Reducing the amount of money spent on bills is one way of helping to control the effect of fuel poverty. Being able to both heat and eat can have a positive effect on a household’s health and wellbeing. Residents need to be able to heat there properties as well as afford to pay bills.
Gas and Electricity Prices
On the 3rd February 2022, Ofgem (the energy regulator for Great Britain) announced the latest price cap, with the price of electricity and gas due to rise from the 1st April 2022 by an average of 54%.
The price cap explained
The energy regulator Ofgem sets the energy price cap in a bid to limit the price a supplier can charge you per unit of electricity and gas for their default tariffs. These include the standing charge and price for each kWh of electricity and gas (the units the bill is calculated from). It does not cap the total bill, which will change depending on how much energy a household uses.
What will this mean to households?
As of the 1st April 2022, energy bills (gas and electricity) will rise by an average of £693 per year for households with a standard meter. Therefore, someone with typical usage will see bills rising from £1,277 a year to £1,971 a year. The price cap for prepayment tariffs is also increasing by £708, to £2,017 per year.
On 1 October 2022, householders will see a further rise of 24% on top of the coming 1 April increase, which could push prices up to £2,450 a year.
The increase in the cap will see many more people in the country go into fuel poverty. Due to reductions in household incomes, surging energy prices and relatively modest improvements in energy efficiency levels, charities have estimated that the number of households in fuel poverty across the UK is likely to increase to 6.3-6.5 million households in total in April 2022, an increase of more than 50% in just over six months
It will be vital that the third sector organisations, government organisations as well as the Local Authorities work in partnership and are able to sign post residents to the relevant organisations where advice and assistance can be sought to help with energy bills. This could be organisations that give advice on switching suppliers, energy usage reduction advice and assistance on making the home more energy efficient.
Switching Suppliers or getting help
Getting help if you cannot pay bills
Difficulties in paying for gas and electricity and the threat of disconnection can be a symptom of fuel poverty, although they may also be caused by unexpectedly high bills. The long-term solution lies in improved heating and insulation standards. In the short-term, however, it is necessary to consider the support and protection available to householders who are in difficulty with their fuel bills. Householders should in the first instance contact their energy supplier to ask for assistance. The energy suppliers will work with customers to find solutions to payment difficulties. Where customers cannot afford to pay their bills, the energy supplier will try to agree a suitable payment plan. Advice on fuel prices, difficulties in paying and debt can be sought from other organisations – The referral section will direct you to the relevant local authority section or organisations who may be able to assist.
Grants and benefits to help pay energy bills
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is an annual one-off payment to help pay for heating during the winter.
If a householder is born on or before 26 September 1955 they could get between £100 and £300 to help pay towards heating bills
A householder will get there Winter Fuel Payment automatically (they do not need to claim) if they are eligible and either:
- get the State Pension
- get another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit)
Most payments are made automatically in November or December.
Householders should have get a letter telling them how much they’ll get and an estimated payment date.
All benefits, pensions and allowances are paid into an account, such as a bank account.
Cold Weather Payment
Cold Weather Payments are one-off payments to help households pay for extra heating costs when it is very cold.
Qualifying householders will get a payment if the average temperature in the area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days.
The payment is usually £25 for each 7-day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.
A householder will get Cold Weather Payment if they’re getting certain benefits or support for Mortgage Interest.
A householder will be eligible for a Cold Weather Payment if they get:
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
If a householder is eligible, they will be paid automatically.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
The Warm Home Discount is a one-off £140 payment applied to an eligible householder electricity bills between October and April by the their electricity supplier. (Not all suppliers participate in the Warm Home Discount scheme)
The money is not paid directly to the household- it is a one-off discount on the electricity bill. A householder may be able to get the discount on theie gas bill if the supplier provides both gas and electricity. The householder can contact there supplier to find out more.
There are 2 ways to qualify for the Scheme:
- If a householder gets the Guaranteed Credit
element of Pension Credit – known as the ‘core group’
- If the householder is on low income and meets the
energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme. – known as the ‘broader group’
How to apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme
depends on how you qualify for the discount.
Pre-pay or pay-as-you-go meters
A householder can still qualify for the discount if they use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter.
The household’s electricity supplier can tell them how they can get the discount if they are eligible, for example a voucher that can be used to top up your meter.
Park (mobile) homes
You apply a different way if you live in a park home.
Park homes applications open in the autumn. Click on the link to find out how to apply for the Park Homes Warm Home Discount.
