STRUGGLING families and older people could get discounts worth hundreds of pounds on their gas and electricity.
It could be a lifeline for households struggling to cope with higher energy bills. Here is what you could be eligible for.
Gas and electricity bills are on the rise after the energy price cap increased last month.
This pushed the amount that suppliers can charge on default tariffs up from £1,138 to £1,277.
But households have also been hit by the collapse of a string of energy suppliers.
Many small providers have struggled to cope with rising energy costs and have shut down, reducing competition in the market and leaving customers in the hands of bigger players with more expensive tariffs.
Experts are currently advising households against switching as there are few deals that beat the price cap.
However, you could be eligible for certain discounts if you are on a low income and benefits or if you are retired.
Some of these discounts can be worth up to £300.
But you need to apply soon in some cases to access the savings.
Here is what is available.
Winter fuel payments
Older people can get payments of between £100 and £300 towards their heating bills during the coldest months of the year.
It is known as the winter fuel payment and is paid to everyone above state pension age.
Pensioners are eligible if born on or before October 5, 1954.
The amount you get will depend on if you live alone and if you received other benefits during the qualifying week, which this year was September 20 to 26.
The payments are made automatically during November or December to those receiving the state pension.
If you aren't taking the state pension yet or don't qualify for it then you may need to apply separately for the winter fuel payment.
The deadline for this year has already passed but you can apply for next winter on the Gov.uk website.
Cold weather payments
Low income households can also get help with their bills during the winter months.
People on pension credit, income support, jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or Universal Credit can get £25 a week to help with energy bills.
It is called the the cold weather payment scheme and is paid each time if the average temperature in your area is zero degrees Celsius or below over the space of a week.
You don't need to apply for cold weather payments.
Instead, the payments should be made automatically into your bank or building society account within 14 days of the cold spell ending.
The cold weather payments scheme runs from November 1 to March 31 and you can can check if your area has had a cold weather payment by entering your postcode into the government's online tool.
You’ll be able to check if your area is due a payment when next year’s scheme starts on November 1 this year so we’ll have more details on the scheme then and you'll be able to check if your postcode qualifies.
Warm home discount scheme
There is another discount available to low-income households worth £140.
It is called the warm home discount scheme.
Rather than money being paid to you, the £140 goes towards reducing your heating costs between October and March when it is colder outside and you are likely to use more gas and electricity.
The discount is only available if your supplier has chosen to offer it.
Older people receiving the guarantee element of pension credit are eligible for the discount – known as the "core group" – and should receive a letter by December about how to get it.
Outside of the "core group," You may still be eligible if you receive certain means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit.
You will need to apply to your supplier if they provide the support and check their criteria.
At least six different providers having already opened applications this year:
- E.ON (including NPower) – open for applications
- Scottish Power – open for applications
- Utility Warehouse – open for applications
- British Gas – open for applications
- British Gas Evolve – open for applications
- EDF – open for applications
You can check which other suppliers are part of the scheme on the Gov.uk website.
Here are some other ways you can take back control over the financial strain of looming energy bills.
Some energy firms have schemes to give you cheap or free insulation too, especially if you're on a low income, as it's part of the Affordable Warmth scheme.
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