Thousands of soldiers to receive £200 winter energy bills boost

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Thousands of members of the UK’s armed forces are set to receive a £200 boost to help with rising costs, as energy bills soar. The Royal British Legion, the UK’s largest military charity has announced a new grant scheme that will help soldiers and their families get through the cost of living crisis. This marks the first time that the RBL has granted top up energy payments to military personnel, both retired and currently serving. The charity confirmed the new grants would be rolled out to help aleviate financial pressure as the UK has been gripped by crippling energy bills following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent wholesale gas prices soaring. 

On October 1, energy regulator Ofgem raised the price cap on household energy bills to an unprecedented £2,500 a year, a move that threatens to plunge millions of families into fuel poverty. 

To support soldiers, the RBL has unveiled the Everyday Needs Grants Programme, which will be available for people who need financial assistance with everyday essentials such as kitchen appliances, clothes, and energy costs.

The charity warned that in just the past year, it saw a 20 percent jump in grants issued to help with basic necessities like food compared to the previous years, warning that such applications will only rise further in the coming months. 

Antony Baines, RBL’s Executive Director of Services, said: “Many of the most vulnerable members of the Armed Forces community are facing this winter with genuine fear about how to pay their bills.”

He added that he was “pleased to announce today that the RBL is now providing energy cost top up payments for those most in need through our new grants scheme.

“No one should have to worry about whether they will be able to keep the lights on, heat their homes or feed themselves and their families,” the Telegraph reported him saying. 

As energy bills reach unaffordable levels, a poll commissioned by Smart Energy GN found that nearly half of households say their energy bill will be their biggest outgoing in the coming months, leading up to Christmas.

The poll of 5,000 adults found 56 percent have already changed their energy habits in 2022 as the rising cost of bills starts to bite, with 36 percent saying that they would consider – or already are – changing their energy behaviours just to save money for the festive period.

Frances Metcalf, a military widow and RBL beneficiary, was deeply worried about the rising cost of energy bills, particularly as winter looms, according to the Telegraph.

She said: “My energy bills have increased by more than 100 percent in the past year. The cost of food is going up. Everything you can think of – interest rates, insurance.

“In February and March of this year I hardly turned the heating on and kept myself warm using a hot water bottle. The worry is the worst part. You can’t eat because of worry, and you don’t know which way to turn.”

Previous research from RBL found that veterans who are in working age are more likely to be sick or disabled when compared to UK adults of the same age. 

They also found that one in 10 members of the ex-military community faced some kind of financial difficulty, equivalent to about 430,000 people.

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The RBL grants have been means-tested to assess an applicant’s financial need using a system based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard, which helps identify a level of income that different households require to reach a basic living standard.

The charity said that they would streamline their grant assessment processes to help applicants easily apply for these funds and receive responses within a matter of days.

This comes as a fresh row has erupted after the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents rail companies, announced that it would scrap free train travel for military personnel attending remembrance services this year.

The group warned that the charges would not be waived as the cost would be “too great”. However, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Transport Secretary, later insisted that the Government would not scrap free travel for veterans.

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