As the weather begins to turn cold for the first time this autumn, many British households will be reluctant to turn on the central heating, bearing in mind last year's soaring electricity and gas bills.
While Ofgem's energy price cap has fallen significantly since then, inflation remains high at 6.7 per cent and many are still struggling with the high cost of goods and services.
MPs from the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee have already called on Rishi Sunak's government to support households under pressure again this winter.
Angus Brendan MacNeil, chairman of the commission, warned in September: “The nights are drawing in now and many of our most vulnerable people will be haunted by painful memories of the merciless sacrifices they were forced to make last year just to keep their heads up from water in the face of exorbitant energy costs.
“In fact, one in four have been in energy debt since last winter. With the challenge this winter threatening to be even worse, an announcement of support from the government is long overdue.”
One important source of support already available is the government's Warm Homes Discount scheme, which was introduced in 2011 and offers a £150 cut on domestic energy bills for eligible recipients.
A one-off discount is automatically applied to your bill from the beginning of October 2023 to 31 March 2024 and you are entitled to it in England and Wales if you get the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit or if you are on a low income and have a court costs action.
In the first case, you qualify if, from 13 August 2023, all of the following conditions apply:
- Your energy supplier is part of the system in this list
- Your or your partner's name appears on your electricity bill
- You or your partner get the guarantee credit component of Pension Credit (even if you also get savings credit)
If you are on a low income, meanwhile, you are eligible to receive one of the following means-tested benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income support
- The savings part of the pension credit
- Universal Credit
You could also qualify if your household income falls below a certain threshold and you receive one of the following:
- Child tax credit
- Employment tax credit
Your property must also have a high energy cost rating to be eligible for the scheme, which is determined by the type, age and floor area of your property.
As far as Scotland is concerned, the eligibility criteria are much the same – a Pension Credit credit guarantee element or a low income – although in the latter case you may need to apply through your energy company.
Generally, however, you don't need to apply and the discount will just be automatically added to your bill.
If you are considered eligible, you should receive a letter confirming as much between early October 2023 and early January 2024.
If you don't receive a letter but think you qualify, you should call the Warm Home Discount helpline on 0800 030 9322 before 29 February 2024. The line is open from 8am. until 6 p.m. every weekday.
You can also write to: 110552 Warm Home Discount Scheme, PO Box 26965, Glasgow G1 9BW
For more information about the scheme, visit the dedicated page on the UK Government website.