Soaring energy costs mean that large numbers of people are resisting turning on the heating, yet many could be missing out on support to help them cover energy bills.
One in five of us won’t be putting the heating on all this Autumn, according to research by comparison site Go.Compare, with 93% saying they’ve changed one or more of their energy consumption habits to keep bills down.
Separate research carried out by Opinium found that 64% of people are unaware of the number of different support schemes available to help consumers with their energy bills.
Debbie Shuttlewood, research director at Opinium, said: “The energy crisis is not only growing but proving to have detrimental effects on households across the country. UK consumers are taking extreme measures to tackle the rising cost of living and high energy prices and are still left struggling to afford day-to-day essentials.
“On top of that, there seems to be a huge lack of awareness on support available to help with energy bills and there is also a mixed picture as to whether enough is being done to help people cope.”
Here’s out rundown of some of the support that is available to help with energy bills, and who qualifies.
Check your eligibility for Pension Credit
Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit which is payable to people of State Pension age who are on a low income. You don’t need to be receiving a State Pension to claim Pension Credit.
Pension Credit is worth around £3,500 a year on average to those who claim it, according to the Department for Work and Pensions, and provides claimants with access to a range of other benefits, including council tax reductions, housing benefit, and help with heating bills.
If you think you or someone you know maybe eligible for Pension Credit, you can check and claim online, or by telephoning the Pension Credit claims enquiry line on 0800 99 1234.
Winter Fuel Payment
If you’re aged 66 or older and were born before 25 September 1957 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills. The amount you receive depends on your exact age and is worked out on a ‘per household’ basis, and this year includes a ‘Pensioner Cost of Living Payment’, which is between £150 and £300. This is on top of any other cost of living payments you might be entitled to if you’re claiming tax credits or other benefits. Find out more about the Winter Fuel Payment and how much you’re likely to get at Gov.uk.
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Warm Homes Discount scheme
If you’re on a low income, then regardless of your age, you might be entitled to a £150 Warm Homes Discount from your energy supply to reduce the cost of your energy bills. This scheme is due to run until 2026 and the discount will be applied to your electricity bill between early October 2023 and 31 March 2024.
You’ll be eligible for the discount if on 21 August 2023 you were claiming the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, or if you were receiving any of the following means-tested benefits and have high energy costs:
• Universal Credit
• Housing Benefit
• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
• Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
• Income Support
• the ‘Savings Credit’ part of Pension Credit
You could also be eligible if you receive Child or Working Tax Credits and your income is below a certain threshold.
Cold weather payments
If temperatures plummet and are recorded as or are forecast to be 0 degrees celsius or lower for at least seven consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March, and you’re on a low income, you should be entitled to a Cold Weather Payment of £25.
Household Support Fund
If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, it may be worth speaking to your local authority to see if you might qualify for support from the Household Support Fund. This help is offered on a discretionary basis. You can find contact details for your local authority here.
There may be other help you’re eligible for, so if in doubt speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau and your energy supplier to see how they can support you.