Free central heating anyone? No?
The poor old Government just can’t get it right can they. They invent the Warm Front scheme to help the poorest families who are in fuel poverty heat their homes and reduce their fuel bills. The scheme is so successful that in 2010/11 the scheme is seriously oversubscribed. Do they take this as sign that people are struggling and need more help or do they slash the funding and tighten the criteria so that fewer people can benefit?
In 2010/11, funding for the Warm Front scheme was £366m - almost three times the £143m funding available for the 2011/12 year, despite the fact that research by Consumer Focus suggests that there are now likely to be almost 7 million households living in fuel poverty in the UK, up from the latest official figures of 5.5 million in 2009.
Now, Consumer Focus and National Energy Action are warning that the scheme is set for up to a £30 million underspend this year. This means many older people, families and people with long-term health problems will miss out on much-needed help. That’s right, in an attempt to reduce the oversubscription, tighter criteria and a lack of Government advertising have contributed to up to 16,000 households missing out on free cash* of up to £3,500 and reducing their energy bills by up to £650 a year.
In April to December 2011 less than 40,000 people applied for a Warm Front grant compared with over 130,000 applications in the same period in 2010.
Consumer Focus and National Energy Action are urging people to put in a claim now before the funding for this year ends on 31 March. Audrey Gallacher, Director of Energy at Consumer Focus, said “the poorest pensioners and families will have been hit particularly hard by high energy prices. Many are living in cold homes, which could put their health at risk. It is very disappointing that people who need Warm Front help to make their homes warmer and cheaper to heat are likely to miss out. “
So can I get some free insulation or heating?
Under the scheme, qualifying households can get improvements worth up to £3,500 ( or £6,000 for oil central heating and other alternative technologies) to include the provision of:
> loft insulation
> cavity wall insulation
> hot water tank insulation
> gas, electric, liquid petroleum gas or oil heating
The tighter criteria mean the scheme is now targeted at people on certain income-related benefits living in properties that are poorly insulated and/or do not have a working central heating system. You must own your home or rent it from a private landlord and the scheme is only available in England.
You will automatically be eligible if you claim Pension Credit or Income related ESA that includes a work-related component. If you claim Income Support, income based JSA or you are in the assessment phase of ESA you will only be eligible if you also have
> a pensioner premium or;
> a disability or severe disability premium, or;
> an award of child tax credit that also includes an element for a disabled, or severely disabled child or young person, or;
> a child under the age of five living with you
You can apply for the scheme online, by post, or by phone on 0800 316 6004.
*to spend on heating and energy efficiency products. Not on fags.