Cost of living support schemes you need to know about

Back in April 2022, the price cap for household energy bills increased by 54%, making the annual increases in both gas and electricity prices the largest ever recorded since the 1970s.

With the cost of food, fuel and goods on the rise, consumers are looking for ways to help reduce their energy wastage and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

One of these is taking advantage of the home improvement grants and household support schemes that the government has to offer.

Energy Company Obligation Scheme (ECO)

ECO is a government scheme in which energy suppliers help fund the installation of energy efficient measures in homes. This is primarily aimed towards low income households to reduce the cost of heating and avoid them falling into fuel poverty.

These measures could include upgrading parts of a household’s heating system, such as installing cavity wall or loft insulation.

To see if you are eligible for the current scheme, ECO4, you must receive one of the following benefits and meet the relevant income requirements:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Pension Savings Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Benefit
  • Housing Benefit

If you are a homeowner, your property must have an energy efficiency rating of D, E, F and G to be eligible. If you rent from a landlord, the house must have an energy efficiency of E, F or G and you must have permission from the owner of the property to do the work.

If you live in social housing, you must have permission from the social housing provider or management company.

If you are not on benefits, you might be eligible for support under ‘ECO4 Flexibility’. This is where local authorities refer households for funding that it deems to be living in fuel poverty and at risk to the effects of living in a cold home.

Also, energy providers will have their own criteria for applying for the ECO.

If you are still unsure, there are websites that have interactive forms which can help determine your eligibility based on your current living situation.

Read more:

How to apply?

If you meet all of the requirements, the next step is to check to see if your energy provider is part of the ECO scheme and contact them for ECO support . You can do this by visiting the Ofgem website.

You can also contact your local council and visit their website and see if they are taking part in the ECO scheme.

Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) is a government scheme with the aim of helping households reduce their carbon emissions by encouraging them to install low carbon heating systems. Consumers are able to apply for vouchers to help pay the costs of installation. These include:

  • Air source heat pumps – £5,000 off cost and installation
  • Ground source heat pumps – £6,000 off cost and installation
  • Biomass boilers – £5,000 off cost and installation

Household owners who live in England or Wales are eligible for this scheme, along with private landlords and second-home owners. Social housing, new build properties and properties that have already had funding for heat or biomass boilers are not eligible.

On the installation of biomass boilers under this scheme, eligibility requirements consist of:

  • The property being in a rural area
  • The property not being a self build
  • The property is not connected to the gas grid
  • An emission certificate showing that polluting emissions are kept to a minimum

For property requirements, homes need to have an installation capacity up to 45kwth. They also need an up to date energy performance certificate (EPC), with no outstanding recommendations for loft or cavity wall insulation.

How to apply?

Firstly you need to find an MCS certified installer. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is an is an industry-led quality assurance scheme.

Once you have found an installer, they will review your request and property to determine if you are eligible for the grant.

They will provide you with a quote and once this has been agreed by both parties, the installer will apply for the grant. If successful, ofgem will contact you and you should confirm that the installer is acting on your behalf.

Read more:

Warm Home Discount Scheme

The Warm Home Discount Scheme allows consumers to get a £150 discount off on their energy bill. This is aimed towards people on low income and are at risk of falling into fuel poverty.

In order to be eligible, your energy supplier must be participating in the scheme (you can check on the ofgem website) and you must claim the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.

If you do not claim the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, you still might be eligible by being part of the ‘broader group’. The criteria is as follows:

  • You are on low income
  • Your energy supplier is part of the scheme
  • You claim certain benefits

The majority of households that are eligible for the Warm Home Discount are automatically enrolled. You should receive a letter from the government in November and December but if not, you may need to contact a government helpline to confirm your eligibility.

If you have been told you are eligible but not received a rebate by March 2023, contact your energy supplier.

Energy Bills Support Scheme

In response to the cost of living crisis, the government will be rolling out the Energy Bills Support Scheme which comes into effect in October 2022.

The Energy Bills Support Scheme offers a £400 non-repayable discount to eligible households to help with energy bills. This £11.7 billion scheme will be delivered to consumers over winter 2022 to 2023. All households with domestic electricity connection are eligible for the discounts.

