More than half a million families struggling with their gas and electricity bills are missing out on vital grants, according to a leading children’s charity.
Save the Children says more money is needed to fund the Warm Homes Discount scheme – a £120 rebate on energy bills payable to certain groups who struggle to pay their bills.
Help with energy bills
Under the Warm Home Discount scheme – which is set to cost energy companies who fund it around £1.13bn over the next four years – pensioners who receive a guarantee credit element of pension credit automatically qualify for the grant.
The grant should also be available to help a ‘broader group’ of people who struggle to pay energy bills, such as low-income families. Energy suppliers have a degree of discretion over which of their customers make up the ‘broader group’, and how many to help, based on their market share. Only companies with more than 250,000 customers are part of the scheme.
Warn Home Discount shortfall
Save the Children says 800,000 families should qualify for the Warm Home Discount, however a lack of funding means that only 25,000 families will get it.
Find out more about the groups of people each energy company will help under the Warm Home Discount.
Food of fuel?
Save the Children claims families are cutting back on food and getting into debt in order to pay their bills, and has launched ‘No Child Cold Left in the Cold’ – a campaign urging energy companies and the government to fill the Warm Home Discount funding gap.
Which? energy policy advisor James Tallack said: ‘Although there are some notable exceptions, despite rocketing energy prices targeting low-income consumers has not been one of the energy industry’s strong points. Because low income households are often unable to pay by direct debit or manage their accounts online they are effectively excluded from the most competitive energy deals on the market.
‘Suppliers responded to this “poor pay more” problem by offering special social tariffs but had real difficulties identifying the very households who could benefit from them. Therefore it’s a real concern that Save the Children’s research suggests that the Warm Home Discount, which is designed to replace social tariffs, may also fail to help those in most need.’