Winter is on its way and with it comes the inevitable rise in energy use, which can only mean one thing – bigger energy bills. However, help is at hand for vulnerable or low-income pensioners and working-age people thanks to an expansion of the Warm Home Discount Scheme, which will now include 200,000 extra recipients.
The Warm Home Discount was launched in 2011 to help pensioners meet their energy costs and is funded by participating energy suppliers. Since the scheme began, the number of people eligible to receive a discount has risen year-on-year: this year marks the fourth increase, and over two million people will now receive the subsidy.
The scheme now includes everyone in receipt of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, including those who also get Savings Credit. In addition, the scheme will provide a helping hand to the poorest working-age people who struggle to pay their energy bills. Some consumers who use pre-payment meters or pay-as-you-go electricity meters may also be eligible.
Along with the coverage of the scheme, the amount of subsidy has increased, too. For the winter of 2014/2015, the subsidy will be set at £140, compared with just £120 in the winter of 2012/2013. This discount won't affect Winter Fuel Allowance, Cold Weather Payments or any other benefits that a household receives.
Steve Webb, minister for the Department for Work and Pensions, declared: "As we approach winter, no-one should have to go without heating because they can't afford the bills. That's why we have significantly extended the Warm Home Discount Scheme – and increased its value – to give people peace of mind that they can keep their homes comfortable throughout the coldest months."
How to apply
To receive the discount, you must be a customer of one of the participating energy firms. The big six are all involved (accounting for 90% of the UK's domestic market) along with some of the smaller, independent suppliers. You can simply contact your energy company and find out if they are a participant, or you can check out the Government's website.
Most recipients of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit should have the discount automatically deducted from their bills, so you may not need to take any action at all. However, for those who do not automatically get the subsidy, the Government will send you a letter detailing how to apply for the scheme.
Anyone else who thinks that they may be eligible for the discount should contact their energy supplier to find out if they fit the criteria.
Keeping the bills down
Whether you are eligible for the scheme or not, taking steps to keep your energy bills a manageable size is always worth it. Try these tips to shave off the excess on your winter bills while still staying cosy throughout the colder months:
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