Nearly 300,000 households will miss out on support with energy bills this winter following changes to the government’s Warm Home Discount scheme.
The change affects people who are claiming disability benefits, who are now no longer able to claim the rebate.
However it will see 750,000 families receive the energy payment for the first time, and they have been given extra time to submit a claim for one of the eligible benefits to ensure they receive the discount this winter.
The original deadline was the end of July, but the Government has extended it to August 21 – so you have just under three weeks to apply .
Currently, the Warm Home Discount scheme pays £140 to vulnerable people to help towards their energy bills in the colder months, Chronicle Live reports.
It’s an initiative that gives low-income households a discount on their electricity bill as a one-off rebate administered by energy suppliers, between September and March.
The Government has announced an increase in the Warm Home Discount payment from £140 to £150, and say that it is expanding the pool of people able to claim to three million in a document released earlier this year.
The changes in the pipeline mean that only those with high energy costs who claim a means-tested benefit – where your eligibility to claim (and how much money you then receive) depends on your income and savings – will be eligible.
Some people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA) will no longer be able to apply for the scheme, if their income is above a certain level, as these benefits are not means tested. However a report estimates that around 62% of PIP and DLA claimants would still be able to claim as they will fit the low-income criteria.
The news comes in wake of this week’s reports that the cost of energy could soar by some £1,645 within five months to hit £3,616, according to power experts at Cornwall Insight. The price cap is being reviewed again in October, and the energy analysts think it could rise by £1,388 to hit £3,359 in October – with a further rise of £257 to reach £3,616 in January 2023.
People who claim the Guarantee Element of Pension Credit will continue to be given the payment automatically, but the rules will be changed for those in what’s known as the ‘Broader Group’, amid concern that people living in fuel poverty are currently not eligible to claim or don’t know they can claim.
The Government plans to use a complex system of data matching to determine households who are living in fuel poverty and will direct support at them. They will no longer have to apply, as they payment will be made automatically, which will eliminate the ‘first come-first served’ panic every year as the scheme opens.
Everyone will receive a letter from October telling them that they will either receive the rebate automatically and therefore don’t need to do anything, or that they may be eligible but need to call a dedicated helpline to provide further evidence of your eligibility. If you think you’re eligible but don’t receive the letter in October, you can also contact a helpline, which will be available on Gov.uk or via Citizens Advice.
Disabled charities reacted to the news angrily when it was announced earlier this year.
Scope head of policy and campaigns said: “This move is an insult to those disabled people who have already been cutting back for months. Amid the worst cost of living crisis in decades, it’s almost unfathomable that the Government will cut support for rising energy bills from nearly 300,000 disabled people.
“Life costs more if you’re disabled. Our energy helpline is now overwhelmed with calls from disabled people who are already facing sky-high energy bills, and do not know how they will afford to charge vital equipment, or stay warm, as the crisis goes on. At a time when we are facing a real terms cut to benefits, it’s critical that the Government reverse this decision.”
Disability Rights UK boss Kamran Mallick said: “This is appalling. The Government knows full well that Disabled people face increased energy bills as a matter of course. Disabled people often need more hot water, more heating, and more energy to run specialist equipment than non-Disabled households. Removing this vital benefit beggars belief, especially with the universal increase in energy bills from April. With the changes not proposed until the end of the year, the Government must make a u-turn on this punitive decision. Far too many people are already having to choose between heating and eating. Benefits are nowhere near in line with inflation as it is. This move may push people over the edge.”
So who is eligible for the Warm Home Discount and who will no longer qualify for winter 2022/23? We have listed the benefits below.
Eligible for winter 2022/23
Child tax credits and working tax credits
Income-related employment and support allowance
Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
Pension credit guarantee credit
Pension credit savings credit
No longer automatically eligible for winter 2022/23
Disability living allowance
Personal independence payment
A spokesperson for the department for business, energy and industrial strategy said: “Our reforms to the Warm Home Discount scheme will prioritise those households who are most likely to struggle to heat their homes. It is a fuel poverty scheme and we are increasing both the number and amount of fuel poor households that can benefit from it.”