Coronavirus Travel Rights
4 December 2020
There's free cash available to help increase your home's energy efficiency or pay your energy bills – hundreds of millions of pounds of it. The key is knowing where to look.
Update: If you're concerned about paying your utility bills due to the coronavirus pandemic, help is available from energy and water companies. See full info for energy suppliers and water companies, plus lots more help if you're struggling financially, in our Coronavirus Finance & Bills Help guide.
Energy is one of the main grant-giving areas, as substantial Government funding is available to reduce our impact on the environment. The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities all provide grants to help you save energy.
It's worth everyone checking if they're eligible. Here's some inspiration...
I have been lucky enough to qualify for a brand new boiler. I didn't think I'd meet the criteria but I did, so check and see if you qualify too.
Under the new Green Homes Grant scheme, homeowners in England on certain benefits can get up to £10,000 in vouchers to cover the whole costs of energy efficiency improvements – such as low-carbon heating systems, insulation or double glazing to replace single glazing.
If you're not on benefits, you can still get up to a maximum of £5,000 per household, though it will only cover up to two-thirds of the costs.
See our Green Homes Grant guide for full info on what you can get and how to apply.
There are wads of freebies on offer from energy providers, from new boilers to loft and cavity wall insulation. It's all part of their efficiency obligations to people in certain groups. It's mainly for those receiving certain benefits, such as universal credit, tax credits, pension credit or income-based benefits. The full Free Insulation & Boilers guide has more, but below's a taster of what you can get:
If you were born on or before 5 October 1954 and live in the UK for at least one day between 21 and 27 September 2020, then regardless of income, you can grab a one-off, tax-free winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300.
You'll receive a letter from the Government telling you how much you will get, based on the following criteria.
|Lived alone (or none of the people you lived qualify).||£200||£300|
|Lived with someone under 80 who also qualifies.||£100||£200|
|Lived with someone 80 or over who also qualifies.||
|Lived in a care home but didn't receive pension credit, income support, jobseeker's allowance or income-related employment and support allowance.||£100||£150|
If you're on the state pension or in receipt of another social security benefit, such as pension credit or income-related employment and support allowance, then you should receive it automatically, paid in the same way as the other benefit you receive. See the full eligibility criteria.
If you've not had the winter fuel payment before and don't get benefits or a state pension, or only get universal credit, housing benefit, council tax reduction or child benefit, then you'll need to claim it. You can either apply by post or by calling the helpline on 0800 731 0160.
You'll receive a letter with your estimated payment date, though you should receive it before Christmas as payments are made in November and December. If you've not received it by 13 January 2021, you should speak to your local benefits office.
The cold weather payment is a separate grant paid by the Government to older people and those on certain benefits, to help cover costs when temperatures hit zero and below in your area.
It applies if the average temperature is – or is forecast to be – 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 November and 31 March. You get £25 for each seven-day period.
Everyone in the UK that gets pension credit or support for mortgage interest qualifies for cold weather payments. You also may get it if you receive income support, jobseeker's allowance and universal credit – whether you're eligible depends on your circumstances:
See the full eligibility criteria.
You should automatically get your rebate 14 working days after the seven days of freezing weather. Check with your Jobcentre or pension centre if you don't receive it when applicable.
It's paid straight into your account (the one your benefits are already paid into).
The Warm Home Discount scheme requires suppliers, by law, to help vulnerable people in the UK pay for their energy. The money isn't paid to you – it's a £140 rebate applied to your electricity bill between September and March. If you're on a prepay meter, you'll usually be sent a top-up voucher.
There are two ways to qualify, with a different application process for each.
Warm home discount FAQs
If you have an annual household income of £16,190 or less and you get child tax credit, or you receive income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance, or you receive income-related employment and support allowance, you're eligible if you have any of the following:
If you get universal credit and have earned £1,349 or less in at least one month since November 2018, you're eligible if you have any of the following:
You can easily compare tariffs from the following suppliers that offer the discount via our Cheap Energy Club – simply select the warm home discount filter, under 'tariff features':
* Only provides the discount to the 'core group'.
If you get the 'guarantee credit' element of pension credit, what matters is who your supplier was on 5 July 2020 – known as the 'qualifying date'. Provided it is part of the Warm Home Discount scheme, you will get the discount from whichever supplier you were with on this date, whether you've switched away from it since or not.
You shouldn't have to do anything extra to get it if you switch before you get the discount, though energy regulator Ofgem recommends you contact the supplier you were with to check it still has your contact details, and how and when you will be paid the rebate.
