Gentoo, Karbon Homes and Thirteen have joined forces with 31 other British housing associations, calling for the Government to extend the availability and eligibility of its current energy support schemes and consider what more support could be introduced.
Louise Bassett, Chief Executive Officer at Gentoo Group, said: “The energy crisis has had a huge impact on everyone across the country, and Gentoo is committed to supporting any of our customers who are struggling with energy costs.
“Our Money Matters Team works closely with customers who are struggling financially. In the last year, we have provided financial support towards energy costs to around 800 of our customers. We are asking the Government to provide additional support to anyone who is likely to struggle to heat their homes as we approach the winter months.”
Paul Fiddaman, Chief Executive of Karbon Homes said: “As a housing provider, we see, first-hand, the financial challenges our customers are facing because of the continuing high cost of energy.
“Utility bills are expected to remain high for the foreseeable future and although the Government’s energy support for households over the past year has been very welcome, there are still many households who either fell through the gaps of schemes available or missed out on claiming due to confusing and unclear eligibility.
“We’re calling on the Government to consider all this and ensure that vital financial support is available for the thousands of households who are likely to struggle to heat their homes again this coming winter.”
Single parent Jack, 27, from Durham, is a Karbon customer who was hit hard financially by the increase in energy prices. Even with Government support he was struggling to cover the payments.
“My initial monthly gas and electricity bill jumped from £59 a month to £120 and then quickly jumped again to £400. I was getting worried and was falling behind with my rent payments. Everything was just getting on top of me.
“I did manage to negotiate this down a bit and thanks to Karbon’s Money Matters Team I’m now claiming child benefit that I was entitled to which has helped.
“But it’s still been a real struggle and it’s left my daughter and I with very little to live off, how do they expect people to afford this?”
The call comes in a joint letter sent to two ministers within the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)
Other signatories to the letter include Riverside, The Guiness Partnership, Places for People and members of the Homes for the North group.
In total, the 34 landlords provide homes for more than 1.5 million households across England.
The letter asks for three changes to protect those most in need this winter.
- Provide more targeted support through the Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Bills Discount Scheme for those on low incomes and the 1.7m households living in fuel poverty that are not registered for benefits.
The Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) gave most households an automatic £400 discount on their energy bills over winter but this ended in March 23 and won’t cover people for this winter coming.
A typical household will pay £2,074 a year for gas and electricity from July 23, just £426 a year less than last year after the regulator cut the energy price cap for England, Scotland and Wales. Without the £400 EBSS discount, many customers will end up paying roughly the same.
- Expand eligibility for the Warm Homes Discount
The Warm Homes Discount gives a one-off £150 discount on energy bills over the winter and focusses on pensioners who get pension credit alongside a broader group of people being on low-income households. However, it doesn’t apply to those on heat networks or those without a direct relationship with an electricity supplier this winter.
- Extend the application deadline for Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Funding from 31 May to 31 December 2023.
The Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Funding’s one-off payment of £400 was available for the estimated 900,000 households who did not automatically get help and who have alternative heating sources, but this closed at the end of May 2023 and many eligible households did not apply within the deadline.