No form of application or action is needed as consumers are entered into the scheme automatically.

You won’t receive a lump sum of £400 from October but instead you’ll be paid 6 monthly instalments. The method of payment will vary depending on how you pay for your electricity:

  • Direct debit: The discount will be automatically applied to your monthly debit. If the discount hasn’t been applied, you will receive the payment as a refund.
  • Standard credit customers and payment card customers: The discount is automatically applied as credit to standard credit customers in the first week of each month.
  • Smart prepayment customers: Credit will be added automatically to your Pay-As-You-Go meter
  • Prepayment customers: You will receive a voucher from the Post Office to top up at the start of each month or you will be sent a Special Action Message (SAMs) via SMS, email or post.

Winter Fuel Payment

People that were born on or before 25th September 1956 could get between £250 and £600 to help pay for heating bills during the winter months.

In most cases, you will be automatically enrolled and will receive payments in November and December. You will also be eligible automatically if you:

  • Get the State Pension
  • Get another social security benefit (not including Adult Disability Payment from the Scottish Government, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit)

Depending on your circumstances during the qualifying week, the amount of money you can receive will vary. As a result of the increased costs of living, payments have increased compared to previous years.

Born between 26th September 1942 and 25th September 1956 Born on or before 25th September 1942
You qualify and live alone (or none of the people you live with qualifies) £500 £600
You qualify and live with someone under 80 who also qualifies £250 £350
You qualify and live with someone 80 or over who also qualifies £250 £300
You qualify, live in care home and do not get certain benefits £250 £300

However you won’t be able to qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment scheme if you:

  • Are in prison for the whole week from 19th to 25th September
  • Lived in a care home the whole time from 27th June to the 25th September 2022
  • If you need permission to enter the UK and your granted leave states you cannot claim public funds

As you are automatically signed up to the Winter Fuel Payment, you usually don’t need to claim Winter Fuel Payment. However, if you haven’t received a Winter Fuel Payment before, you only need to claim if you do not get the State Pension and the only benefit(s) you get are either the:

  • Adult Disability Payment
  • The Scottish Government
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction
  • Child Benefit
  • Universal Credit

You can also claim the Winter Fuel Payment if you live in Switzerland or an EEA country.

To claim the Winter Fuel Payment, you can apply via phone or by post.

Winter Fuel Payment Helpline Telephone: 0800 731 0160.

For postage, fill in the necessary details using the Winter Fuel Payment claim form.

Cost of living payment

As part of the Help for Households scheme, the government is offering payment packages to support households that are claiming benefits through winter months.

Most of the households that are claiming benefits will be automatically eligible but the delivery of payment may vary.

If you are on a low income and receive the following:

  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

You can get a £650 cost of living payment that is paid in two payments of £326 and £324, one in the summer (14th and 31st July) and the other in Autumn. This payment will only apply to the household meaning you can’t receive payment per individual. So as a couple, you will only get one £650 payment.

For those who are entitled to Universal Credit, in order to be eligible for both parts of the payment you would have needed to have started claiming universal credit by 26th April 2022. However, if you have claimed after this date or not yet claimed, you can still be eligible for the second £324 payment. This qualifying period is yet to be announced.

For people receiving tax credits, your annual award must be at least £26. The first payment should be made around Autumn and the second payment period yet to be announced but it will likely be around winter time.

If your earnings reduced your universal credit to £0 during the qualifying period (also known as ‘nil award’), you will not be entitled to the cost of living payment.

Disability Cost of Living Payment

You may be eligible for a £150 cost of living payment if you are receiving the following:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance for adults
  • Disability Living Allowance for children
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Adult Disability Payment (in Scotland)
  • Child Disability Payment (in Scotland)
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement

To receive the Disability Cost of Living Payment, you must be claiming one of the qualifying benefits from the 25th May 2022. If you are eligible, you will receive this payment from September 2022.

For households that are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment for winter 2022 to 2023, you will get an extra £300 paid with your normal payment from November 2022.