Support for Customers

Support for Customers

So Energy

As we’ve explained in our recent blog energy prices are set to rise substantially this winter. We know that a lot of people are going to struggle to make ends meet. Help is available but we understand that getting that help can often be complicated and confusing – given the different types of help available from various organisations all featuring different sets of criteria. In this blog, we will set out your options available to you in a way that, hopefully, makes things a bit clearer. Much of the content of this blog is drawn from these much longer advice documents available from Ofgem which are worth a read if you’d like to understand more detail on anything we set out below.

We’ve split this blog into a few different themes:

·       Financial support that will be provided without you needing to apply.

·       Financial support that’s available, but you need to apply for it to get it.

·       Keeping your home warm for less money.

·       Support if you’re struggling to pay your bills.

Financial support that will be provided without you needing to apply

In this section we set out the financial help that is being provided to customers without them needing to apply. Most of the support set out here will be provided if you meet certain criteria that have been determined by the government – if you don’t meet the criteria, you won’t get the support.

·       Energy Bills Support Scheme

All customers who get their electricity from So Energy will receive this government rebate. If you’re a gas-only customer of So Energy, you’ll be issued the rebate if you have a different supplier of your electricity. For more detail on this, you can read our recent blog post here.

·       Warm Home Discount (WHD) (England and Wales)

The WHD is a £150 credit for qualifying customers’ energy accounts, provided each winter. From this year, customers in England and Wales no longer need to apply the WHD. Instead, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will provide us with a list of customers we must credit. We no longer have any discretion in who gets the payment.

The situation is different in Scotland where the arrangements are similar to what we had last year – some customers will get the credit automatically, while others can still apply for the WHD for this winter. See the next section, below.

·       Winter Fuel Payment (if you’ve received it before)

The Winter Fuel Payment is a £250-£600 top-up on qualifying customers’ welfare benefits. If you’ve applied for and received the Winter Fuel Payment in the past, you normally don’t need to apply for it again. If you haven’t previously received it, please see the next section.

·       Cold Weather Payment (England and Wales)

Customers on certain welfare benefits will automatically receive an additional £25 a week top-up to their welfare benefits if the average temperature falls below zero.

·       Council Tax Rebate (Band A-D)

For customers who are in council tax bands A-D, you should automatically receive a £150 rebate on your council tax bill. Your local council will contact you with the details (if it hasn’t done so already). If you’re unsure what band you’re in, check your council tax bill or enter your postcode here. (People in higher tax bands can apply for the rebate. See the next section, below.)

·       Child Winter Heating Assistance

Child Winter Heating Assistance is a benefit from the Scottish Government to help disabled children, young people and their families with increased heating costs over winter. It’s paid automatically once a year to eligible persons by the government. The payment for winter 2022-2023 is £214.10.

Financial support that’s available but you need to apply for it to get it:

·       Warm Home Discount (WHD) (Scotland)

Unlike in England and Wales, the WHD arrangements in Scotland are similar to what was in place last year. Some customers will automatically receive the £150 credit towards their energy bills while others will need to apply for it. We will be contacting customers in Scotland that we believe could be eligible to apply for the payment in the coming weeks.

·       Winter Fuel Payment (first time applicants)

The Winter Fuel Payment is a £250-£600 top-up on qualifying customers’ welfare benefits. It is provided to most people born before 25/09/1956. Find out if you’re eligible here. You can claim here if you live in the UK and here in certain European countries.

·       Council Tax Rebate (Band E-H)

As we set out above, customers in council tax bands A-D will receive the £150 rebate on their council tax automatically while customers in bands E-H will need to meet certain criteria and apply with their local council. If you’re unsure which band bracket you fall under, you can check your council tax bill or enter your postcode here.

Customers in the following circumstances should apply for this discount:

-          If you are a student (unless you live in a house with multiple occupation for council tax purposes) 

-          If you are under 18 

-          If you have a severe mental impairment 

-          If you have an annex occupied by a dependent relative

In order to receive the rebate, you should contact your local council - details on how to contact them can be found here.

·       Household Support Fund

The Government has provided extra money to local councils to help those struggling with costs and fill gaps in support this winter. You’ll need to contact your local council to get help. Details on how to contact them can be found here.

·       Home Heating Support Fund (Scotland)

The Home Heating Support Fund is available to customers in Scotland to support you if you are struggling with your energy costs. Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.

·       Warmer Home Scotland

The Scottish Government’s Warmer Homes Scotland programme offers funding and support to households struggling to stay warm and keep on top of energy bills. You can find out if you’re eligable and how to apply here.

·       Section 12 Payments (Scotland)

Section 12 or ‘Section Payments’ can be paid to a vulnerable person in Scotland aged 18 or over, and can cover emergencies, debts as well as preventative help to avoid a person’s needs becoming greater. They are available from your local council. Details on how to contact them can be found here.

·       Winter Fuel Support Scheme (Wales)

This is a £200 payment for customers in Wales who are in receipt of certain benefits. The scheme will open for applications on 26 September and is to be claimed through your local council. Details on how to contact them can be found here.

