How to save on winter energy bills
Winter means a few things: dark nights, Christmas, snow and...expensive energy bills. Especially expensive energy bills.
It's a nightmare for low income members of society who struggle to make ends meet at the best of times.
The elderly are disproportionately impacted, and all too often they have to make the choice as to whether or not to be warm in their own home or afford food.
Rising fuel bills are part of the reason that 2.53million households in the UK are trapped in fuel poverty, according to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.
That means more than one in 10 households in the UK are forced below the poverty line by expensive energy bills.
But if you're worried you won't be able to afford to keep your house warm this winter - don't panic.
There are plenty of sources of support available. Here are the main ways you can get help:
Winter fuel payments - get up to £300
Eligible pensioners can receive annual one-off winter fuel payments from the government of between £100 and £300.
To qualify, you need to have been born on or before April 5, 1954 - the dates change every year.
You also need to have lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of September 16 to 22, 2019 - this is called the "qualifying week".
How much you get will depend on your circumstances.
How much you will get for your winter fuel payment depends on your circumstances
Your payment may be different if you or your partner get one of the following benefits:
- Pension credit
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
- Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
- Income support
The winter fuel payments are made automatically, usually in November or December, and you'll be sent a letter telling you how much you'll get and when exactly you can expect it.
If you qualify and you are not getting a social security benefit, such as the state pension, you will need to make a claim.
You can apply by visiting the winter fuel payment website.
The amount you receive may be different if you or your partner receives benefits
Cold weather payments - get £25 a week
When the temperature drops below zero in your area, you could be entitled to £25 a week in cold weather payments.
The temperature will have to stay that low for seven consecutive days before the payment is handed out.
The cold weather payment scheme for 2019-20 starts on November 1, 2019 and ends on March 31, 2020.
You must receive one of a list of specific benefits to qualify, including pension credit, income support, jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, and Universal Credit.
You won't qualify if you are in a care home or subject to immigration control.
Payments should automatically be made into your bank or building society account within 14 days of the cold-spell being over.
Warm home discount scheme - get £140 a year
The warm home payment is a one-off £140 payment which is designed to help with the cost of your electricity bill through winter.
Not all suppliers participate in the scheme, and even though more providers are being brought into the scheme between 2019 and 2021, you should bear this in mind if you're considering switching.
The money isn't paid to you but automatically applied to your electricity bill between September and March.
You may be able to put the cash towards your gas bill too if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity.
There are two sets of people who are eligible.
The core group - Anyone who gets the guarantee credit element of pension credit and is named on the bill should automatically qualify for this benefit.
The energy supply must also have been part of the scheme on July 7 2019.
In theory, you should be identified by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and should not have to apply.
You'll receive a letter between October and December 2019 informing you that you're on the scheme.
You will also need to confirm your details by calling the helpline before February 28, 2020.
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 installments.
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.
If you think you're eligible but haven't received a letter - phone the warm home discount scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214 to check.
Do this as soon as possible, as the DWP may be unable to help if a claim is submitted too late.
Before you phone, check to see if your supplier is a participant of the scheme.
Broader group - If you don't meet the "core group" criteria, you may still be eligible for this benefit under your supplier's "broader group" rules.
Each provider has different criteria, so you should check carefully to see if it applies to you.
All suppliers must include some standard criteria, such as if you're on a low-income and you get certain means-tested benefits like income-related employment and support allowance.
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