The closure of the furlough scheme as winter falls promises significant financial insecurity for those hit hardest by the pandemic. Monarch has outlined a few suggestions for residents on how to resist fuel poverty this winter.
The end of furlough
The pandemic poses a series of challenges to the average worker in the UK. Decreased job security and the current recession resulting from prolonged lockdown conditions among them.
During the UK’s first lockdown, 72% of households saw an increase in energy usage and in bills as a result. In addition, 1 in 3 organisations were forced to furlough staff members – leading to financial concerns just as expenses were climbing.
Luckily, Rishi Sunak’s job retention scheme gave these workers some protection, and provided a buffer for fuel poverty to many.
Of course, the period between March and September includes the warmest months in the UK calendar, meaning fuel poverty posed less of a concern than it does now. However, with a second lockdown looming, the furlough scheme drawing to a close and winter approaching, how can residents now stave off the cold?
Advice to residents
Fortunately there are several support schemes available to individuals vulnerable to fuel poverty, particularly those in low income housing.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off payment intended to help residents pay for heating during the winter season. It is reserved for those born on or before October 1954 and can provide an extra £100-£300 to help pay heating bills. While many who are eligible receive the payment automatically, it is worth checking your eligibility and applying if you can. Check to see if you are eligible here.
Cold Weather Payments
This support scheme is based on temperatures dropping below a certain range for a set period of time. Similar to Winter Fuel, these payments are only eligible for those already part of certain government schemes. These include Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and others. To see if you can benefit visit the Government website.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
Peter Smith of National Energy Action (NEA), has stated that “There is a huge overlap between the people that are living on the lowest incomes and the people that live in the least efficient housing…”.
As such, the Warm Home Discount Scheme will become particularly vital in the months ahead. It allows residents on low income, or part of the Pension Credit scheme, to get £140 discount on their electricity bill. It is important to note, especially for social landlords, that any residents already on the scheme that have switched suppliers will have to reapply. If you think you might be able to use the Warm Home Discount, you can begin the application process online.
How can your landlord help?
Monarch advises you to take the first step in seeking support through these schemes by applying online at the relevant websites. Alongside that, you might benefit from contacting your landlord or housing association to discuss the ways they can help with fuel poverty directly. We discussed a few options available to landlords to support residents at this challenging time here.