outside temperature in your area being zero degrees Celsius or below for seven consecutive days – and as of 31 March 2019 there have been 43 cold weather triggers.*

*According to government data from the Department of Work and Pensions, accurate as of April 2019

You might qualify for cold weather payments if you receive any of the following:

1.       Pension credit

If you get pension credit you’ll generally be eligible for cold weather payments too.

2.       Income support

You’ll also usually qualify for cold weather payments if you get income support or jobseeker’s allowance based on your household’s income, and in addition:

  • You have a disability or pensioner premium
  • Your child has a disability
  • You get child tax credit with a disability or severe disability element
  • You have a child younger than five years old living with you

3.       Income-related employment and support allowance

If you get income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) and you belong to an activity or support group related to your work you should qualify for cold weather payments. If you get income-related ESA but you don’t belong to any of these groups you can still qualify if:

  • You have a disability or pensioner premium
  • Your child has a disability
  • You get child tax credit with a disability or severe disability element
  • You have a child younger than five years old living with you

4.       Universal credit

If you aren’t employed or self-employed and you receive universal credit, you’ll be eligible for cold weather payments as long as:

  • You have a disability or medical condition that means you have a limited capability of working, or
  • You have a child younger than five years old living with you

If your claim includes an amount for a child with a disability, you’ll be eligible whether or not you’re employed.

5.       Support for mortgage interest

You’ll also qualify for cold weather payments if you receive support for mortgage interest (SMI).

You’ll be able to check if your area is due a cold weather payment on 1 November 2019 when the scheme for this year starts.

If you’re eligible for a cold weather payment, you won’t need to apply – it’ll be paid automatically.

However those getting income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or income-related employment and support allowance, will need to tell Jobcentre Plus if:

  • You have a baby
  • A child younger than five years old comes to live with you

If you believe you’re entitled to a cold weather payment and you don’t receive it, you should contact your local Jobcentre Plus office or pension centre. You can also add a note to your online journal if you get universal credit, and if you don’t have online access you can call the universal credit helpline.

What is the winter fuel payment?

The Winter Fuel Payment is a government scheme set up to help older people meet their energy bills every year. It’s available if you’re born on or before 5 April 1954, and is worth between £100 and £300 per person every year.

You are probably eligible for the winter fuel payment in 2019/20 if you were born on or before 5 April 1954. To qualify for the winter fuel payment you must also have lived in the UK for at least one day during this year’s qualifying week, which was September 16 to 22, 2019.

The date for eligibility, and the qualifying week, changes every year, so even if you can’t claim the payment this year, it may change in the future.

You won’t qualify for the winter fuel payment if you:

  • Were in prison for the whole qualifying week
  • Are in hospital getting free treatment for more than a year
  • Need permission to enter the UK and your granted leave states that you can’t claim public funds
  • Lived in a care home for the whole time between 24 June and 22 September 2019 and received specific benefits that include pension credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance or income-related employment and support allowance

How much you get depends on your age and circumstances during the qualifying week. Payments are tax-free, and won’t impact on any other benefits you might be claiming.

If you live on your own, or if everyone you live with is ineligible for a winter fuel payment, you’ll receive £300 if you are aged over 80 or £200 if you are younger.

If you live with another person who also qualifies, payments are usually split. For example, two eligible individuals will get £100 each if they’re aged under 80.

If you live in a care home and don’t get certain benefits, you’re entitled to a winter fuel payment of £100 or £150 depending on your age.

If you live at home and receive certain benefits, you don’t have to make a claim. These include the state pension, pension credit, income support and incapacity benefit. If you’ve received the winter fuel payment in previous years, you should automatically receive it if you are eligible to.

If you qualify for the winter fuel payment and don’t receive any of these benefits, you’ll need to make a claim. Go to Gov.uk or call 08459 15 15 15. You will have until March 31 2020 to claim for the 19/20 winter season.

Winter Fuel Payments are typically made in November or December every year – and you should receive payment by 13 January 2020.

New claimants are advised to apply as soon as possible, to avoid delays in payment. Once you’ve applied you’ll receive a letter with a payment date and details of how much you’ll be paid. If you haven’t received the money by January 13 2020, you should contact the office that pays your benefits – you’ll see the contact details in your letter.

No. You cannot claim winter fuel payments for previous winters.

You can claim the winter fuel payment if you receive a state pension and live in Switzerland or most European Economic Area (EEA) countries – in winter 2018/19 there were only 40 recipients in this category.*

The exceptions are for expats who live in countries where the average winter temperature is higher than the warmest part of the UK. This means you won’t receive the winter fuel payment if you live in in Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Malta and Greece.

*According to figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions, accurate as of October 2019

What is the warm home discount?

The warm home discount scheme is a government initiative that gives low-income households a £140 discount on their electricity bill. Since it started in April 2011, the scheme has given over £2 billion worth of assistance to low income and fuel poor households.*

It’s a one-off discount administered by your energy supplier (providing your energy supplier participates in the scheme – see below for participating providers). It isn’t a cash payment, but comes as a reduction in your bill, applied between September and March.

