How to help others with heating costs this Winter

So my dogs got me out of bed at 7:34 this morning. By 7:46, I had joined all the people on social media who have been announcing that they had put their heating on. As an added bonus, the timer now shows the correct time and day for the first time in years after I finally figured out how to change the day.

This simple act is one which so many will have to put off for as long as possible because they simply can’t afford to.

People on the lowest incomes are facing a nightmare Winter of rising energy costs and the ending of the Universal Credit uplift. The end of the furlough scheme puts 110,000 jobs at risk, as Christine Jardine pointed out the other day in a last ditch attempt to get Rishi Sunak to see sense.

The rise in the energy price cap has a hidden extra for the poorest. Those on prepayment meters, usually the poorest in the least well insulated rented properties, pay even more. The BBC reports:

  • Those on standard tariffs, with typical household levels of energy use, will see an increase of £139 – from £1,138 to £1,277 a year – to their bill

  • People with prepayment meters, with average energy use, will see an annual increase of £153 – from £1,156 to £1,309

Local councillors, campaigners and MPs will likely be contacted by constituents who are really struggling, so I thought it might be useful to set out some of the sources of help and advice for them.

Citizens Advice has a summary of grants and benefits that can help with fuel costs.

Home Energy Scotland and Simple Energy Advice give advice on how to benefit from the Energy Companies Obligation to help with measures to make homes more energy efficient.

Age UK have a really useful guide on Winter warmth for older people. It’s always worth checking that any pensioner who comes to you is claiming Pension Credit. This benefit, paid to the poorest pensioners, has a notoriously low uptake. Last year a report by the charity Independent Age stated:

If Pension Credit take-up was lifted from the current uptake of 61% to 100% then almost 450,000 people could be lifted out of poverty, reducing pensioner poverty to its lowest ever level.

And for those who are not of pension age, getting them to do a benefits calculator such as that from Turn2Us might show them ways of maximising their income.

However, for many people, even the maximum level of benefits simply is not enough. The safety net is just not there.

At the other end of the scale, there are households, including mine, getting the Winter Fuel Payment, who really, really don’t need it.

It’s worth noting that in Scotland, it’s not just those of State Pension age who get it, but also some disabled children.

But the point is that it goes to everyone of State Pension age, including those who are comparatively well off. Some of them may want to donate it to help others struggling with fuel costs or to any other charity. Google has all sorts of suggestions on local organisations who do that.

If you have any other suggestions, please put them in the comments.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Brad Barrows 3rd Oct '21 - 11:23am

    Interesting that you have just put your heating on this morning- living in Scotland, I have probably have to have heating on for much longer than in the south of the UK. Perhaps we should be arguing that Winter Fuel Payments should be paid at different rates depending on geographical location so that payments are higher in areas with lower average temperatures?

  • Brad Barrows 3rd Oct ’21 – 11:23am…

    East Anglia has colder winters than the West of Scotland….Aberdeen, Bradford and Leeds tie and the lowest temperature in the UK was in Shropshire…

    The snag with different payments is that one side of a road gets less than the other; not a sensible way to distribute the money..

  • Brad Barrows 3rd Oct '21 - 3:17pm

    Actually, Newport in Shropshire has the record for the lowest temperature in England – not the lowest in the UK.

    But to the bigger point, do you think it is more sensible to pay the same fuel payments to people living in warmer areas than those in colder areas? I don’t.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Oct '21 - 4:05pm

    “But to the bigger point, do you think it is more sensible to pay the same fuel payments to people living in warmer areas than those in colder areas? I don’t.”

    This is a good point (writing as one entitled to it).

    I didn’t see many links for donating it and some were for places in SE England.

    Mightn’t it be best to donate it to charities operating in areas where winter is generally colder?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Oct '21 - 4:38pm

    This is an example of what, on a greater scale, but only just, the party could be doing more, and is no doubt in local areas, to some extent.

    With this, Caron puts Liberal values in to play. Not dependent on govt, for advice, giving it here. The party could learn from this approach.

    We need to be a combination of a think tank and a helping hand.

  • William Wallace 4th Oct '21 - 9:49am

    Well, I got up in Bradford (Saltaire is on the outskirts of Bradford) on Sunday, and put my sweater on. Having been brought up to accept that heating/fires were only lit from October to March, old habits die hard.

  • Helen Dudden 4th Oct '21 - 10:20am

    Those with young babies and children must have heating. Those who are ill and with disabilities feel the cold. My joint pain increases with the cold.
    Key Meters are an expensive way to pay, some will not afford to pay, so go without. This used to be with water bills, cut them off.
    Something needs to happen to get trust built into government, we need changes. I think to have Think Tanks on energy would be a good idea. Would the government charge those in Social Housing for their carbon foot print where properties are badly needing decent heating.

  • Would it be possible, indeed simple, to send ALL who are eligible the WFA a form by email with three options :
    1) receive all £200
    2) donate all £200 to a fund to be distributed for those in greatest need
    3) make partial donation of £200

    This could generate a considerable amount more for those in fuel poverty and would avoid the inevitable watering down that happens when we have actively to choose to re-direct our donations to a charity ( which we would need to research for ourselves). It could be a start for something even more effective, if people see it as a way of donating to a FUEL BANK, rather along the lines of a food-bank.

  • Nonconformistradical 5th Oct '21 - 12:15pm

    @ian huish
    I think it would be simple given that WFA recipients receive a letter each year anyway, but who would decide who should receive donations? Would you trust the government to do that?

  • Jason Connor 5th Oct '21 - 4:31pm

    I don’t think WFPs should be decided on the basis of geography as people feel the cold in different ways and it can affect people with long term health conditions such as arthritis, circulation problems etc and disabilities equally no matter where they live. There is also the Warm Home Discount for those of us on lower incomes and people can apply directly through their energy companies.

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