UK Government is providing cost-of-living support for next winter
Get help with fuel bills: The UK Government is providing cost-of-living support and can help you get ready for next winter
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Over the past few months, we’ve all had to dig deeper into our pockets as the cost of living has pushed up prices of so many essentials.
And, as it continues to bite, it’s more important than ever to make sure that we are claiming all the financial support the Government is offering that we’re eligible for, and that we’re taking steps to help ourselves.
There’s been unprecedented support for households from the Government since last autumn.
Most households have received a £400 discount automatically on their energy bills between October 2022 and March this year. Those on prepayment meters received vouchers. And the Energy Price Guarantee, which limits the amount people pay per unit of gas and electricity, has been extended at the same level until the end of June.
If you’re feeling the pinch, one of the Government’s over 40 schemes could help out with your monthly costs
All told, the Government has covered around half of a typical household’s energy bill this winter, saving around £1,500 by the end of June.
Financial support is continuing, so make sure that you are claiming all the support available. Those on means-tested benefits will automatically receive an extra £900 in cost-of-living payments, split into three instalments over the next year.
An extra £150 will be paid this summer to disabled people who are eligible, and also to pensioners who usually receive Winter Fuel Payments in November.
And there are more than 40 other schemes to help people with the cost of living.
To find out what support you might be entitled to, visit gov.uk/helpforhouseholds
‘I USE THE MICROWAVE INSTEAD OF THE OVEN’
‘We got a bill for £190 for our gas and £95 for electricity. Normally it was £90 for both’: Kirsty Devine and husband Darren were shocked at their soaring bills
Kirsty Devine, 37, lives in Halifax with her husband Darren, a 42-year-old gas engineer, and son Jack, 15.
She says: ‘In November last year we were staring to panic – we were on a variable rate rather than a fixed tariff, and although we had decent credit on account, it was getting eaten up at a rate of knots.
‘Then, at the beginning of December, we got a bill for £190 for our gas and £95 for electricity. Normally it was £90 for both.
‘We were already being careful by that point – my husband had recently retrained as a gas engineer and knew about reducing the flow temperature in the boiler and making sure radiators were working efficiently. We’d even insulated under the kitchen cupboards as we knew they were a cold spot.
‘We had payments from the Government over the winter which were very helpful but even so we got out the hot-water bottles and blankets for the evenings. We closed the curtains as soon as it was dusk to keep the heat in.
‘Our energy company launched “energy saving sessions”, which offered money back if you didn’t use much energy at busy times. So we changed the times we were cooking and turned off all but one light in the kitchen. We got £17 back, which isn’t to be sniffed at.
Little changes making a big difference: The couple’s most recent gas bill was almost half what it was in December
‘Around January, I started using the gas hob and microwave to cook, because an app we’d downloaded told us how much the oven was costing – it was frightening. My app told me that for an hour, it’s about £1, yet using the microwave to heat up soup costs just 7p. It all adds up.
‘Now we wash up by hand because the dishwasher costs about 9p per cycle – probably more as that’s just the electricity and it uses water heated by the gas boiler.
‘We fill up the washing machine before using it – we used to do half loads, but once you realise that each costs you £1.50, you fill it up. We wash everything but towels and beddings at 30°C, too.
‘Instead of using the tumble dryer, we bought an extra airer as the dryer costs so much.
‘Now the slightly lower bills are coming in – our gas bill last month was £100 which is nearly half of what it was in December – so there is hope! But our electricity usage isn’t coming down, maybe because we weren’t particularly high users.
‘We now pay £166 a month to our energy company. Short of turning the heating off completely – which won’t be good for the house or our health – there’s nothing more we can do.’
‘THE ELECTRIC BLANKET IS A GAME-CHANGER’
After her electricity bill more than tripled, Gill Erskine set about trying to save energy
Gill Erskine lives in Berkshire with her husband Andrew and two children, aged four and six.
She says: ‘Last September, we were paying £70 a month for the electricity in our two-bedroom bungalow and now it’s £220. We don’t have gas; we live in the countryside and use oil.
‘It was when we got our first big bill that we started trying to save energy. We got in touch with the Energy Saving Trust, which sent someone round – I think we paid a donation – to make a draught assessment. He found the source of major draughts and filled them in. I also made a heavy curtain for the back patio door to trap in the heat.
‘We got some money from the Government, which was a nice surprise, and we also turned on the hot water for just two hours in the morning and evening and only heated the living room; I don’t like heat in bedrooms, so that was fine and the kids didn’t notice.
‘We bought thermal clothing, and wore it all day and night – even sleeping in it under our pyjamas. And I was given an electric blanket for Christmas – that was a game-changer and took the edge off things.
‘All this has cut down our oil usage – we filled up in October (filling up from empty costs around £900) and haven’t had to again since. We’d usually do it twice in the winter.’
HAVE YOU MISSED OUT ON GOVERNMENT HELP?
Around 900,000 households in the UK aren’t on a domestic electricity supply, and therefore haven’t automatically received financial help from the Government.
These include partially or wholly self-funded care-home residents, park home residents and residents in housing associations.
However, they are still entitled to help through the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding scheme.
To receive the money, householders must apply online by filling out a short application form on gov.uk (which can be found by typing ‘Energy bills alternative fund’ into the website’s search bar).
Once it’s been approved, the money will be paid into the applicant’s bank account.
Those without online access can call 0808 175 3287 to be guided through the process. But be quick – the scheme closes on May 31.
If you’re on a prepayment meter, you should have received vouchers for the £400 discount you’re entitled to on your energy bill. Be aware these need to be used by June 30 this year, so make sure you redeem them soon.
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR WINTER?
Planning ahead means you can avoid nasty surprises with energy saving actions
It might not be summer quite yet, but there’s no better time to take steps to reduce your energy bills before winter comes. And there are plenty of free and low-cost things you can do to help lower the bills.
- Get your boiler serviced. It’s far easier to find an engineer in summer than winter, and a well-maintained boiler isn’t just safer, it’s more cost-efficient too.
- Reduce your boiler flow temperature. Turning down the control on your boiler to 60°C can save you up to £100 a year. It won’t make your home cooler, but you may notice it takes a little longer to warm up.
- Bleed your radiators. Releasing trapped air helps improve efficiency and reduces energy consumption. Turn down radiators in rooms you don’t use – it could save you up to £70 a year.
- Find and fix any draughts around the house. Draught excluders are very effective when laid at the bottom of doors, and there are special tapes and sheets that can help stop wind whistling through window frames.
- Install an energy-efficient shower head. Your water company may supply them for free, otherwise they’re easy to buy at home improvement shops. Getting one fitted could save you £55 a year. You could also consider taking a four-minute shower which could save you £90 a year.
- Turn electrical appliances off at the wall. Flip off the power switch when things such as televisions, computers and games consoles aren’t in use: it could lessen your energy bill by up to £70 a year.
- Wash clothes at a lower temperature. Turning that dial down to 30°C could save you up to £40 a year and still clean your wardrobe just as well.
- Dry clothes on the line. Tumble dryers are one of the most energy-intensive appliances in the home, so drying clothes outside or on an airer could lead to a £70 drop in your bills every year.
- Switch to energy saving light bulbs. Standard and incandescent bulbs are very inefficient but others, such as LEDs, can save you money.
Find more detail on all of the energy saving actions at gov.uk/helpforhouseholds
This article is part of a paid-for partnership with HM Government.
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