Heating cuts planned by households this winter, even though millions of pounds in energy efficiency grants lie unclaimed
Six million households plan to cut back on heating this winter, despite millions of pounds of government help to improve energy efficiency for those on low incomes remaining unclaimed, consumer groups said.
Nearly four out of 10 households (39%) are worried about affording their energy bills this winter, and 70% of those, or six million households across England, plan to cut back on heating, a survey for the watchdog Consumer Focus has found.
But millions of pounds available through the government’s Warm Front scheme. to help the poorest households in England with insulation and cutting bills, is being left unclaimed, according to Consumer Focus, Citizens Advice, Age UK and the National Children’s Bureau.
Warm Front can provide up to £3,500 (or £6,000 where oil central heating or other alternative technologies are recommended) for improvements to households on certain income-related benefits that are poorly insulated or which do not have a working central heating system. Grants are available for loft insulation, draught proofing, cavity wall insulation, hot water tank insulation, gas, electric, liquid petroleum gas or oil heating and converting your solid-fuel open fire to a glass-fronted fire.
Recipients do not have to pay anything so long as the work does not cost more than the grant available, but the scheme was still underspent by more than £50 million over the last year.
Mervyn Kohler, a spokesman for Age UK, said: “Warm Front is being phased out: when this year’s budget is exhausted, that’s it. But so far applications are really low and the scheme may gift an underspend back to the Treasury.
“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,” he says.
Rachel Monaghan, senior development officer of health and wellbeing at the National Children’s Bureau, said: “Some families with children in the UK will have to make the choice whether to heat or eat this winter. We know many families are struggling to cope with rising fuel bills and are having to cut back on other essentials such as food. We also know that growing up in a cold and damp home can have a real effect on children’s health, learning and enjoyment of life.
“The Warm Front scheme can help cut bills and keep families warm and healthy, so we urge anyone worried about their fuel bills to find out as soon as they can if they are eligible to receive support.”
Citizens Advice said it could help with applications for a Warm Front grant.
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