UPDATE: You can now get £140 off your electricity bill through the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Click here for the current information on eligibility and claiming this discount.
Will you be paid automatically?
The biggest group – called the ‘core group’ – are more than a million older people who get pension credit and fulfil other conditions. The ones who qualify fall into two categories depending on their age on July 20, 2013. For couples it is the age of the older partner which counts.
Those under 75 who get the guarantee part of pension credit but not the savings credit. That means their income before the pension credit will normally be no more than £115.30 if single or £183.90 if a couple. Some with a disability may get more but the key test is they get guarantee credit and NOT savings credit.
Those aged 75 or more can have a higher income and get the discount. Their income before pension credit will be less than £145.40 a week (single) or £222.05 (couple). Some with disabilities can qualify with a higher income. As long as they get some guarantee credit they will qualify even if they get savings credit as well.
People in the core group should not have to claim. Suppliers will use information from the Department for Work and Pensions to pay them automatically. However, some who qualify may not be identified. They should contact their energy supplier. To qualify pension credit must have been paid on July 20, 2013. Not all suppliers pay the discount – details below.
Read our tips for keeping warm in winter.
Will you have to claim the discount?
The broader group who qualify are low income households where there is a young child or someone with a disability. With some suppliers pensioners not in the core group can qualify as part of the broader group. People in this broader group have to make a claim.
Unfortunately the energy suppliers all have different rules for qualifying. So the safest thing is to contact your supplier to see if you qualify.
If your income is low and there are young or disabled children or disabled adults in the household or you are over pension age and do not qualify automatically, you should enquire.
Claims should be in by the end of 2013 – though some suppliers may accept payments later. Payments will be made by the end of March 2014. Each supplier has a limited fund for this group so the sooner you apply the more likely you are to get the money.
People in the broader group should not switch supplier until the discount is made.
Are you claiming all the benefits you're entitled to? Find out.
How do you receive the discount?
The discount is normally taken off your electricity bill. Core group customers who have moved supplier since July 20, 2013 will be sent a cheque by their old supplier. All payments should be made by the end of March 2014. People on prepayment meters will have the credit added to their key. Some will be sent a voucher to take to the Post Office. Other suppliers will update the key automatically.
Does it matter which supplier you use?
The big six electricity suppliers are legally obliged to offer the warm home discount. They are British Gas (including Sainsbury’s), EDF Energy, E.on, npower, Scottish Power and SSE (that includes Atlantic Energy, Scottish Hydro, Southern Electric, SSE and Swalec). SSE also operates the scheme for Ebico, Equipower, and M&S Energy. First Utility and Utility Warehouse are also in the scheme. If you get your electricity from another small supplier you will not get the warm home discount.
British Gas is adding £60 to the Warm Home Discount for dual fuel customers or £20 for electricity only customers. It is paying £40 for gas only customers who were on the Essentials social tariff. Scottish Power is sending an extra £50 to the 140,000 customers who got the warm home discount last winter as a punishment by the regulator Ofgem for mis-selling its services.
Read about more discounts for the over-50s.
www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme/eligibility lists the suppliers involved with links to their schemes.
The Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99 can give advice about the Warm Home Discount and other schemes to help with heating bills.
* Read Paul Lewis's money articles every month in Saga Magazine.