Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Worthing Lib Dems urge residents to claim free heating help

Worthing Lib Dems urge residents to claim free heating help – as worried energy customers plan to cut back on heating this winter

Worthing Lib Dem Shadow Health and Well-Being Spokesman Michael Donin is urging people in Worthing worried about their energy bills to find out if they are eligible for free heating and insulation improvements from Warm Front.

The call comes as new research from Consumer Focus shows that around six million households across England plan to cut back on heating their home this winter due to worries about affording their energy bills.1 Around 603,000 of these households are in the South East. Yet although so many people are worried and are cutting back, millions of pounds worth of help is being left unclaimed under Warm Front, the Government’s scheme to help the poorest households in England to make their homes warmer and cut their energy bills.

Over 2011-12 the Warm Front scheme was under-spent by over £50 million.2

The number of applications for the scheme fell sharply after being over-subscribed in 2010-11.

Claim rates are again low this year. Across the South East only 1,314 applied to Warm Front between April and July 2012. This is a huge fall from the 12,930 in the whole of the financial year 2010-11.3

The Government is introducing changes today (12 September) that will make more people and families with children, who are living on low incomes, eligible for the scheme. As the eligibility criteria for help under the Warm Front scheme is widening, even if someone has been turned down before they may be able to get help this year.

As this is the last year of Warm Front, Consumer Focus, Citizens Advice, Age UK and National Children’s Bureau, are joining together to promote the scheme to make sure that as many vulnerable people and families as possible get this help. The heating and insulation improvements Warm Front offers could help thousands of households to stay warm and well and save up to £600 off their energy bills each year.

Cllr Michael Donin – Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

‘High energy bills are leaving many people’s finances increasingly stretched. Thousands of vulnerable people and families across Worthing will cut back on their heating this winter – which could put their health at risk. We would urge anyone worried about their bills to contact the local information line 01903 221450 or go online to http/www.westsussexwellbeing.org.uk to find out if they could be entitled to free help which could save them hundreds of pounds off their bills every year.’

Warm Front offersmeasures worth up to £3,500 (£6,000 if you need oil central heating). These measures are free to most people who receive help from the scheme and can make a big difference to their health and financial well-being, in particular in affording other bills and saving for emergencies.

People can find out if they can get free help from Warm Front by calling 0800 316 2805 or by visiting their local Citizens Advice Bureau or Age UK. Further information and an online application form are also available on www.direct.gov.uk  It currently takes on average just eight weeks to install heating or insulation from the day you apply. So if people apply now their home could be warmer at a lower cost, by Christmas.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  • ·        Warm Front is the only UK Government funded scheme to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency. The Warm Front Grant applies in England only.
  • ·        Citizens Advice will be running Big Energy Saving Week (22-27 October 2012) to help people save money on their energy bills.  Big Energy Saving Week is funded by the big six energy companies and involves Energy Saving Trust, consumer groups, the Government and Ofgem.
  1. 1.      Populus interviewed, on behalf of Consumer Focus, a random sample of 1004 GB adults aged 18+ by telephone between 23-28 August 2012, 839 of who were responsible for paying the household energy bill.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
  2. 4 out of 10 households (39%) are worried about affording their energy bills and 70% of these plan to cut back on their heating this winter – this equates to 27% of all households. With approximately 22,600,000 electricity customer households in England, 27% would equate to 6,100,000 households.

Please contact the Consumer Focus press office on 020 7799 8004 for further detail on these figures.

Please see the table below for figures broken down across English regions.