·       Discretionary Assistance Fund (Wales)

You may be eligible for a grant from this fund if you are in hardship and need help to pay for essential costs. Further information can be found here.

·       Support if you use an oxygen concentrator

If you use an oxygen concentrator at home, you can claim money back for the electricity it uses. The company that supplies your concentrator can make payments to your bank account. Contact them to find out how to claim:

-          Dolby Vivisol Home Respiratory Care on freephone 0800 917 9840

-          BOC Home Oxygen Service on freephone 0800 136 6030

-          Air Liquide Healthcare on freephone 0800 781 9939

-          Baywater Healthcare on freephone 0800 373 580

 

Keeping your home warm for less money

Before we go any further, it’s important to highlight that the NHS recommends a minimum level of warmth for households in order to stay healthy - you can find out more about this here. These levels are dependent on each person’s circumstances, but most households can stay healthy at a temperature of 18c – which is a fair bit cooler than most of us are used to. For every degree that a typical household turns down their heating by, they could be expected to save £190 a year. We’d also recommend using a thermometer to check how warm your house is. They’re available on the high street for around a fiver if you shop around and it doesn’t need to be a specialised piece of equipment.

It is also important to note that the Household Support Fund has been set up to help those struggling to keep their homes warm while also paying for utilities, food and clothing. If you are struggling to access support from this or any other Government or Council-run scheme, that you believe you are entitled to, please go directly to your local council, your local  councillor or your MP who will be able to point you in the right direction.

For more independent advice on keeping your home warm this winter, we recommend visiting:

-          Simple Energy Advice: A government endorsed website that, unsurprisingly, provides straightforward energy advice.

-          Energy Savings Trust: A charity that provides energy efficiency advice and support.

There are also a number of sources of free energy efficiency support and home improvements for qualifying households. To receive these, you must apply and  meet the qualifying criteria (which generally centre around having a low income and a poorly insulated home).

·       Energy Company Obligation (ECO)

ECO is an obligation placed on suppliers to improve the energy efficiency of qualifying households free of charge. To qualify, you need to be in a home with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D or below, be in social housing or on certain benefits while living in your own home or private rental accommodation. You can find out more about eligibility and how to apply here.

·       Groundwork

Groundwork is an organisation that provides practical advice on energy efficiency and fuel poverty in some areas of the country. Their ‘Green Doctor’ service offers trained staff to provide advice on causes of heat loss in your home, tackling damp or mould, tips for saving energy and switching utility supplier. They can also signpost you to further support.

Green Doctor is available nationwide but So Energy is also running a trial in the Greater Manchester area whereby we fund a house-call to assess the home of our more vulnerable customers. If you live in Greater Manchester and are in a vulnerable situation, please reach out to us by emailing help@so.energy and reference this blog post.

·       Home Energy Scotland

Home Energy Scotland helps people in Scotland create warmer homes, reduce their energy bills, and lower their carbon footprint. They provide advice on funding available from the Scottish government for home improvement. Details on eligibility and how to apply can be found here.

·       Nest (Wales)

If you live in Wales, Nest offers a range of free, impartial advice and, if you are eligible, a package of free home energy efficiency improvements such as a new boiler, central heating, and insulation.

You can find out more information and see you’re eligible to apply here.

·       Warmer Homes (London)

If you live in London, grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 for energy efficiency measures are available to low-income homeowners and private tenants.

Find out more information and understand if you qualify here.

·       Sustainable Warmth Grant

You may be able to apply to your local council for the government’s Sustainable Warmth Grant. This grant can be used to deliver a wide range of insulation measures and/or renewable heating systems to reduce the amount of energy used in your home. Find out more information on what your local council offers here.

Support if you are struggling to pay the bills

We understand that given rising energy bills, customers may still struggle to pay bills. If you find yourself getting into difficulty, our advice is to talk to someone about it. The sooner you start engaging with the problem, the sooner you can start taking steps to get things under control.

We recognise that you may find it difficult to speak with us on this topic, and although we are happy to do so, we can also work with any of the organisations we’ve listed below on a plan that works for you. What’s more, we know that if you’re having issues with your energy bill, it’s likely that you’re having issues with your water and broadband payments too. These organisations can help provide independent help and advice with all your monthly outgoings:

-          Moneyhelper is a government-backed service offering you tools and advice to help manage your expenditure.

-          StepChange and National Debtline are charities offering free and impartial debt advice. You can also reach National Debtline by calling freephone 0808 808 4000.

We also encourage you to get in touch with us directly as we will look to take into account changes in your circumstances and situation, and offer help where we can. If you are struggling with debt, we can work with you to agree on a payment plan you can afford based on what is called your ‘ability to pay’. This includes reviewing a plan you have agreed before.

You can ask for:

-          a review of your payments and debt repayments

-          payment breaks or reductions (if suitable to your circumstances)

-          more time to pay.

Take care and be safe.