Are you worrying about how to afford the electricity and gas bills this winter? For the last couple of years, prices have remained stable or fallen a bit, but in winter 2016 many people will be seeing price rises, putting extra pressure on your budget.
The good news is that two million households may be able to get £140 off their electricity bill through the Warm Home Discount scheme if they are on a low income.
If you had this discount last winter, you still have to re-apply for 2016-17, even if your circumstances are the same.
How Warm Home Discount works
The £140 is given as a one-off discount on your electricity bill, usually between October and March.
To get it, you have to have been with a supplier on 10 July 2016, have your name on the bill and either be on Pension Credit (guarantee credit element) or qualify for your supplier’s low income option, see below.
If you have a pre-pay electricity meter you can still get this help. You may be given a voucher you can use to top up your payments. Your electricity supplier will tell you exactly how and when you will get this help.
If your central heating runs on gas, that may be the main bill that goes up in winter. You can’t get help with this directly, but because the Warm Home Discount will reduce your electricity costs, you will have more money to pay the gas bill.
The Warm Home Discount scheme is in addition to two other schemes that are better known:
- if you are a pensioner, see if you can also claim a Winter Fuel Payment;
- when the weather gets very cold, some people on benefits will be able to get Cold Weather Payments.
Automatic if you get Pension Credit
If you get the Guarantee element of Pension Credit you are entitled to this discount. In this case you don’t have to apply to your electricity company. The DWP will automatically inform your supplier that you are eligible so they will pay the £140.
If you are a pensioner but don’t get the Guarantee element of Pension Credit, you may still qualify if you are on a low income.
Other people on a low income must apply
The electricity companies in the scheme set their own rules as to who qualifies. If any of the following apply to you may be eligible. If more than one does you are very likely to qualify:
- you get a means-tested benefit such as JSA, ESA or Income Support;
- you have a child under five, or are pregnant;
- you are a pensioner on a low income;
- you get child tax credit or working tax credit and have a low income;
- you or someone in your house gets a disability-related benefit; or
- your or someone in your house gets free prescriptions because of a particular medical condition.
You can check your supplier’s website (see the links below) for their rules or just phone them and ask:
- Atlantic – see SSE;
- British Gas;
- Co-operative energy;
- EDF Energy;
- Extra Energy;
- First Utility;
- Manweb see Scottish Power;
- M&S Energy see SSE;
- Sainsbury’s Energy;
- Scottish Gas see British Gas;
- Scottish Hydro see SSE;
- Southern Electric see SSE;
- SWALEC see SSE;
- Utility Warehouse.
The electricity bill has to be in your name or your partner’s name. If you get your gas from one company and your electricity from a different one, apply to the electricity company.
Some of the electricity companies limit the total amount they will pay out, so apply soon – if you apply late in the winter you may be unlucky.
If you are eligible, your electricity supplier will explain how to claim – you may need to supply some proof of the benefits you receive.
Be careful if you switch supplier!
If you qualify for this discount, you should NOT switch supplier until it has been paid unless you have first got confirmation from your new supplier that you will get the discount. Your new supplier may have different qualification rules. Or it may be late in the year so the pot of money they put aside for this has already been used up.
“It sounds complicated”
I can’t think of a good reason why the scheme is optional for electricity suppliers nor why they should set their own criteria – it makes publicising the scheme hard and results in a lower up-take.
However, now you know about the Warm Home Discount scheme and it’s simple to find out if you are eligible – just call your electricity supplier and ask! One phone call and you could be £140 better off – so it’s well worth a try!
This is an updated version of last year’s post on the Winter 2015-16 scheme.