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With the nights drawing in and the weather taking a turn for the worse, winter is well and truly on the horizon. For some, now is the time that they are beginning to think about how the cooler season will impact their finances – particularly as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
According to the latest data from business consultancy Yonder Consulting, a quarter of Britons are worried about paying their fuel bills this winter.
Of the poorest households in England and Wales, two in five people expressed concern they would not be able to afford their gas and electricity bills in the winter months.
Meanwhile, only two thirds of those who live in London, the North-West of England and the West Midlands believe they’ll be able to afford the fees.
Manfred Abraham, CO-CEO of Yonder said: “It’s not surprising that so many people are concerned about meeting their fuel costs this winter.
“Between the end of the furlough scheme and the prospect of even more redundancies, wallets are tighter than ever this winter.
“At the same time, increased remote working means homeowners this year will be shouldering a much bigger share of the bills than in previous years.
“Between the wind down of domestic gas, the potential of smart-meters and likely boom in home-based electric vehicle charging the volume and way in which people use electricity is going to massively change within the next decade.
“So, the extent to which energy companies look after their vulnerable customers now could have far-reaching consequences for them.
“It’s one thing to compete on cost, but what people really need right now, is security.
“Energy companies that provide that – whether by offering payments holidays or reducing tariffs for lower income households for instance – have an opportunity to win over customers for the long-term.
“There is an opportunity here for consumer energy companies to take a more emotionally meaningful role in people’s lives – something that could be critical to their long-term survival – but the timeframe in which they can do this is getting shorter by the minute.”
For those who are worried about meeting these bills this winter, they may find it reassuring to look into different forms of financial support which may be available.
One particular scheme which runs during the winter is the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
Those who qualify for it could get £140 off their electricity bill for winter 2020 to 2021.
It’s worth being aware that the money is not paid directly to the recipient, but it is instead a one-off discount on the person’s electricity bill.
Should the individual’s supplier provide both gas and electricity to the household, they may be able to get the discount on the gas bill instead.
The government directs people to contact their supplier to find out.
While they all relate to the increased costs of the winter, this scheme will not affect the person’s Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment, should they receive either.
Who is eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme?
There are two ways to qualify for the scheme, and the way in which one qualifies affects the application process.
The first is if a person gets the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.
Guarantee Credit is a means-tested amount which tops up weekly income if it’s below £173.75 (for single people) or £265.20 (for couples).
To be eligible for the discount, the Guarantee Credit recipient’s energy supplier must be part of the scheme, and either they or their partner must have their name on the bill.
Those in this situation are known as being in the “core group”.
The other group who are eligible are referred to as being in the “broader group”.
These people may be able to apply directly to their electricity supplier for help if they don’t get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, but their energy supplier is part of the scheme, they’re on a low income, and they get certain means-tested benefits.
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