WINTER is coming but some families and pensioners already face a struggle to pay their heating bills. One British home in ten is in debt to its energy supplier, owing an average of £115, uSwitch has revealed.
Many of those battling to pay off the balance plan to cut back on food and Christmas presents. Today Mr Money looks at the bonus payments and tricks you can use to get help and keep costs under control.
Warm home discounts
THIS £140 reduction in energy bills is mainly aimed at over-65s who don’t have big private pensions. Other vulnerable folk, including some single parents, might be able to get it too.
The “core group” eligible are pensioners who get what is known as the “guarantee” element of pension credit — a top-up that boosts their weekly income to £167.25, or £255.25 for couples.
Low-income households who get certain benefits may also qualify. Contact your energy supplier if you are unsure. Around 40 suppliers out of 64 offer it, including all the Big Six firms. Companies must take part once they have 250,000 customers.
When to apply: If you are in the core group, you should receive it automatically. Most suppliers are inviting applications from low-income families now. Check their websites for details.
Saving: £140 a year
Winter fuel payments
PENSIONERS get annual winter fuel payments of between £100 and £300. To qualify, you need to have been born on or before April 5, 1954, and have lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of September 16 to September 22.
How much you get depends on your circumstances. If you are aged 80 or more and live alone, you get £300. Younger pensioners living alone can get £200 and couples get £100.
When to apply: Usually, you do not need to claim winter fuel payments. You should get them automatically if you are eligible. Call the payment helpline on 0800 7310160 for assistance.
Saving: £100 to £300
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Cold weather payments
WHEN the temperature drops below zero in your area, you might be entitled to £25 a week in cold weather payments. The temperature must stay that low for seven days in a row, which is rare. The scheme runs until March 31.
You may get this payment if you receive pension credit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or universal credit but it depends on your circumstances.
When to apply: Payments should automatically be made to your bank account within 14 days. If you don’t get a payment you have been expecting, get in touch with Jobcentre Plus or your pension centre.
Saving: £25 per cold snap
MORE than a million pensioner households are struggling because they are not getting pension credit, the income-related benefit designed to lift them out of poverty.
Typically, those with weekly income less than £167.75 if single or £255.25 as a couple get a top-up. Often, OAPs get this amount from their state pension. But some don’t if they haven’t paid enough national insurance. Four in ten OAP households are entitled to pension credit but don’t get it. The average payout is £58 a week.
Citizens Advice can help you check if you aren’t getting the benefits you are entitled to, such as those for disabilities, carers and unemployment. Some energy suppliers, such as SSE, do this too.
Total savings: Up to £465 with one cold snap
- SWITCH energy provider to cut your bills. Enter some basic details via a price comparison site and it will show you the best deals out there.
- Even easier, sign up to an auto-switching service such as Look After My Bills and Switchcraft. They will do the work for you each year.
- Don’t automatically pick the very cheapest one. Consider customer service, too. Citizens Advice keeps tabs on this.
- If you are entitled to the warm home discount, make sure you select a supplier that offers it.
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