Every winter we see news stories about how fuel poverty can affect older people and put them at risk of ill health. 2017 figures show that 10.6% of homes in England were in fuel poverty. If you know someone who might be vulnerable in cold weather, it’s really important to make sure they’re aware of the importance of a well-heated home and to check they’re getting the financial help they’re entitled to help make that possible.
Most people are aware of the Winter Fuel Payment – an annual payment of between £100 and £300 made to people who have reached State Pension age to help with the extra cost of winter heating bills. It’s usually paid automatically to people who are receiving a State Pension or certain other benefits.
But have you made sure you’re not missing out on other financial help?
What help is out there?
Check whether you’re eligible for Pension Credit, the main means-tested benefit for people over State Pension age. You can try out online benefits calculator or call our Helpline on 0800 319 6789 to arrange a benefits check. One of the extra advantages of getting Pension Credit is that you’ll get a Cold Weather Payment if the temperature in your area falls to 0°C or below for seven days in a row between November and March. If you receive Guarantee Pension Credit or your income is low, you may also qualify for a £140 discount through the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Check whether your energy supplier participates in this.
Other things you can do
Switching energy supplier can be a great way to cut your bills and is usually simple. Get advice on this from one of the Ofgem-accredited energy switching companies, such as uSwitch. Citizens Advice also has useful information on what to do.
It’s also worth considering whether your home could be more energy-efficient. This can reduce your bills and you might be able to get a grant to help you make the improvements through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) Scheme
If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, some energy companies have charitable trusts that can help
All suppliers and network operators will also operate a Priority Services Register, designed to help customers most in need. You can sign up if you’re over State Pension age and in certain other circumstances. This entitles you to some free support and services. For example, you might be offered alternative heating and cooking facilities if your supply is interrupted. You can also get information in an accessible format, such as large print or braille. Contact your supplier to register; you can ask them to contact your network operator as well.
For more tips on keeping warm in the winter months, read our guide Winter wise