The annual Warm Home Discount scheme, helping elderly people with their heating costs over the cold winter months, launched on Monday.
The scheme gives eligible pensioners a £140 discount on their energy bills. The discount is usually granted automatically by suppliers, as a discount applied to an electricity bill between now and March.
But some eligible consumers will need to act to claim the discount—and they’ll need to act quickly, because suppliers have a limited number of additional discounts they can issue.
A ‘core group’ of customers will receive the deductions from their bills automatically. This includes those receiving the guarantee credit element of Pension Credit, which tops up the income of people of state pension age to a minimum level. Customers in this group should receive a letter about the discount by 6 December, although suppliers have until March to apply the discount to electricity bills.
If you believe you’re eligible for the scheme but don’t receive a letter, you can phone the Warm Home Discount helpline, which opened this week, on 0800 731 0214.
Additionally, a ‘broader group’ of consumers, including those receiving certain means-tested benefits such as income support and child tax credit and those caring for small children, are also eligible for the Warm Home Discount. These consumers will need to apply directly to their supplier and should do so as soon as possible, to avoid missing out.
Furthermore, while most energy suppliers participate in the scheme, dozens of small energy companies are exempt. An estimated 100,000 customers of these suppliers who would otherwise be eligible are missing out on the discount and assistance on their bills. Those consumers are urged to switch to a supplier which does offer the discount.
According to charity Age UK, three million Britons over the age of 65 are concerned about heating their homes over the winter. Many struggling with energy costs may turn down their radiators and cope with cold and damp rooms, which can have severe impacts on physical and mental health, particularly for the old and the young.
Cold rooms lead to an estimated 3,000 excess deaths in the UK each year, according to the fuel poverty charity National Energy Action.