LOW income households can get up to £140 towards their electricity bills with the government's warm home discount scheme.
The scheme typically reopened for applications in October to help people through the winter – but the majority of big suppliers are still accepting applications.
What is the warm home discount?
The warm home discount is a one-off payment of £140 that goes towards your heating costs.
It is usually paid directly to your energy supplier who will then apply the discount to your bills.
If you have a pre-payment meter, you'll be sent a £140 voucher that you can use to top up your account.
The discount is applied between October and March and can also be used towards a gas bill if you have the same supplier for both gas and electricity.
There are two ways you can be eligible for the payment:
- If you get the guarantee credit element of pension credit you'll be in what's called the "core group"
- If you're on a low income and meet your supplier's criteria you'll be in what's referred to as the "broader group".
What to do if you can’t pay your bills
FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.
If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.
One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.
You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
How do I apply for the discount?
If you're in the "core" group of people who get the discount, on July 5, 2020, all of the following must have applied:
- Your energy supplier was part of the scheme
- Your name (or partner’s name) was on the bill
- You were getting the guarantee credit element of pension credit (even if you get savings credit as well)
You should then have received a letter between October and December 2020 telling you how to get the discount if you qualify for it.
This letter will tell you if you need to call the helpline by 26 February 2021 to confirm your details.
If you haven't had a letter yet and you think you're eligible, contact the warm home discount team on 0800 731 0214.
You can also write to Warm Home Discount, Blue Zone, Ground Floor Phase 1, Peel Park, Brunel Way, Blackpool, FY4 5ES
Your electricity supplier will apply the discount to your bill by the end of March 2020.
If you're on a low income and get certain means-tested benefits, you could still be eligible if your energy supplier is part of the scheme.
For this group, it's the providers who decide who gets the discount – so you will need to check with your supplier to see if you’re eligible and how to apply.
Do this as early as possible as the number of discounts suppliers can give out are limited.
Three of the major energy suppliers have so far closed their applications for winter 2020/21, but the others are still open. Use the following online forms to apply:
- British Gas
- EDF (closed for applications)
- Scottish Power
- SSE (closed for applications)
- Utilita (closed for applications)
If you are successful, your energy supplier will apply the discount by 31 March 2020.
You can check out the eligibility criteria for the major suppliers below.
What’s the eligibility criteria for the major suppliers?
THE eligibility criteria for the ‘broader group’ varies slightly between suppliers, below are the general rules.
To qualify, you must be the account holder or partner of the account holder and are required to meet one of the following criteria:
- In receipt of the State Pension Credit (unless already qualifying as part of core group)
- In receipt of either Universal Credit, Income Support, Income based Jobseekers’ Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
The benefit must also include one of the following:
- Child element for children aged five or under
- Disabled child element
Alternatively, you must have a gross annual household income of less than £16,1902 and at least one of the following applies:
- The account holder is living with mental or physical disability or illness
- The account holder is of pensionable age
- There's a child living in the house aged five or under
- You spend 10% or more of household income on energy bills to heat your property
If you're not with one of the above firms, you may still be able to get the warm home discount.
For example, Bulb and OVO Energy are both also offering the scheme, and they're still open for applications.
For more information about what help is on offer, contact your energy supplier directly.
Is it different from cold weather payments?
Yes. You may still be able to get a cold weather payment as well as the warm home discount.
The cold weather payment is a £25 payout to benefits claimants when temperatures in their area fall below zero degrees Celsius for seven consecutive days between November and March.
So far, the payments have been triggered by 11 weather stations in Scotland and Wales for 156 postcodes.
You don’t need to apply for the cold weather payment as it’s paid automatically.
But you can check to see if you can get a payment in your area.
What is the winter fuel payment?
The winter fuel payment is paid out to elderly people to help towards heating costs in winter.
The support is worth between £100 and £300 depending on your circumstances and it's for people born on or before October 5, 1954.
But you need to have been living in the UK and have met certain requirements for the "qualifying" week of September 21 to 27, 2020.
Claimants should have received the cash between November and December, and by January 13, 2021 at the latest.
If you meet the criteria but don't automatically get the payment then you will need to apply.
And if you haven't received the payment payment, you should contact the Winter Fuel Payment centre.
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