The Warm Front scheme that provides grants of up to 6,000 to insulate homes in England has closed to new applicants until April, the Government announced today.

The 345 million budget for the current financial year has already been exhausted by 170,000 households, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said today (see the Benefits Check-Up guide).

He warned the budget would be slashed to 110 million for 2011/12 and 100 million for 2012/13 as part of measures to cut the deficit. The scheme will also be revamped when it returns to "focus help on the oldest and poorest".

All existing applications to Warm Front will be honoured, the Government says, and where possible, work will be completed by the end of March 2011.

Huhne says: "Warm Front will be back and we will make the available funds work harder.

"The coalition intends to tackle the underlying causes of fuel poverty by improving the energy efficiency of homes."

A consultation has been launched today on who the revamped Warm Front scheme will target.

Until today's closure, it was designed for people on certain disability or income-related benefits.

Michelle Mitchell, from charity Age UK, says: "It is extremely regrettable the one publicly funded programme in England specifically designed to tackle fuel poverty has been forced to close its doors to new applicants.

"A better targeted scheme is well-needed and we are keen to find out more about the re-design of Warm Front when it re-opens to new customers next year."

Further reading/Key links

Cut heating costs: Home & Energy Grants, Cheap Gas & Electricity
Grab cash: Five-Minute Benefits Check-Up