Starting with a positive, the national £140 Warm Home Discount (WHD) has been extended to 2021! The WHD provides financial support to help reduce energy bills for the most vulnerable.
The two categories for support are:
• Core Group: consists of older pensioner households on low incomes who are in receipt of the guarantee element of pension credit; it is a clearly defined group.
• Broader Group: this is largely left to energy suppliers to define, within a framework set by Ofgem and the relevant Regulations.
Core Group households are given the discount automatically provided the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have the correct address for the client. Broader Group households have to apply annually, often online.
However, the charity Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) has surveyed nearly 500 households over the past year through home visits and found that 80% of residents didn’t know about the scheme, despite 60% potentially being eligible.
So perhaps the energy companies are not effectively marketing the scheme, particularly to the most vulnerable who don’t have access to the internet. For those companies that only accept online applications, they potentially exclude the very people the scheme aims to help.
Although preliminary discussions, led by National Energy Action (NEA), are underway to bring automatic data matching into place from 2017/18, perhaps further work could be done by the energy companies themselves.
However, in the meantime, please make anyone with a relatively low income (<£16,190) with a household vulnerability (eg: a child under 5) aware of the scheme and to check the criteria with their energy company.
Sam Bosson is the Project Officer for Healthy Homes.