An additional 70,000 low income and vulnerable households will be able to get a £140 discount on their electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount next winter, the Government has announced.

The scheme requires energy suppliers with more than 250,000 domestic (not business) customers, by law, to help vulnerable customers pay for electricity (see our Housing and Energy Grants guide to find free cash for your home).

At present the scheme is available to everyone who gets the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (even if they get Savings Credit as well) and some suppliers also offer the discount to those on a low income. But each supplier has its own rules about who is eligible to get this help.

However, for the winter of 2015/16, the Government is introducing a set of standard criteria to define a vulnerable household, which all participating suppliers must meet (see below for the criteria).

It estimates that these changes will mean an additional 70,000 struggling families, disabled customers and other vulnerable people are eligible to apply.

The Government has also confirmed that those who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit will continue to get the Warm Home Discount in 2015/16.

However, the current discount of £140 will remain unchanged next winter. The Government says that as the scheme is being extended, it can't afford to increase the amount people get. Typically the discount has previously increased by £5/year.

Martin Lewis
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The plans will now need to go through Parliament before they can become law. They're due to take effect from April.

Who will be eligible to claim under the changes?

As well as those who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, from next winter, the following people will also qualify for the Warm Home Discount:

1. Those whose total household annual income is less than or equal to £16,190 and are in receipt of Child Tax Credits or the Universal Credit equivalent, with either:

  • A child aged under five living with them.
  • A disabled child living with them with a Child Disability Premium or claiming Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element.

On the following three categories households must receive one or more of the following:

2. Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, with any of following:

  • A disability or pensioner premium.
  • A child who is disabled.
  • Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element.
  • A child aged under five living with them.

3. Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), with any of the following:

  • The support or work-related component of ESA.
  • A severe or enhanced disability premium.
  • A pensioner premium.
  • A child who is disabled.
  • Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element.
  • A child aged under five living with them.

4. Universal Credit and you're either employed, unemployed or self-employed, with any of the following:

  • Limited capability for work element (with or without a work-related activity element).
  • A disabled child element.
  • A child aged under five living with them.

Lily Caprani, director of policy at The Children's Society, says: "The Government's extension of the Warm Home Discount for another year is an important step for the huge numbers of families struggling to keep their children warm this winter.

"Low income families with disabled children and those with children under five will benefit from the decision to standardise access to this discount across suppliers – action that The Children's Society has been campaigning for."

Is it too late to get this winter's rebate?

It's not too late to get this winter's rebate, but you need to hurry as the last date to claim is TODAY.

If you qualify, you should have received a letter by 24 December 2014 telling you either that you're part of the core group that's eligible for an automatic discount, or that you're not and need to apply for it. The letter will tell you how you to apply, although today is the last day to do so.

If you didn't get a letter, contact the Warm Home Discount team on 0345 603 9439 (lines open from 8.30am to 4.30pm).

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