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Energy Helpline urges Government to support most vulnerable

Just 7,000 qualified for the Cold Weather Payment last winter.

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By Matt Maynard · 12th February 2021

With the announcement of the price cap and energy suppliers able to raise the prices on default tariffs, we’re urging the Government to improve the Cold Weather Payment to better support the most vulnerable.

While figures have revealed that 3.65 million people are eligible for Government aid, only 7,000 met the Cold Weather Payment requirements for financial help last winter. 

For the vulnerable who are eligible for the Cold Weather Payment - such as those on Pension Credit and those on income support - receive £25 toward their energy bill. However, this can only occur if the person experiences temperatures of 0°C and below for seven consecutive days. 

Although it’s rare that places across the UK drop and stay below 0°C for such a sustained period of time according to Met Office average weather data over the past 30 years. This leaves households left unable to qualify for vital help with bills, even when heating is still a must at far milder temperatures.

The call for changes to the Cold Weather Payment scheme follows a recent Freedom of Information request by Energy Helpline, which found that the number of UK consumers in energy debt to their electricity provider hit a five-year high of 770,000 in Q3 of 2020.

Tom Lyon, director of energy at Energy Helpline, said:

 “With last week’s energy price cap rise announcement and ever-increasing financial pressure due to the pandemic, it’s vital that Government schemes are properly helping those most in need.”

“High energy costs disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable, especially during the colder months. While the Cold Weather Payment scheme is designed to help, payments are being made out to less than 1% of those eligible as the current criteria doesn’t align with the normal British climate.”

“By increasing the minimum temperature criteria, for example, the scheme would better reflect the nation’s actual weather, increasing the number of vulnerable people claiming support they need to stay warm. We’d strongly encourage the Government to review the criteria for Cold Weather Payments as part of the wide-ranging reforms of the Energy White Paper.”

“For those not eligible for support, the first step is to check they’re not languishing on expensive tariffs, and to switch to competitive fixed deals that can be 20% cheaper than standard variable plans.”

For more information on eligibility and claiming the Cold Weather Payment, please visit our guide to the Cold Weather Payment. 

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