To get the rebate again next year, you'll also need to be with a participating supplier on the 'qualifying date' in 2021. We don't know when exactly that will be yet, but it's likely to be around June or July.
Our Cheap Energy Club will show you tariffs from suppliers that offer the discount – you can select the warm home discount filter, under 'tariff features'.
If you're on certain benefits and you have to apply to get the discount, you should always check before you switch that the supplier offers it to those on benefits, that you're still eligible under its scheme (as criteria can differ between providers) and that the supplier's scheme is still open to applications. You will then need to apply with the new supplier.
Some utility companies also offer help if you have large arrears on your gas, electricity or water bills. Please let us know if you have success with any of these schemes.
To apply for help with energy arrears, you'll need to be an account holder and complete a full income and expenditure budget sheet. You'll also need to provide proof of your income, plus give details on how your arrears have built up, eg, due to illness or redundancy, and say how the grant will help you. It can take several weeks to process your claim.
Exact requirements vary – some say you need to be in receipt of certain benefits for example – but those with the greatest need are prioritised on a case-by-case basis.
Open to anyone (not just its customers): British Gas Energy Trust.
If you're having trouble paying your water bill and have fallen into debt, contact your water company to see what help it can offer. All companies offer some kind of help – this can be anything from providing repayment plans, discounts or even a cap on how much you pay.
What's available varies from company to company. Don't worry if you're unsure which scheme is best for you. Call your provider and it will assess your circumstances and decide which one will save you the most money. For more, including a full company-by-company breakdown, see Get help if you're struggling to pay your bills
The Turn2us website also has info on all the water company schemes.
There are also a range of freebies you can get from your water supplier to help you save on your water bill.
The freebies you get vary by supplier – the water efficiency site Save Water Save Money collates all the best ones up for grabs.
Examples include flush bags, water widgets, shower timers and water audit leaflets. To see what you can get, plus more details on how the scheme works, go to the full Cut Water Bills guide.
There's more home help available depending on your circumstances. Here are five more schemes and grants.
If you are elderly, disabled or on a low income, your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA) may help you to repair, improve, maintain or adapt your home. There are around 200 HIA services around the country that can help in varying ways.
Assistance can include providing a list of reliable local builders and contractors, checking if you can get financial help or helping to make your home more energy efficient. Search for your nearest HIA on the Foundations website (or Care and Repair Cymru in Wales).
Alternatively, independent charity Turn2Us has a grant search to help you check for any charities that might be able to help with things such as furniture, decorating or bills and household expenses. The grants usually depend on an individual's circumstances, maybe any illnesses or their nationality, occupation, age or income.
Local councils can provide emergency financial support under the local welfare assistance scheme.
Support is available for people in short-term crises, for things such as a sudden bereavement, a broken boiler or if you're forced to move out of a rented home.
However, it's a postcode lottery. Each council can choose whether to offer financial help or not, or who is eligible. For example, some may give furniture or food grants, while others may give cash. Ask your council for more info.
Many local fire stations offer free home fire risk assessments, to check for potential fire risks and give fire safety advice.
The check will help you plan what to do if a fire starts in your home and you'll usually be given a free smoke alarm if you don't already have one.
The scheme's open to anyone, but it's aimed at the elderly, families with young children or any homes which may carry a high fire risk.
The Chief Fire Officers Association has put together a list of what each brigade offers and you can find out more about the assessments on the Fire Service website. If your local brigade isn't listed, you could ring it to see what it offers.
A disabled facilities grant is available from your council to help towards the cost of adapting your home if you, or someone living in your property, is disabled.
You can get up to £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales and up to £25,000 in Northern Ireland. Disabled facilities grants aren't available in Scotland.
The grant is for work that is essential to help a disabled person live an independent life. Here's an example...
I had a disabled facilities grant to remove my bath and put in a level access shower.
Contact your council's housing or environmental health department and ask it to send you an application form before you start work. If work begins before the council's approved your application, you won't normally get anything. Find more info on the grant on the Gov.uk website, as well as your council's details.
In Wales, an additional scheme provided by Care and Repair is the Rapid Response Adaptations Programme, which helps with small-scale alterations to your home (such as grab rail instalments). You need to be referred by a health or social services professional such as an occupational therapist, so speak to your doctor to see if you qualify.
Age UK runs a local handyperson service in over 80% of the country. This involves security-checked individuals visiting elderly people's homes (though anyone over 50 can apply) to do small repairs, grab rail instalments and security improvements to doors and windows.
Charges for handyperson services are set at local levels, so call your local Age UK. Costs are around £5-£25 per hour dependent on the work being undertaken. For info, call Age UK on 0800 678 1602.
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