/ Home & Energy, Money

How do you solve a problem like an unclaimed pile of cash?

Although the best things in life are free, it’s often the case that they don’t get to the right people. Such is the case with Warm Front and the Warm Home Discount, grants that people often don’t realise they can claim.

One of the things that’s surprised me about the energy market is that there is a lot of help offered that goes unclaimed. Whether it’s cash or discounts or support to install insulation and energy efficiency measures, I often see press releases from energy companies or the government encouraging people to take the help that they’re offering.

What is the Warm Front scheme?

The Warm Front scheme was established to help struggling households improve their heating and insulation. Families on certain benefits can get improvements worth up to £3,000 to install better heating or make their home more energy efficient, meaning they won’t shell out as much on energy bills.

Yesterday Consumer Focus announced that nearly four in ten households are worried about affording their energy bills this winter, yet around £50 million from the Warm Front scheme went unclaimed last year. And it’s not the only scheme that could help people who are struggling.

The Warm Home Discount gives people a discount of £130 on their energy bills if they fall into certain vulnerable groups. And these are by no means the only two – there are many other energy grants that either help people with their bills, or help lower bills by making their homes more energy efficient.

Of course, these schemes sound great to me – with rising energy prices it’s vital that we look after those who will be more vulnerable when winter sets in. But why don’t people know about these discounts?

How do I know if I qualify?

Lots of people will argue that the government and energy companies are simply not good enough at telling people what help is on offer. And I partly agree – although this information is available, it’s perhaps not as visible as it could be.

I think one of the main problems is that people don’t realise that they’re eligible. The criteria for both of these schemes is published on Directgov, but it can be quite complicated – you need to check with your energy supplier as different suppliers have different criteria.

As consumers we need to be as proactive as possible in finding out where we can get help if we need it. But the government and energy suppliers must also improve how they spread the word, particularly when people might not realise they are eligible.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t technically ‘free’ money – we all pay through our energy bills to support these schemes, so it’s important to claim any relief that you are eligible for.

This post is one of my small contributions to spreading the word – do you think you’re eligible for one of these schemes? And what do you think could be done to encourage more people to check whether they qualify?

Comments
Profile photo of william
Member

I know about them and as someone who is unemployed, you’d think I’d be chomping at the bit to claim. Sadly I’m not claiming any benefits so I don’t qualify. Yet just like everyone else, I’m paying for others to be able to claim. So another winter with the thermostat at 15 degrees for me then. Where did I put that extra jumper.

Profile photo of peter_g
Member

I came to the Which? site after receiving a sales promotion letter from a company called Keep Warm Ltd, headed ‘100% free Government insulation grant for every household’. The letter asserted that ‘You don’t need to declare your income or savings’ and ‘regardless of age, savings or other living arrangements you won’t be means tested…’
This doesn’t quite square up with what I read about the government schemes in Which? and official sources, from where I gather there are fairly restrictive qualifying criteria.
Is this company literature misleading – or am I missing something?

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
Member

Hi Peter – that’s a good question, and I’m going to ask my colleagues on the energy team and let you know.

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
Member

OK, a bit more info Peter – if the company is offering insulation then it might well be that they’re not offering it under the Warm Front scheme but that it is working on behalf of one or all of the energy companies – some of the energy companies offer insulation help whether you’re claiming benefits or not. You can see more detail here: http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/energy-grants/free-insulation-deals/

If you want to take up the offer but are unsure then ask the company to clarify exactly what it is they are offering, and what the conditions are, as it’s not immediately clear from the quotes above whether they’re offering grants under Warm Front (in which case you would need to check your eligibility) or simply implementing a scheme that is available to everyone. I do hope this helps.

Profile photo of richard
Member

It is a pity it is not retroactive – I spent a fortune on heating improvements with no offer of refunds years ago. I could do with a little “present”

Member
Jenny says:
19 October 2012

Maybe people aren’t claiming because they would prefer to use contractors they know and trust. I’ve heard a few horror stories; the best one is where the customer asks if the stuff they have stored in their loft will be a problem and is told “don’t worry about it” by the contractor – who then lays the insulation over the top of the stored items!

Member
Peter Brothers says:
30 July 2015

I also received a letter from Keep Warm Ltd. I was a bit sceptical since both my partner and i work full time. However, i applied and had my loft and cavity insulation installed for free. Really impressed.