Help with energy bills: available grants and schemes
Who could benefit from available grants and schemes?
In its 2018 Vulnerable Consumers in the Energy Market report, Ofgem highlights the growing number of customers facing difficult financial circumstances, who may need support with their energy bills. This includes those who are elderly or disabled, and low-income families on benefits with young children.
According to the report, in 2017 there were an estimated 8 million UK adults in debt, and 13 million living in poverty. Roughly 2.5 million households in England are in fuel poverty. In other words, meeting the costs of energy bills would leave them below the poverty line. Of these, around 939,000 fuel-poor households in England have a disabled person who’s facing extra costs, related to their condition.
The following grants and schemes have been set up to help those in fuel poverty:
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free annual payment, to help the elderly with their heating costs. If you were born before 5 November 1953, you could receive between £100 to £300 towards your winter fuel bills.
Cold Weather Payments
Cold Weather Payments are payments to help cover heating costs during a very cold snap. You’ll get £25 for each seven day period that the temperature drops below zero degrees.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
The Warm Home Discount Scheme is a one-off discount on your winter electricity bill, between September and March. If you’re eligible, you’ll get a £140 rebate that will be credited to your electricity account, directly, by your energy supplier.
The Energy Companies’ Obligation (ECO) is a government-backed scheme run by energy suppliers – with the aim of tackling fuel poverty and helping those most vulnerable.
One part of the scheme is the Affordable Warmth Obligation. Eligible consumers on certain benefits may receive free installations, or subsidised costs, for:
- replacing or repairing their boiler
- cavity-wall and loft insulation
- other upgrades to their heating
Charitable trusts and energy grants
The following energy suppliers offer grants and schemes, ranging from new boilers and white goods costs, to help fuel-poor customers clear their energy debts:
British Gas Energy Trust - 01733 421021
Provides grants towards domestic gas and electricity debts, owed to British Gas and other suppliers. It also provides a number of organisations across the country with free and impartial, independent, fuel debt and money advice services.
For example, in 2017, together with ScottishPower, British Gas launched initiatives with CLIC Sargent (a cancer charity) in Manchester and Glasgow, to help towards the energy costs of families with a young person diagnosed with cancer.
npower Energy Fund - 01733 421021
Offers fuel-poor customers grants to pay their gas and electricity bills, as well as funding the replacement of white goods, like cookers, fridge-freezers and washing machines.
npower’s Health Through Warmth scheme helps those facing long-term illness cover the cost of boiler repairs and replacements. You don’t have to be an npower customer to qualify.
Scottish Power Hardship Fund - 0808 800 0128
Helps vulnerable customers clear or reduce their energy arrears, by crediting their ScottishPower energy account.
OVO Energy Fund - 0800 0699 831
Can provide a one-off payment to vulnerable customers who are in debt, and earn less than £16,190 per year.
E.ON Energy Fund - 03303 80 10 90
Can help vulnerable E.ON customers pay their energy bill arrears, as well as offering support towards replacement white goods and boilers. There are also e-learning vouchers, to help customers stay out of debt and earn a qualification that could lead to job opportunities.
EDF Energy Trust - 01733 421060
Awards grants to families and individuals, to help clear EDF energy debts and purchase essential white goods. It also helps with the cost of bankruptcy, sequestration and minimal asset process fees.
SSE Priority Assistance Fund - 0800 975 7771
Provides support to SSE customers who are in debt, by offering grants to pay some of the arrears on their water or fuel bills. SSE may also offer eligible families – on means-tested benefits – free insulation or gas boilers.
What other help is available?
Those in vulnerable situations can get extra help and support from their supplier and network operator, by signing up to the Priority Services Register. By registering, you may be eligible for a range of free services including:
- Advance notice and priority support in the event of a power cut
- Identification scheme, to reassure you that callers acting on behalf of the company, such as meter readers, are genuine
- Meter-reading services
- Accessible information in large print or braille format
Ofgem is particularly concerned about at risk customers who might be stuck on their supplier’s standard (and often most expensive) tariff, because they’re not engaging with their provider.
As well as implementing a default tariff price cap, Ofgem actively encourages all consumers to shop around for a cheaper plan.
The Energy Switch Guarantee promises a simple, straightforward and quick switch process. So even those in difficult circumstances can easily switch suppliers.
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