With winter fast approaching more and more people will switch on their central heating to keep warm and comfortable. Yet it’s estimated that around six million households across the UK will cut back on their heating as they struggle to meet the demands of rising energy costs.
Consumer watchdog Consumer Focus has revealed the results of their latest survey, and the figures make for disturbing if not surprising reading. While almost four out of ten households are concerned about paying their home heating bills this winter, 70% have said they will have to reduce the amount of time they have their heating on. That equates to some six million households.
However, according to consumer groups like Citizens Advice, Age UK and Consumer Focus millions of pounds in grants which are aimed at the country’s poorest households are going unused. Over the last year the scheme was underspent by more than £50 million.
Yes help is available in the shape of Government funded grants like the Warm Front Scheme which were introduced to provide financial assistance for households struggling to pay their fuel bills. Through the warm front, households can apply for a grant to undertake a range of measures to better insulate and heat their homes, whether it be by installing an energy efficient boiler, draught proofing or cavity wall and loft insulation. The ideas is that by carrying out home improvements to make their homes more energy efficient it will lead to a reduction in energy bills.
Unfortunately, although financial help towards making your home warmer and more comfortable is available, to apply you must meet certain criteria. While the scheme is open to both homeowners and private tenants, individuals must be in receipt of specific benefits including Pension Credit (Guaranteed Credit or Savings Credit), Income Support or Income Based Job Seeker’s Allowance. There are other stipulations, so it’s best to take a look at the DirectGov website for more information before you submit an application.
Through Warm Front grants of up to £3,500 (or £6,000 home is not heated by mains gas) are available and as long as the cost of the work involved doesn’t exceed the grant recipients there will be nothing to pay.
“A cold home is a serious health hazard, and older households, who are particularly at risk, can act now, knowing that by Christmas they will be warmer and better prepared for the dangers and worries of a cold winter,” said Mervyn Kohler from Age UK.
To date applications are really low and while Warm Front is still open for business the scheme is set to be phased out once this year’s budget has been drained, meaning time is of the essence if you want to get help before the really cold winter weather sets in.