Low income is one of the main causes of fuel poverty. Part of the long-term solution to fuel poverty lies in ensuring that families and individuals are as financially secure as possible and receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. The social security system provides some limited assistance for fuel costs or with fuel-related problems. Generally this help is provided through the Social Fund system of grants, loans and selective payments.
You should contact your local office of the Pension Service or Jobcentre Plus, Citizens Advice Bureau, Money Advice Agency or Welfare Rights Office to ensure that you are receiving the benefits to which you are entitled. These agencies may also advise you on access to other financial services.
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The following flow charts will take you through what financial help is available to you. Click the images to enlarge.
Flowchart 1: Can I get a grant or loan to help me with my fuel costs?
Flowchart 2: Am I entitled to any help with my fuel bills over the winter?
These are interest-free loans intended to help households where a period of dependance on Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit has made budgeting for intermittent expenses difficult. A Budgeting Loan is not available for gas or electricity charges or for standing charges although priority is given to meter installation, reconnection charges and the cost of non-mains fuel such as oil, bottled gas, paraffin and coal. Any Budgeting Loan will be reduced by the amount of personal savings over £1,000 or £2,000 if the applicant or partner is aged 60 or over.
Claims are made in writing to the local Jobcentre Plus office, generally on a specific application form (SF 500).
These are interest-free loans to help with an immediate short-term need or crisis. It is not essential to be in receipt of benefit to qualify for a loan.
Fuel arrears are not specifically excluded and a loan may be awarded for the purpose of paying off fuel debt or for reconnection charges.
Claims can be made in writing or verbally. Written claims are normally submitted on Form SF 401 to the local Jobcentre Plus Office.
Community Care Grants
Community Care Grants are intended to help people live independently in the community. Claimants must be in receipt of Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit or be likely to receive one of these benefits on leaving care. These grants do not have to be repaid.
The purpose of the grant is to:
- ease exceptional pressures on families,
- enable someone to resettle or remain in the community.
Fuel costs and standing charges are specifically excluded from Community Care Grants, as are service charges. However a grant maybe paid to cover the costs of cookers and heaters and for fuel connection and reconnection charges. Personal savings of over £500 (£1000 if claimant or partner is aged 60 or over) are taken into account.
Claims are made in writing to the local Jobcentre Plus office, generally on a specific application form (SF 300).
Winter Fuel Payments
A Winter Fuel Payment is an annual payment to help people with the costs of keeping warm during the winter.
For winter 2011/12 a person needs to have reached women’s State Pension age to be eligible. That means they need to have been born on or before 5 January 1951.
The rates for this winter are £200 for a household with someone who has reached women’s State Pension age but is under 80, and £300 for households with someone aged 80 or over on or before 25 September 2011.
If you are aged 60 to 79 and you are entitled to receive a Winter Fuel Payment, you will get either £100 or £200, depending on your circumstances in the qualifying week (19-25 September 2011).
If you are aged 80 or over and you are entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment, you will get either £150 or £300 depending on your circumstances in the qualifying week.
If you do not live in your own home, for example if you are a hospital inpatient or living in residential care, you may not qualify for a payment. In some circumstances it will be necessary to claim.
To obtain a claim form or to check your eligibility call the Winter Fuel Payments helpline on: 08459 15 15 15.
Cold Weather Payments
Cold Weather Payments are made to eligible households in an area where a period of ‘exceptionally cold weather’ has occurred or been forecast to occur. The amount of the payment is £25 for any qualifying week.
A period of cold weather is defined as seven consecutive days during which the average or mean daily temperatures is 0°C or lower.
Eligible households are those:
- in receipt of Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit and:
- in receipt of pensioner premium, higher pensioner premium
- enhanced pensioner premium
- disability premium, severe disability
- premium or disabled child premium
- the household contains a child under five years old
There is no need to claim since payment should be made automatically.
If you are elderly, chronically sick or disabled go to the Special Circumstances pages.