Yorkshire families missing out on energy bill rebate

David Ayre, Shameem Akhtar & Tom Bell.

David Ayre, Shameem Akhtar & Tom Bell.

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Families in Yorkshire could be missing out on a significant amount of money off their energy bills.

Parents are being urged to check if they qualify for the government’s Warm Home Discount scheme, worth £140 per year to those who have children under five and are on low incomes.

The advice has been issued following a debt advice project led by The Children’s Society and Northern Gas Networks.

The Warm and Informed project, set up to tackle fuel poverty, helped 147 families across Bradford write off £75,000 of energy debt over 10 months. It was launched after research found that thousands of children in Yorkshire were from families who have suffered from energy debt.

Sam Royston, policy director at The Children’s Society, said: “The fact that over the course of this short trial we have been able to help lift £75,000 of energy debt from the shoulders of struggling families shows how badly this sort of advice is needed.

“Unfortunately we found that knowledge of the Warm Home Discount among families is very low, which means many are likely to be missing out on this vital support. We are calling on the government to make sure that the family of every child living in poverty in Yorkshire automatically receives this rebate on their energy bill.”

The initiative helps vulnerable families through a range of measures including energy debt and benefits advice, home assessments, free gas connections for off-grid households, and community workshops where parents learnt about energy efficiency and the risks of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Almost 250 people attended the 18 fuel poverty workshops, with 70 per cent saying they felt more confident about managing finances as a result.

One mum who received support from the project was a recovering drug addict with a six-year-old girl. The woman and her partner, who had also been an addict, were still struggling with their debts, despite being clean. The woman had more than £1,000 of energy debt, no money for the meter and was threatened with eviction. She saw an advisor, who worked with her over several weeks and applied for a grant from her energy company, which resulted in all her debt being wiped out.

Coun Richard Dunbar, Bradford Council’s fuel poverty champion, said: “With such a wide range of providers out there, many of us don’t know where to start in getting the best deal on our energy. With almost 150 households helped through this scheme alone, hard-pressed local families have been helped to save more than £75,000. This is a huge sum and really demonstrates the importance of supporting families to access the support that’s available to them.”

WARM HOME DICOUNT SCHEME

The scheme offers a rebate of £140, which comes directly off your electricity bill.

Families could be eligible if they receive income support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA, universal credit or earn less than £16,190. They must have parental responsibility for a child aged five or under and receive either child tax credit, a range of disability premiums, DLA, PIP, long term incapacity benefit or various pensioner premiums. Contact for energy company for more details.

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