Boost for Warm Home Discount scheme next winter

More households could qualify for help with their heating bills following changes to the Warm Home Discount scheme.

Warm home discount
 

The government has overhauled the eligibility criteria to make the system fairer and easier to understand.

What is the Warm Home Discount?

The Warm Home Discount scheme was introduced by the government in April 2011 in England, Scotland and Wales.

People who qualify get a one-off discount on their electricity bill, usually between October and March.

Next winter more than two million homes will qualify for a £140 rebate on their bills, helping them to heat their homes for less – that’s around 600,000 more than for 2014/15.

What’s changing?

As far as this year is concerned, you qualify for the discount if, on 12 July 2014, your name, or your partner’s name, was on the electricity bill and you were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.

Your electricity supplier must also participate in the scheme (suppliers are obliged to sign up if they have more than 250,000 domestic customers, so the big six utility firms and a number of their smaller rivals are participants – you can see the list here).

If you satisfy the criteria, you normally receive the discount automatically.

In other words, the money is not paid to you but is usually credited to your energy account, knocking money off what you owe.

People with pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meters receive a payment credit.

The discounts or credits usually feed through to your account by the end of March.

“Next winter more than two million homes will qualify for a £140 rebate on their bills...”

Extended benefits

Here’s where it gets a bit complicated.

Many electricity companies also extend the discount to other vulnerable groups such as families on low incomes with children and people with disabilities.

But at the moment, the eligibility criteria for this broader group are not standard across the industry. So, one supplier might offer a rebate to one customer but another would not.

And if you think you might qualify as vulnerable customer you have to apply for the discount. It is not given automatically, as with the main group of Pension Credit recipients.

In short, the current system causes confusion and leads to what is in effect a discount lottery.

This is why changes have been announced.

Standardised rules

Campaign groups have long argued for a fairer scheme, and the government has now agreed to standardise the qualifying rules from next winter.

So, all participating energy firms will offer the same discount to the same people.

For example, a family with a child under the age of five will qualify for the £140 discount if the household income is less than or equal to £16,190 and they are in receipt of tax credits or the Universal Credit equivalent.

However, the broader group of customers (not those receiving the relevant Pension Credit) will still have to apply for the discount.

If you’ve any questions about your entitlement to the discount, there’ll be a number on your electricity bill for you to call for details.

Other assistance

Don’t forget that the Warm Home Discount does not affect either the Cold Weather Payment or the Winter Fuel Discount, so you could be entitled to all three.

For more information, call the Warm Home Discount helpline on 0345 603 9439. The lines are open Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

And if you want to find a competitive energy deal, check out our five-minute quotation service.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

* 51% consumers, MoneySuperMarket data, December 2014

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