Energy bills can be really expensive, especially during prolonged periods of cold weather when the only way to stay warm is to crank up the heating.
The good news is that depending on your age and circumstances, you may be eligible for help with your heating costs. Here’s what you need to know.
Winter Fuel Payment
If you were born on or before 5 October 1954 then you may be entitled to a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 to help you pay your heating bills and stay warm during winter. The amount of Winter Fuel Payment that you receive will depend on how old you are and who else you live with.
|Born between 28 September 1940 and 5 October 1954||Born on or before 27 Sept 1940|
|You qualify and live alone (or none of the people you live with qualify||£200||£300|
|You qualify and live with someone under 80 who also qualifies||£100||£200|
|You qualify and live with someone over 80 who also qualifies||£100||£150|
|You qualify, live in a care home and do not get certain benefits||£100||£150|
Those who have received payment in previous years should automatically receive it without having to claim again.
If you meet the age and residence criteria and you are already receiving the following benefits, then you should receive the winter fuel payment automatically by 31 January 2021:
- State Pension
- Pension Credit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Otherwise, you will need to claim the winter fuel payment manually by phone or by post to ensure you receive it. The easiest way to make a claim for the winter fuel payment if you’ve never claimed before is to call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0800 731 0160 (call charges may apply). If you want to apply by post, you’ll need to print off a claim form here and send it to:
Winter Fuel Payment Centre
Mail Handling Site A
The deadline for claiming the Winter Fuel Allowance is 31 March, 2021.
Cold Weather Payment
Cold Weather Payments of £25 are made when your local temperature is recorded as (or forecast to be), an average of zero degrees celsius or below for at least seven consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March every year,
If you are already receiving any other low-income benefits (i.e. Pension Credit) then you should be eligible to receive it – and if you are, you should receive it automatically, so there’s no need to apply.
Warm Homes Discount Scheme
Some people will be able to get £140 off their winter electricity bill for 2020/21 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. This is a one-off discount on your electricity bill, paid directly to your energy provider on your behalf between September and March.
You may be eligible if you:
- are receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit and your electricity supplier is part of the Warm Homes Discount scheme. In this case, you should get £140 automatically deducted from your bill between September and March.
- are on a low income, already receive certain means-tested benefits and your electricity supplier is part of the Warm Homes Discount scheme. If you think you might be eligible, contact your electricity supplier in the first instance and they will be able to give you more details and confirm if you are eligible.
- are on a pre-pay or pay as you go electric meter. You will need to speak to your electricity provider to find out how to activate your deduction.
An important note about switching electricity suppliers
If you claim under the Warm Homes Discount scheme and decide to switch electricity suppliers, then it’s important to make sure that your new provider belongs to the Warm Homes Discount Scheme – otherwise you may not be able to claim the discount any more. Most energy suppliers are signed up to the scheme, but not all, so it’s important to check.
To check which energy suppliers offer the discount, you can visit GOV.UK.
Insulation and heating schemes
If your home is poorly insulated or doesn’t have a working central heating system, there may be improvements that can be made to your home via insulation and heating schemes to make it more energy efficient.
You can use the links below to find out more about schemes that may be available to you depending on where you live:
- England – The Simple Energy Advice website
- Scotland – Home Energy Scotland
- Northern Ireland – Energy Saving Grants in Northern Ireland
- Wales – Nest Scheme
You can also find tips on how to reduce your energy bills in our article ‘Save money on your energy bills’
Make sure you're not paying more for your energy than you need to
Whether you qualify for help under any of the schemes above or not, it’s vital to make sure you’re on the most competitive energy tariff possible. The best tariff for you will depend on where you live and on how much energy you use. The three big decisions you will need to consider are price, customer service and your impact on the environment. You can use our energy switching service to compare providers and see how much you could save, as well as seeing the customer service ratings for the suppliers listed.
If you’re already on a competitive tariff but think you’re going to struggle to pay your energy bills over the next few months, contact your energy provider and let them know you’re having financial problems. They might be able to defer your payments temporarily, or arrange a more affordable repayment plan so that you pay back what you owe over a longer period.
Have you received help with your heating bills, or do you have any other tips on how to keep energy costs down? You can join the conversation on the Money section of the Community forum or leave a comment below