The scheme does not affect your entitlement to either the winter fuel payment or the cold weather payment.

There are two ways to be eligible for the discount.

*According to data provided by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, accurate as of June 2018

Pensioners who receive the guarantee credit part of the pension credit form the so-called ‘core group’ and should receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions about their eligibility for the scheme by the end of the year.

This group does not normally need to apply for the warm home discount. Instead, the money is automatically deducted from their bill.

The discount is also available to another, larger group of customers: people who are living in – or at risk of – fuel poverty.

The eligibility criteria for this so-called ‘broader group’ are set by the government, but energy firms can also exercise their own discretion.

Typically, to be eligible you will have to be a recipient of a state benefit such as income support or universal credit. You might also be able to apply if your annual household income is less than about £16,000, as long as you meet one or more other conditions. These include:

  • If there is a child under five living permanently in the house or
  • You receive disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment (PIP), incapacity benefit or attendance allowance

You can find out about your supplier’s eligibility criteria on the firm’s website, although you can’t apply until the 2019/20 scheme opens, which will be on October 14, 2019.

Don’t worry if you pay for your electricity with a pre-payment meter. You can still apply for the discount and eligible customers will receive a credit to their meter.

The core group will have their discount applied automatically, but rebates for the broader group are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

The 2019/20 scheme opens on 14th October, so be prepared to register your interest with your supplier from then.

You should also bear in mind that being eligible last year does not guarantee you will be again this year. In fact, you will have to apply for it again this time around.

Note that if you switch from one supplier to another before you receive the discount, you will have to reapply for the rebate even if you qualified with the old firm, because the new criteria could be different.

Suppliers do not have to participate in the scheme unless they have at least 250,000 customers, which means that some of the smaller utility firms do not offer the warm home discount.

The following companies are all members of the warm home discount scheme:

 

You can also find out more about the warm Home discount scheme by calling 0345 603 9439, Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm, or by visiting the government’s website .

What is the affordable warmth obligation?

If you live in social housing, or you live in private housing (such as owning your own home renting from a private landlord) and claim certain benefits, you might be eligible to receive financial help for:

  • Insulation, for example your loft or cavity walls
  • Heating, such as replacing or repairing your boiler

You might be eligible to benefit from the affordable warmth obligation if you receive any of the following:

  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit
  • Universal credit
  • Pension guarantee credit - you will not be eligible if you only claim pension savings credit
  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Disability living allowance
  • Personal independence payment (PIP)
  • Attendance allowance
  • Carer’s allowance
  • Severe disablement allowance
  • Industrial injuries disablement benefits
  • War pensions mobility supplement
  • Constant attendance allowance
  • Armed forces independence payment
  • Child benefit

Remember if you’re renting from a private landlord you must ask their permission before undergoing any work.

If your social housing has an energy efficiency rating of E or below, you may be eligible for help with insulation or heating systems – you can find this out on the energy performance certificate register or by asking your landlord or housing association.

What is fuel direct?

Another option you might have if you receive benefits and struggle to stay on top of your energy bills is to have them paid directly out of the benefit payments through the fuel direct scheme. These payments include:

  • Universal credit
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment support allowance
  • Income support
  • Pension credit

You’ll be able to ask your benefits office to make the bill payments directly to your supplier – this applies for both fuel and water bills. They’ll arrange to pay the supplier for the amount you currently use and a portion of your outstanding balance each time you receive your benefit payment.

Once you’ve cleared what you owe, the payments will stop. The portion of your benefits that go towards your fuel payments is decided in part by the type of benefits you receive – and the amount is decided by Jobcentre Plus.

Switch energy suppliers with MoneySuperMarket

Comparing gas and electricity suppliers with MoneySuperMarket is the easiest way to cut the cost of your fuel bill. Just tell us a little about yourself and give us an estimate of your energy usage, and we’ll put together some quotes to help you find a cheaper energy tariff.

Remember, the more exact you can be about your energy usage the more accurate your billing will be – if you give an inaccurate estimate there’s a chance you may be over- or under-charged for your energy.

Being overcharged can be a hassle as you’ll need to go through a process to claim your money back. However being undercharged means you’ll be in debt to your energy company, and you’ll have to pay back what you owe.

You’ll be able to compare energy suppliers by the overall annual and monthly cost as well as the savings you can make – once you’ve found the tariff you want to switch to, just click through to their website to finalise the switch application. The whole process should be completed in 21 days without any interruption to your energy supply, thanks to the energy switch guarantee.

The energy switch guarantee is a scheme developed by energy providers to ensure the switching process is simple, reliable and hassle-free. It’s handled completely by the energy provider you’re switching to, and you will still be with your existing provider right up until the switch is made.

If there are any issues, your new provider will try to resolve them as fast as possible – and if you change your mind within 14 days you can cancel the switch application and remain with your existing provider.

Additionally you’ll get back any credit due to you from your previous energy supplier within 14 days. Remember while most suppliers are part of the energy switch guarantee, not all are – so it’s worth checking before you switch to make sure you’re moving to the right tariff.

 

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