Financial Support in Winter for Carers

Understanding the situation unfolding in the energy market right now may feel confusing and overwhelming. And we're aware that some carers in our community are feeling anxious. Our guide, written for unpaid carers, explains the current situation and signposts us to financial support we may be entitled to.

Illustration of two friends in jumpers, sitting on a couch.

What is happening to our energy prices?

With a drop in gas supply and an increase in demand, we're going to be hit with a rise in our energy bill at some point.

If we're on a fixed tariff, we'll keep that price until our contract on that tariff is up. At that point, it will be a challenge to find a similar deal. For those of us not on a fixed tariff, we will be impacted from 1st October 2021, when the energy price cap increases by 12%. With a possible further price jump next April. This will be in the price we pay per unit of gas.

What happens if our energy provider goes bust?

Rapid increases to prices in energy wholesale market have put many energy providers under pressure. An increase in demand this coming winter means some energy providers are forced to operate on tighter margins, whilst others have gone bust.

If our energy provider collapses, we will still continue to receive gas and electricity. However we will be automatically switched to a new supplier where the tariff may be higher.

This may take several weeks but we will be contacted by our new supplier who will break down our new tariffs to us. Any money on your account (as a credit) is protected.

Money saving expert, Martin Lewis lists his nine 'need-to-knows' about the current energy price caps. Helping us to understand the choices open to us.

We can also find out more from Citizens Advice, on the specific steps we can take if our energy provider collapses.

Financial Support for heating

Needless to say, keeping warm in winter is particularly important if we are caring for an older person or someone with a long term health condition or disability. In the UK there are three fuel discount schemes we may be able to benefit from:

Receiving these payments will not impact other benefits and they don’t impact each other.

Three heating benefits in the UK

Each has different criteria for eligibility but if we or the person we care for are on a low income or over 65, find out more below.

1. Warm Home Discount Scheme

What is it?

Some of us may be eligible for a £140 discount on our gas or electricity bill between October and March each year. Be ready to apply on 18th October, when the scheme opens.

“The Government and Ofgem must also guarantee no one will lose access to the Warm Home Discount when they are moved to a different supplier. And customers in debt to failed suppliers should continue to have access to affordable repayment plans.” - Citizens Advice

How to qualify

There are two ways to qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

  1. If we were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit

  2. If we're on a low income and meet our energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme

Note, we also need to be with an energy supplier who is part of the scheme. It's worth contacting your supplier to find out.

How can I apply?

Most suppliers have now opened their applications for the Warm Home Discount Scheme 2021/2022. So it is worth checking with your supplier as early as possible as they are available on a first come first served basis. We have listed a few below.

If we’re on a low income, we'll need to contact our energy supplier to see if we’re eligible and how to apply.

If we get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, we’ll get a letter between October and December 2021 from our energy provider telling us how to get the discount. If we do not receive our letter, we can call the Warm Home Discount's helpline on 0800 731 0214.

Energy providers with early applications for the Warm Home Discount Scheme 2021/2022

If we've had the discount last year, we will still need to re-apply again this year. Here is a list of energy providers who have opened their applications early. Other participating energy providers will advise to wait for a letter if we are eligible, so we do not need to do anything.

When will it be paid?

Our electricity supplier will apply the discount to our bill by 31st March 2022.

2. Cold Weather Payments

What is it?

The Cold Weather Payment allows for a payment of £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather, between 1st November 2021 and 31st March 2022.

How to qualify

We’ll usually get a Cold Weather Payment if we get Pension Credit. We may get a Cold Weather Payment if we’re getting one of the following:

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Universal Credit

  • Support for Mortgage Interest

Check full details of eligibility here.

How can I apply?

We do not need to apply. If we are eligible we’ll be paid automatically. The Cold Weather Payment scheme runs from 1st November 2021 to 31st March 2022. Check if we can get a payment in our area here.

When will it be paid?

After each period of very cold weather in our area, we should get a payment within 14 working days. It’s paid into the same bank or building society account as our benefit payments.

We’ll get a payment if the average temperature in our area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days.

Further Information

Read the full guidance on the government website here.

3. Winter Fuel Payments

What is it?

An annual winter fuel payment of between £100 and £300 may help to pay our heating bills.

How to qualify

For those of us born on or before 26 September 1955. There are some further eligibility criteria that will affect how much we get. For example, people over 80 will get a higher amount and if two people live in the same household only one person will be paid. Find out more here.

How can I apply?

Most people will get their Winter Fuel Payment automatically so we do not need to claim. If we don’t receive a State Pension, other benefits or live abroad, we will need to contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.

When will it be paid?

Most payments are made in November and December. The money should be in our account by 14th January 2022. If not contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.

Further Information

Read the full guidance on the government website here.

The new House Hold Support Fund

The government have recently announced a new £500m in new grants to help us cover the costs of basic essentials over the winter period. These will assists households in the form of small grants.

In England, the money will be distributed to our local authorities this month (October, 2021) which means we will be able to apply in the coming months. As always, we will stay on top of the latest news and update you on new information about how it can be applied.

What is next?

Stay connected with other unpaid carers just like yourself by joining our friendly Facebook community group. Where no question is a silly question, and we can all learn and empathise with one another. We can't wait to see you there!

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