Warm Homes Discount Scheme
One off payment of £140 for those who are eligible
Is the household eligible for Warm Home Discount?
If the supplier participates in the scheme, the household may qualify as part of the “Core Group” or the “Broader Group”.
Warm Home Discount – Core Group
To be eligible under the Core Group the household must meet the following requirements on a specific date, known as the ‘qualifying date’:
- The energy supplier is a participant in the scheme. (Households can check with their suppliers)
- The bill payer or there partners name is on the electricity bill
- The household receives the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit.
- If eligible for the core group, the household should receive a letter from the DWP confirming that you will be receiving the discount automatically.
The qualifying date is usually in July and, if they qualify, will receive a discount the following winter
Warm Home Discount – Broader Group
Being eligible for the broader group is slightly more complicated. The household has to apply directly to the supplier for a discount. Each supplier has their own qualifying criteria, however, these must include certain standard criteria such as being in receipt of income-related Employment and Support Allowance with a pensioner premium. (Households should contact their supplier directly to enquire about their scheme.
Help to pay off an energy debt
If a household is in debt with an energy supplier, they may be able to get a grant to help pay it off. The householder should check with the supplier to find out what if any assistance they can provide.
Help from the Local Council
A household may be able to find grants or schemes run by the local council. (It is advisable for householder to contact their local council to find out what may be on offer)
For households who cannot afford to top up, there pre-payment meters, some local councils offer fuel vouchers. (Households should contact their local council for more information)
Extra help from the customer’s supplier
The household might be able to get extra help and supports from their energy supplier by signing up to the Priority Services Register (PSR). The PSR is a free support service to help people in vulnerable situations and is available for Gas, Electricity and Water. The PSR helps suppliers identify customers who need priority support in a gas, electricity or water emergency. By registering for this free service, a customer will receive extra help if they’re without a supply either in an emergency or because of planned work
A customer can sign up if they have reached-
- state pension age
- have children under the age of 5
- are disabled or chronically sick
The energy supplier can also help customers with things like:
- reading your energy meter
- moving your energy meter free of charge
- getting your bills sent or copied to someone else – for example, a carer
(More information can be found by contacting the supplier)
Assistance from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
Household Support Scheme
(For a limited period only)
The scheme is designed to help with the rising cost of living. The Household Support Scheme is run by the Council and local partners, to assist residents of Blackburn with Darwen to access food, support with energy and water bills, and other essential items.
Funding may be available for:
- Blackburn with Darwen children, families and vulnerable adults
- single claimants with an annual household income below £21,152
- couples with an annual household income below £31,731
The applicants must also meet at least one of the following additional criteria:
- recipient of income related benefits, such as Universal Credit claimants
- diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizoaffective disorder)
- diagnosed with a long term medical condition related to diabetes (both type 1 and 2), respiratory or cardiovascular diseases
- diagnosed with long COVID
The Household Support Scheme helps with:
- Support with utility bills and energy advice – The council has three local organisations supporting residents who may be struggling to pay fuel and water bills over winter. United Utilities is also partnering with the council to help the most vulnerable with their water bills.
- Support with essential items – support is available to replace broken washers, cookers, fridges and freezers, for boiler servicing and repairs and where families are struggling to afford essential toiletries, sanitary products, warm clothing and blankets.
- Food support- For families suffering hardship or struggling to make ends meet the Household Support Family food boxes may be available.
The Council is working with a number of local organisations including Blackburn Foodbank, Darwen Food Larder, Care Network, BwD Healthy Living, BwD Age UK, BwD Carers, Rummage Rescuers, Jubilee Tower Credit Union, United Utilities, Community Business Partners, Community Centres in BwD, and THOMAS.
For more information or to apply for the household fund click on the link – Household Support Scheme | Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
Energy prices are likely to stay high which means any action to reduce household fuel bills will have a beneficial effect on fuel poverty.
In the competitive market, savings can often be made by switching to another electricity and/or gas supplier. This should be a relatively easy process but some people may find it confusing. The key to making switching easier is gaining access to good quality, independent information.
Due to the price increases recently announced by Ofgem and the fluctuations in whole sale energy prices most independent advisors are recommending that it would not be appropriate at this time for customers to seek switching suppliers. Customers should contact there own supplier to ensure they are on the cheapest and best tariff and to advise the supplier if they are struggling with payment.
(This page will be updated as and when new information becomes available)