As weather experts are forecasting, Scotland is supposed to be set for a very harsh and snowy winter this year. Despite the dream of a white Christmas sounding romantic, the reality is that these conditions disrupt so many aspects of our daily lives and can have added financial costs. We thought it might be helpful to put together some brief information on the financial support available to help you through the winter.
There is a variety of ways in which you can get financial help. The Government and energy companies can offer a range of schemes, payments or other funds such as grants and trusts. For more info on any of the schemes listed below, call our helpline on 0300 323 9961.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme is a Government programme that provides rebates on the electricity bills of households that need it most. For winter 2015 to 2016, you could get a £140 one-off discount off your electricity bill. If you qualify for the discount, you’ll get a letter this autumn or winter telling you either:
•you don’t have to apply – you’ll get the discount automatically
•to apply by 29 January 2016 – the letter will tell you why and how.
•You’ll receive your letter by 24 December at the latest. However if you don’t get a letter but believe you qualify, either call the Warm Home Discount Scheme on 0345 603 9439 or at https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme/eligibility”.
The Energy Saving Trust offers information and advice on energy efficiency and provide: free home energy checks; benefit and tax credit checks; and access to the lowest-cost energy rates from your energy supplier. Call the Home Energy Scotland Helpline on 0808 808 22 82 or at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland.
The Home Heat Helpline can help you if you are struggling to pay your bills this winter. They offer information on grants, payment schemes and benefits that you may be eligible for, as well as basic advice about energy efficiency. For more info call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699 or at www.homeheathelpline.org.uk.
Cold Weather Payment. If you receive certain benefits, then you may be eligible for the Cold Weather Payment. This is given when the temperature for your local area is recorded as or forecast to be an average of 0 degrees or lower for 7 consecutive days. You’ll get a payment of £25 for each 7 day period between 1st November and 31st March. If you want further info you can contact your local Jobcentre Plus or contact our helpline on 0300 323 9961.
Winter Fuel Payment. If you were born before January 1953 then you may be eligible to receive support with your heating costs. Payments are normally automatic and you should get your money before Christmas. If you meet the eligibility criteria but you not receive your payment you will need to make a claim. For more info, visit www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/how-to-claim or call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 03459 15 15 15.
Priority Service Register for older and disabled people
This scheme offers extra free services to certain people and is run by energy suppliers. You can sign up to the scheme if you are:
•disabled or chronically sick
•have a hearing or visual impairment
A number of service are included such as:
•priority reconnection if your supply is interrupted and advance notice if they have to stop your supply
•protection from cold callers with a password protection scheme to keep you safe
•alternative facilities for cooking and heating if your energy supply is interrupted
•bills sent to a relative, carer or friend to help you check them
•your bills and meter readings in a braille, large print, audio tape, textphone or typetalk if you’re visually impaired.
To register either call your energy supplier or the Home Heat helpline on 0800 33 66 99. If you have different energy suppliers for electricity and gas, you will need to register with each one.
Green Homes Cashback Scheme
The Scottish Government is offering owner occupiers, private and social tenants and private sector landlords up to £1,200 towards energy efficiency measures that are recommended in the Green Deal assessment. A Green Deal assessment can be arranged by booking a Green Deal Assessor Organisation or asking a Green Deal Provider to arrange one for you. You can find a list of local Green Deal Assessors and Providers online at http://gdorb.decc.gov.uk/consumersearch.
Other Sources of financial help
•British / Scottish Gas Energy Trust
Eligibility: Anyone living in England, Scotland and Wales in need, hardship or other distress. Applications are welcomed from customers of all energy companies – www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk
•EDF Energy Trust
Eligibility: Current domestic account holders of EDF Energy only – www.edfenergytrust.org.uk
•npower Energy Fund
Eligibility: Current domestic account holders of npower only – www.npowerenergyfund.com
•The Scottish Hydro Electric Community Trust
Offers customers faced with high charges for an electricity connection within the Scottish Hydro Electric Distribution area, particularly those in rural areas.
Eligibility: deserving individual domestic cases and for special community projects – www.shect.org.
If you do find yourself struggling to pay your energy bills it is important to seek help immediately. Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau at www.cas.org.uk/bureaux or call our helpline on 0300 323 9961.