Region Number of households likely to cut back on heating this winter Number of electricity customer households in the region
North West

(figures exclude Merseyside*)

637,000 2,359,391

 

*Merseyside and North Wales 400,100 1,485,153
North East 425,400 1,575,686
Yorks and Humber 610,000 2,258,404
West Midlands 661,000 2,446,951
East Midlands 706,000 2,614,165
East of England 950,000 3,516,859
London (excludes areas covered by the distributor in central southern areas**) 608,000 2,251,892
South East

(excludes areas covered by the distributor in central southern areas**)

603,000 2,233,288
South West

(excludes areas covered by the distributor in central southern areas**)

416,000 1,541,188
Central South of England** (Berks, Hants, Wilts, Dorset, S/W&E Oxfordshire, W Surrey, and SE Gloucs). 792,000 2,934,581

*    The number of energy customer households for Merseyside alone is not available due to the Electricity Distribution network areas.

**  SSE Power Distribution is the electricity distributor in the Central South of England, the region it covers ranges from communities in Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire to towns and cities including Bournemouth, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton, Slough, Swindon and parts of West London.

  1. 2.      See written answer to Parliamentary Question – April 23 2012 Col.620, Warm Front Scheme
  2. 3.      Source: Carillion Energy Services. Across England 11,766 people applied to Warm Front between April and July 2012. This is higher than the 6,574 application received between April – July 2011. But the claim rate in 2012 is still low, considering 113,034 people applied in the whole of the financial year 2010-2011. Please contact the Consumer Focus press office on 020 7799 8004 for further detail on these figures.

    Please see the table below for a breakdown of Warm Front application figures by English region.

Region Number of people who applied to Warm Front in April-July 2012 Number of people who applied to Warm Front between April 2010-March 2011
North West 2,557 33,905
North East 1,191 10,951
Yorks and Humber 1,528 15,420
West Midlands 1,520 16,651
East Midlands 1,002 11,336
East of England 869 10,869
London 792 10,377
South East 1,314 12,930
South West 993 10,645
TOTAL IN ENGLAND 11,766 133,044

Earlier this year Worthing Liberal Democrats signed up to the Save the Children’s “No Child Left in the Cold” campaign to end fuel poverty affecting Britain’s poorest families.

Save the Children warned the vast majority of parents who cannot heat their home last winter were not getting any help from energy suppliers.

According to Save the Children, 800,000 of the poorest families qualify for a £120 discount on fuel bills under the Warm Homes Discount scheme, but a huge funding shortfall means only 25,000 families will get it or just 3% of those eligible.  With at least 82,050 families with children in the South East eligible for the payments, families in Worthing are certain to be affected following the last shocking report on Child Poverty published by the Director of Public Health.

Research shows growing up in cold, damp homes can slow children’s development, worsen long-term problems like asthma and lead to rises in hospital admission rates. Save the Children’s research revealed over half of the low income parents of children under 16 are worried their children’s health will suffer as their house is too cold this winter. Nearly a third surveyed said they won’t be able to afford their winter energy bills and almost half (45%) said they are considering cutting back on food in order to pay their energy bills.

Save the Children campaign information

– Save the Children wants all families eligible for Cold Weather Payments to be paid the Warm Home Discount. Cold Weather payments are made to families on very low incomes (for example those in receipt of Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance) with either young children or children with a disability. These families are considered most at risk of fuel poverty and the effects of the living in a cold home. Other groups, such as older people on low incomes and disabled adults, can also get help through Cold Weather Payments. Cold Weather Payments of £25 are usually paid when there are seven days of continuously cold weather.

– Consumer can sign Save the Children petition calling on the CEOs of the biggest six energy companies to commit the money needed at www.savethechildren.org.uk/coldkids.

– Follow the No Child Cold Left in the Cold campaign on twitter #coldkids.
– The Marmot Review concluded that hospital admission rates, developmental status and asthmatic conditions were increased by growing up in cold damp homes. And more than one in four adolescents living in cold housing are at risk of multiple mental health problems compared to one in twenty adolescents who have always lived in warm housing.
– The average duel fuel bill currently stands at £1,345 (Source: Ofgem) with low income families often paying a lot more because they can’t access the best deals.

– 59% of parents polled are having to cut back elsewhere to afford their energy bills this winter, regardless of their income
– 55% of parents polled are worried about being into pushed into debt if they can’t afford their energy bill.