Twice as many households in England could slice up to £600 off their energy bills each year, after changes to the Government's Warm Front scheme came into force today.

The Government has widened the eligibility criteria for the scheme, meaning two million households are now entitled to help improving their heating and home insulation — even if they've been turned down in the past.

Key Points

  • More households now eligible for Warm Front
  • Consumers being urged to apply
  • 39% worried about paying energy bills this winter

But as this is the last year that Warm Front is available, Consumer Focus, Citizens Advice, Age UK and the National Children's Bureau are urging people to find out if they can claim help.

The initiative gives up to £3,500 — or up to £6,000 for homes not connected to the main gas network — to homeowners or those who rent from a private landlord and receive certain income-related benefits. This money can be put towards heating and insulation improvements.

Warm up for Christmas

Grants are available for low-income families and the elderly who receive certain benefits, whose homes are poorly insulated and/or don't have a working central heating system.

Warm Front is only available in England, although similar schemes are on offer across the rest of the UK.

The total Warm Front fund for this financial year (April to April) is £100 million, but any underspend goes back into the Treasury's pocket. Between April and July this year, only 11,766 people applied for the scheme.

At the moment, it takes on average just eight weeks to install heating or insulation from the day you apply. So by applying now, your home could be warmer at less cost to you by Christmas.

You can find out if you're eligible by calling Warm Front on 0800 316 2805 or by visiting your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Age UK branch. Further information and an online application form are also available on Directgov.

Energy worries

The call to apply for Warm Front comes as new research from Consumer Focus shows four out of ten households (39%) are worried about affording their energy bills this winter.

Of these people, 70% (around six million households across England) plan to cut back on heating their home this winter because of these worries.

Scottish & Southern Energy was the first of the big six providers to announce energy price rises to come into force later this year and other providers are expected to follow suit (see the SSE price rises MSE News story).

Jonathan Stearn, programme director at Consumer Focus, says: "A cold home can damage your health. So it's very worrying that high energy prices are leading so many people to cut back on their heating.

"We want to make sure that as many people as possible are helped to cut their bills and stay warm and well through the Warm Front scheme this year. We would urge anyone struggling with their bills to find out if they can claim free help."