Cap on fuel help for households


As the temperature drops, concern is growing for many households about how they will afford to keep warm during the winter months.

Now there are fears that low-income families may miss out on a £120 discount off their energy bills this winter because of limits to funding.

Energy firms have imposed a cap, which means while more than half a million low-income pensioner households will get the Warm Home Discount automatically this winter, other households eligible for the scheme may miss out.

Over the weekend, the BBC reports that some suppliers, including nPower and EDF, were unable to guarantee that all eligible customers would get the rebate.

Energy Minister Greg Barker called for all energy firms to provide the discount to eligible customers on BBC Breakfast this morning, and now many of the energy firms have said they will do as much as possible to help customers.

Eligible households
If you qualify for the discount, you will receive a confirmation letter from the Government this winter – except older people who pay their own bills and receive the Pension Credit Guarantee, who will automatically get the £120 annual discount off their bills.

The Warm Home Discount also replaces current social tariffs provided by energy firms to help those households on lower incomes – but those customers must qualify for the discount under different criteria. These are typically households on means tested benefits, including income support and jobseeker's allowance, who also have a young child under five or a disabled family member.

Discount limit
Energy firms are able to decide how many customers they will offer the discount to, which means some cannot guarantee a discount to all customers who are eligible.

As part of the government's scheme to fight fuel poverty, the big six suppliers and several others set out their own levels of criteria and decided how to contact customers. The scheme is in its first year and the government predicts it will help 600,000 low-income pensioners, yet only 26,000 low-income families.

According to the Financial Mail, nPower said that it will help as many customers as possible but cannot commit to helping everyone. EDF has set a limit of helping 40,000 to 45,000 customers, although a spokesman said that it did not expect to reach this limit. A spokesman from Scottish Power said that the company was still negotiating with Ofgem regarding the level of customers it will help.

Scottish and Southern Energy has reportedly saud that there is no cap on the people who can get help.British Gas has also said it would not be placing a limit on the number of customers it will be helping and has a broader set of criteria than the other companies.

If you think you may be eligible for the discount due to being on low income, contact your energy supplier soon to find out if you are eligible.
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