The UK Government has requested that energy suppliers provide all customers who are eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme with a £120 discount.
The move comes just days after the scheme was criticised for affording suppliers the opportunity to limit the number of discounts paid to qualifying customers (namely low-income families and pensioners). Essentially, the Warm Home Discount Scheme has been available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Government wants to ensure this is not the case.
Energy Minister Greg Barker said: “Responsible energy companies like British Gas have said very clearly that all of their customers will be guaranteed a payment if they qualify – and I want to see the other energy companies rising to the challenge in the same way”. Mr Barker added that he would “absolutely” press energy suppliers to make the payments without discrimination.
Some of the leading energy suppliers in the UK were quick to respond to Mr Barker’s comments, however, few made clear that they would make payments under the scheme to all qualifying customers.
A spokesperson for Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) said: “We can’t make that commitment now. We have signed up to what the Government has already asked us to do and expect to support 35K-40K [customers] and have set no cap”. In addition to its obligations under the Warm Home Discount Scheme, SSE supports 210,000 low-income customers by providing a 10-30 per cent discount through its Energy Plus Care Scheme.
A spokesperson for E.ON, meanwhile, noted: “We can’t make any open-ended promise, but our scheme remains open and we are encouraging people to apply. There is still money in the pot”.
An nPower spokesperson added: “At the moment, we are honouring all eligible requests and hope to carry on doing that for the foreseeable future. We are looking at the situation to gauge the uptake”.
The cost of electricity and gas central heating is causing serious concern among low and middle-income households throughout the UK. Whilst energy bills are set to rise further over the coming months, any effort to support the least privileged of customers ought to be commended.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme was launched by the Government in April 2011, and offers assistance to vulnerable and low-income households struggling to pay for energy costs. The four year scheme will run until March 2015 and aims to help around 2 million households every year.
To find out more about how the scheme can help you if you are on a pension, go to www.direct.gov.uk