With fears from charities that thousands of vulnerable households could miss out on Government handouts to help cut energy use, Gareth Baynham-Hughes (right), deputy director of fuel poverty at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, explains the benefits of the Warm Front grant in England.

Although we do not seem to be enjoying much of a summer, mid-June is probably still an unusual time of year to write about central heating and home insulation.

The truth is, there's no better time to get the house ready for winter. There's real peace of mind knowing your heating system will work when you need it most.

Sadly, some families already know it will be a struggle to keep warm this winter. Whether it's because of an old boiler, or a leaky and draughty house, some people's homes are really difficult – and therefore expensive – to heat.

What's more, the obvious solutions – a new boiler, loft and wall insulation – might be unaffordable.

A number of schemes are available to help make homes easier to heat.

What's Warm Front?

One of the best known is Warm Front. Since 2000, this scheme has helped more than two million households in England.

Warm Front provides grants of up to £3,500 for insulation and gas heating measures – or up to £6,000 for homes not connected to the main gas network. This is the final year for Warm Front, with funding of £100m in 2012/13.

Grants are available for low-income families and the elderly who receive certain benefits. They can own their home or rent from a private landlord.

Applicants must also live in a home that is poorly insulated or that does not have a working central heating system.

What can you get?

As well as providing new central heating, Warm Front grants are also available for loft and cavity wall insulation, draught-proofing and hot water tank insulation.

Experts recommend the right measures for each eligible home, and Warm Front picks up the bill.

Because Warm Front cannot help everyone, there are eligibility criteria in place to make sure the money goes to those who need it most.

But anyone who is interested can call the Warm Front team who will help work out whether they are eligible.

How it can help

The scheme makes a huge difference to the quality of life of the people it helps. I remember one family in Newcastle describing to me how their new boiler, paid for by Warm Front, had completely transformed their lives when it was installed.

The work had been carried out on 23 December and the family enjoyed the "best ever" Christmas because everyone was warm and cosy for the first time in years.

Some of the people we want to help through Warm Front might not have heard about the scheme. And not everyone who knows about it realises it is still open for applications.

If you're reading this, you can help us spread the word. We want as many people as possible to access the help that is available this year.

Apply soon

And we really hope that people will act now so that there is a good chance that work can be carried out in eligible applicants' homes before the start of the winter.

So as we approach the longest day of the year, my mind is on the short, cold days and the tens of thousands of families we want to help keep warm this winter.

warm front key facts

  • Provides heating and insulation improvements in England only.
  • Grants available up to £3,500 for most homes.
  • Application deadline? There is no cut-off but the scheme will close when the money's gone, so be quick.
  • This is the final year for Warm Front, with funding of £100m in 2012/13.
  • Eligibility: private sector households on certain benefits living in poorly-insulated homes and/or without central heating.
  • 2.3 million households assisted since June 2000.
  • For info, see www.direct.gov.uk/warmfront or call 0800 316 2805.

Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of MoneySavingExpert.com.