Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Beat the fuel bill blues this winter
Millions of pounds to help with energy bills is going unclaimed and yet more than 600,000 households in Yorkshire and Humberside are expected to cut back on home heating this winter.
The Government’s Warm Front scheme, aimed at helping the UK’s poorest households to make their homes warmer and cut energy bills, is underspent by more than £50m.
From today, the Government is widening eligibility to include working families with children over five years old and individuals over 60 with a disability on Working Tax Credit.
Nationally, Citizens Advice is running Big Energy Saving Week (October 22 to 27) –- a national campaign to help people cut fuel bills and get financial support they are entitled to.
The drive comes on the back of the success of the first Big Energy Week in January this year which gave advice to more than 75,000 people.
Bradford & Airedale Citizens Advice Bureau operates an Energy Advice Service, which aims to provide advice and assistance to those struggling with gas and electricity bills.
Claire Walker, generalist services manager, said: “Help available includes free grants through applications to The British Gas Energy Trust to help with debts, boiler repair or purchase of cookers, fridges or other white goods for the home.
“At CAB, we know that many people struggle to heat their homes and keep on top of fuel bills. We encourage people to seek advice so they can access the help that is available.”
Last year, 21 independent advice groups in Bradford helped to distribute £30,000 from Bradford Council to help people having problems with fuel bills.
“It went in no time. We could have given away £3m. The Council and the advice sector work closely together on this issue,” said David Wilford, of the Holme Christian Community advice organisation.
He said up to 30 people a month seek advice from the HCC on gas and electricity payment problems, principally because they don’t know their rights.
According to independent energy watchdog Consumer Focus, fewer than one in four consumers (39 per cent) in Yorkshire and Humberside are aware of key rights with energy suppliers.
This year, every household in the country will receive a booklet with impartial advice on energy rights. The booklet will accompany energy bills, but it is written by Consumer Focus. It includes these points:
- You don’t have to wait in all day for a meter reader or engineer. If your energy firm needs to visit your home, you are entitled to a two-hour appointment slot and compensation if they miss it: £20 for gas or £22 for electricity-related, or £42 if it is both.
- Your supplier can’t backdate charges for any more than a year if they have made a mistake and underestimated your bills. Giving regular meter readings to your energy firm can help ensure you always pay the right amount.
- Your energy firm must give you 30 days notice of any price rise... Also, they can’t charge fixed-term deal customers an exit fee if they switch within this time.
- Consumers can claim compensation for power-cuts from their energy distributor, not the supplier: £54 for an outage of 18 hours: £27 for each additional 12 hours without power; or £54 for four or more power-cuts in a year lasting three hours-plus. The distributor’s name is on the bottom of your bill.
- People of pensionable age, disabled or chronically sick can get extra help through their supplier’s Priority Services Register. This includes free quarterly meter readings, bills in large print or braille or bills sent to a friend or relative, and a free annual gas safety check for those getting means-tested benefits.
- You are entitled to £250 compensation if you are switched to an energy firm without your permission. You are also entitled to compensation if you can prove you were deliberately misled by a sales person.
- If you get into debt, your supplier must agree repayments affordable for you, they cannot set the amount. Some suppliers also have trust funds which can help to settle debts or other essential costs.
- Suppliers offer free insulation to those on low incomes, which on average cuts £120 a year off energy bills. Many offer cash incentives to low income households that take up free insulation.
For the Citizens Advice scheme, contact the Energy Advice Service on (01274) 758042 or 01535-612433, or e-mail energyadvice@bradfordand airedalecab.org.uk. The Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99) provides free, independent advice to those worried about their bills on everything including rebates, grants and benefits might and energy efficiency.