Universal Credit and other benefit claimants in Northern Ireland to get £200 towards energy bills - here's what you need to know
Universal Credit claimants and those in receipt of certain means-tested benefits will get £200 towards their energy bills, the Northern Ireland Executive has announced. It comes as part of a new £55 million support package designed to help around 280,000 people with the cost of living.
Deirdre Hargey, the Northern Ireland communities minister, says £55 million - £13.8 million of which is provided by the UK Government - will be made available to households through a new 'Energy Payment Support Scheme'.
Under the initiative, eligible households will get a one-off £200 cash payment to put towards the cost of heating their homes. The Department for Communities says it's introducing the support to help vulnerable people meet their energy costs and to support people in maintaining their physical and mental health.
Below we explain who's eligible to receive the £200, but if you need further support with your energy bills in the meantime - or if you live outside of Northern Ireland - see our Housing & energy grants guide to check what extra help you may be able to get.
You must be in receipt of certain benefits to be eligible
The Northern Irish scheme is open to households where one member was in receipt of one or more of the following welfare benefits between 13 December 2021 and 19 December 2021:
- Income-based jobseekers allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Income support
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit
You must also be responsible for paying the energy bills for the property.
Your local authority will automatically process the payment
A one-off payment of £200 will be made automatically to you if you are eligible "as soon as practically possible". Payments will be made into the same account your benefits money goes into, and there is no application required.
We've contacted the Department for Communities to find out when the first payments will go out, and what people should do if they think they are eligible but don't receive the monetary support. We'll update the story when we know more.
Those in Wales can get similar help
The Welsh Government announced a similar 'Winter Fuel Support Scheme' late last year, which will see those on certain welfare benefits between 1 December 2021 and 31 January 2022 paid £100 to put towards their energy bills. Again, payments will be made by your local authority, although you can get in touch if you think you're eligible but you've missed out.
We've asked the UK and Scottish governments if they plan to introduce similar measures in England and Scotland to help households with rising energy bills, and we'll update this story when we hear back.
If you're struggling to pay for energy bills, check for available help
There are various other existing schemes also available to help households across the UK with their energy bills. Here are some examples (note that you can continue to claim these benefits on top of both the Northern Irish and Welsh one-off energy support payments):
- Cold Weather Payments. Households can get a £25 payment for every seven days of freezing weather.
- Warm Home Discount. Households on a low income and in receipt of certain benefits may be able to get £140 off their energy bill. Some will need to apply for the discount directly from their energy provider, while others are automatically eligible.
- Winter Fuel Payments. If you were born on or before 26 September 1955 you could get between £100 and £300 to help pay your heating bills. You'll get the payment automatically if you get the state pension or another social security benefit (not housing benefit, council tax reduction, child benefit or Universal Credit).
If you need support with your energy bills it's worth checking out our Grant Grabbing guide, which details the firms that offer help when you're in debt. You may also want to read our Free Debt Advice guide and use our Benefits Calculator to make sure you're not missing out on any support you may be eligible for.