- Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) is urging vulnerable households across Great Britain not to miss out again on vital energy crisis support.
- Changes to the Warm Home Discount last year saw over 800,000 low-income vulnerable households miss out on the £150 rebate last winter.
- The warning comes as the Warm Home Discount scheme opens for applications today (Monday 16 October) for households who need to apply or prove their eligibility for the scheme.
- The charity also says the rebate has only increased by £10 in ten years, despite energy bills now being £800 per year higher than they were at the start of the energy crisis.
- They issue a new warning that millions of vulnerable households across the UK face this winter without any government support.
National Energy Action is today (Monday 16 October) urging vulnerable households not to miss out on a vital £150 rebate off their energy bills this winter. The charity says that complex changes to the Warm Home Discount scheme last year meant around 500,000 vulnerable people who were previously eligible, couldn’t access the £150 rebate directly off their bill. Even for households who were still theoretically eligible, 300,000 households missed out as they were required to prove their eligibility and were left baffled by the complexity of the new scheme. This meant over 800,000 vulnerable households never got the help they desperately needed.
Lisa Pollitt, an energy adviser at National Energy Action, said:
“Due to changes to the Warm Home Discount scheme, I have spoken to too many people who can’t afford their heating and who have missed out. People who are already saddled with unmanageable energy debts. Every day we are hearing harrowing stories of the cutbacks these people are being forced to make. It’s vital vulnerable households who are still eligible don’t miss out on this energy crisis support again this winter.”
The warning comes as the Warm Home Discount scheme opens for applications today (Monday 16 October) for households who still need to apply to their energy supplier (as in Scotland) or prove their eligibility for the scheme. Since 2017, the UK Government has been able to share data with energy suppliers to help provide the rebates automatically. Despite the potential for these positive changes, NEA says many households still need to apply to their energy supplier for help or prove their eligibility. As a UK-wide charity, National Energy Action says the differences to how the scheme operates in England and Wales, compared to Scotland – and no coverage in Northern Ireland – adds further complexity.
Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Advocacy at National Energy Action, said:
“There were hopes that the Warm Home Discount would help all eligible households automatically. While this is the case for some households, the need to apply to your supplier in Scotland or prove you live in a ‘higher energy cost home’ in England and Wales is creating unnecessary complexity and an unfair postcode lottery. Many are being asked to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). An EPC can cost over £100 when the rebate is only worth £150. This is money the poorest don’t have, and too many people just give up hope of being helped. It’s so frustrating for them and our advisers. After all, the people who are missing out are paying for the policy through their energy bills but still aren’t benefiting.”
The charity says that while further reforms to the Warm Home Discount are desperately needed, they are very unlikely to be put in place in time to help people this winter. It also highlights the rebate has only increased by £10 in ten years, despite energy bills now being £800 per year higher than they were at the start of the energy crisis. According to recent polling carried out for National Energy Action by YouGov, a third of British adults are expecting to struggle to afford their heating bills this winter if the government doesn’t offer financial help with energy bills.
National Energy Action, alongside over 140 other organisations, recently called on the UK Government to provide further targeted support this winter and consult on longer-term measures such as a social tariff. So far there has been no response, and millions are facing this winter with sky high bills, which are likely to rise again in January. Last week, the energy regulator, Ofgem, announced that energy debt reached £2.6 billion – its highest ever level – due to a combination of the rise in wholesale energy prices, the energy crisis and wider cost-of-living pressures.
Peter Smith added:
“The Warm Home Discount won’t be enough to help millions of vulnerable households. The rebate has only increased by £10 in ten years, despite energy bills now being £800 per year higher than they were at the start of the energy crisis. The cost-of-living payments are being eaten up daily by wider negative budgets. Across the UK millions of vulnerable households are facing this winter without any government support and their bills are likely to rise again in January. The government can’t just put its fingers in its ears or cross its fingers for further mild weather. As Martin Lewis recently said – this isn’t trivial, it’s a core wellbeing issue for millions. The government needs to pull its finger out.”