As the clocks turn back and the weather begins to turn colder, a campaign has been launched to raise awareness of support available to vulnerable households in County Durham who might be worrying about paying heating bills this winter.
Latest statistics* reveal 9.8% (22919 households) in County Durham are ‘fuel poor’, meaning their energy costs are above average and their remaining disposable income after paying their bills puts them below the poverty line.
The Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to have a growing impact on fuel poverty, with over 314,000 redundancies made in the three months leading up to September and increasing concerns about the effects on the UK economy.
In response OFTEC, the trade association for liquid fuels, has launched a campaign offering support and advice on how vulnerable households can reduce their fuel costs by making full use of the energy payment and saving schemes available. These include:
Winter Fuel Payment
- Most people over 65 are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment to help with heating costs. This is a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 paid to you between November and December. If it’s the first year you are eligible, contact the Winter Fuel Payment helpline to ensure you don’t miss out on 0800 731 0160.
Cold Weather Payment
- If you receive Pension Credit, or certain other benefits, you may be able to claim a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature is at 0°C (32°F) or below for seven days in a row.
Warm Home Discount
- You may be entitled to a Warm Home Discount on your electricity bill if you receive Pension Credit or if you are on a low income. This is a one-off discount usually made between September and March.
Government Green Home Grants
- If you are a homeowner or residential landlord, you can apply for a Green Homes Grant voucher to put towards installing energy efficient improvements. This includes up to £5,000 to pay for two thirds of improvement, or £10,000 to cover 100% of the improvement if a member of your household is receiving certain benefits.
Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) Scheme
- The ECO scheme could help you with the cost of improving your home’s energy efficiency and reduce your fuel bills if you are on a low income and receive certain means-tested benefits, such as Pension Credit, or live in a home that would be costly and difficult to make more efficient.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC said: “Sadly, we know that the impact of Covid-19 means many more households in County Durham will struggle to affordably heat their homes this winter. Which is why this year, even more than most, it is crucial for homeowners to be aware of the support available to help them keep warm and well.
“Fortunately for the 16000 oil heated households in County Durham, oil remains the cheapest major fuel on the market, over £240 cheaper than mains gas, over £950 less than LPG and over £1,400 lower than electric storage heaters when comparing typical annual running costs for an average three bedroom house*”
“Alongside making the most of energy saving schemes, I’d also encourage households to follow OFTEC on Twitter and Facebook for more tips on saving money on heating bills this winter.”
To find out more about OFTECs ‘Keep warm this winter’ guidance and advice, visit www.oftec.org