My wife, who is disabled, received a letter yesterday telling her to contact the authorities to find out if she is eligible for discount scheme for warm homes.
We did this and she is. But when they checked who was the consumer account holder, which is me, because it’s not in her name, or a joint account, they said she’s no longer eligible.
Since I work and she doesn’t, and is unable to sign her name or even speak at times, I had taken the easy option and set up the utility accounts in my name, not thinking it could cause an issue.
This seems unfair and as it is backdated to August, changing the account details will not help. My wife is on the ‘priority service register’ for all supplies so the energy supplier knows we live together at the same address.
I have discovered that anyone who receives a means tested benefit as Employment and Support Allowance (Esa) or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) are no longer entitled to the heating home discount if their home is smaller than a certain size.
I wonder how many vulnerable low income people this affects? After all, people on low incomes are crammed into small apartments by housing associations.
I receive Esa so I didn’t get the £20 a week given to those on universal credit during the lockdown – even though universal credit is not yet available where I live. I am tired of a government announcing aid, only to find there is a loophole preventing large numbers of people from claiming it.
Every year I contact my energy supplier and apply for the home heating discount. I usually fill out the form online or by phone and have qualified without any problems.
When I didn’t receive this year’s payment, I contacted the DWP and was told to check my eligibility using the government’s online test.
Almost immediately I noticed that the form had changed and when I filled it out I received the following notice: “You are not eligible…this is based on the type of property you lived in on August 21, 2022, according to your Energy performance certificate.”
I contacted the helpline and was told that a new property component had been added introduced, as my home had failed. These new criteria will disqualify tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people from a much-needed payment.
RC, by e-mail
The home heating rebate scheme has been overhauled by the government and as a result the group eligible for the automatic £150 rebate on their energy bill this winter has changed and as these letters show this has come as a huge shock to those who relied the help.
As part of the overhaul, the list of eligible benefits was changed and a new “high energy cost” criteria added, so that the money is channeled to “those on the lowest incomes and in, or at greatest risk of, fuel poverty”.
The positive is that most eligible households in England and Wales should get the discount automatically, rather than having to apply as they did in the past and still do in Scotland. A further 780,000 households should receive the discount, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, bringing the number helped by the scheme to 2.8 million.
The negatives are that while means-tested benefits, such as Esa and JSA, still qualify, disability allowance and personal independence payment (which are not means-tested) do not. The latest means more than 500,000 households in England and Wales are now ineligible, according to the charity National Energy Action, and Scope.
Before the upheaval, low-income households of working age could access the scheme if they were on a qualifying benefit. Now, in England and Wales, they must also have a high energy cost score. This score is calculated using an algorithm applied to government data on the size, age and type of property they live in. This means people who struggle to heat older, larger properties are more likely to qualify than those in smaller, newer houses and apartments that are more energy efficient.
When it comes to SJIn his situation, the rules of the scheme allow an account to be in a partner’s name or the name of a Department for Work and Pensions. However, they must also be registered in the beneficiary’s benefit record. If you are named on your wife’s record, you should challenge this decision. There is a helpline (0800 107 8002) you can call.
If you have been affected by the changes to this scheme, there is other help you can try to access as detailed in this recent Money Hacks article.