Worked for PCAB for 5 years managing the specialist services team Also used to deliver training to advisers across D&C 70% advisers unaware of support for clients in FP
A household can be in fuel poverty whether or not they actually spend this amount. It’s the amount they would need to spend to achieve that level of warmth that matters. Many people have to choose between heating their homes or spending money on other essentials such as food. Heat or Eat The fact that they do not spend that money on fuel does not mean they are not in fuel poverty. Whilst an estimated 4 million households fit the definition of living in ‘fuel poverty’, millions more struggle week after week to keep their homes warm. Whilst the 10% calculation is useful, people spending less may still be struggling and could benefit from energy advice or assistance. People living on a low or irregular income, or with higher than average heating needs struggle most whenever outside temperatures decrease or energy prices increase. The government has a commitment to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016
The chart below shows the number of fuel poor (and non fuel poor) households by household composition in England in 2008. It shows that the largest number of fuel poor households fall into the single person over the age of 60 category, with over one third of all fuel poor households in England falling into this category. Often these households have lower than average incomes (see chart 19), and so are at a higher risk of fuel poverty. Of all single person households below the age of 60, around one quarter are fuel poor, and this comprises about one fifth of all fuel poor households. The lowest rate of fuel poverty is found amongst couples under the age of 60 with no children, where around 6 per cent of households are fuel poor. Fuel poverty in context The term ‘fuel poverty’ is generally used by academics, politicians, campaigners and those involved with policy making. It is not how people struggling with their fuel bills describe themselves, so bear it in mind when talking to clients about energy issues. The word ‘poverty’ can carry a stigma. Affordable warmth A more positive term for fuel poverty is 'affordable warmth' - many local authorities have 'affordable warmth' schemes. This is a state where households are able to achieve a healthy warm home whilst not going without other essentials in order to pay for energy.
Low income – people on a low income have less available money for everything – including energy High fuel costs – when energy costs increase, a higher percentage of whatever income a household has will go towards fuel bills Energy inefficient homes – if homes are not energy efficient, then whatever heat is produced leaves the property very quickly, meaning heating has to be on for longer and more often in order for the home to stay warm Under occupation – when children grow up and move out of a large family home, the parent(s) are left with empty rooms to heat. Why do some people have to pay more for energy? type of fuel may be more expensive having a very expensive heating system – such as electric heaters instead of gas central heating paying off an energy debt at the same time as paying for current energy usage living in a large house which is expensive to heat effectively lack of insulation or double glazing feeling the cold more due to illness or limited mobility young children or elderly relatives in the household, who need the house to be warmer to maintain a healthy body temperature
Case study of the elderly sisters Cold Cold homes are linked with poor health. The cold can aggravate respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular conditions and arthritic conditions. Prolonged cold conditions can also impair mental function, increase the risk of trips and accidents and eventually cause hypothermia. Cold living conditions can also worsen mental health conditions and contribute to social isolation. In Britain, a cold spell during a mild winter is followed by : two days later by a sudden rise in heart attacks by up to a third, five days later by a rise in the number of strokes, twelve days later by a rise in respiratory illness Damp If a home is not heated regularly or not heated sufficiently, condensation can accumulate and leave rooms damp. Damp living conditions can aggravate conditions such as asthma and leave people more susceptible to skin allergies and repeated colds. A study in 2001 published in the medical journal 'thorax' showed that people living in damp properties were more likely to need antibiotics for conditions such as tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia. Damp conditions can also aggravate rheumatism and arthritis as well as depression and other mental health conditions. Further impact of fuel poverty Being unable to manage energy costs has many impacts and reaches into every bit of a person’s life. Aside from the inevitable stress of worrying about money and the physical and mental stress of not being warm, fuel poverty affects people’s ability to put money aside to pay other bills. This can mean they are unable to keep themselves and their clothes clean, to have their children or grandchildren to stay with them, to feed themselves adequately, to socialise, to watch television or to invite friends over.
Self disconnection The amount most people pay for their gas and electricity is based on how much their meter shows that they have used. Some people have credit meters – where the energy is used, then a bill is generated and that bill is then paid. Some people have pre-payment meters – where the energy must be paid for before it is used. Of the estimated 8.8 million pre-payment meter customers in Great Britain, up to 1.4 million of these disconnect themselves from their electricity or gas supply at least once a year. If the meter runs out, and they do not have money to top up the card or key, or the ability to get to a top up point, they go without heating and lighting once the ‘emergency’ credit has run out.This is known as ‘self disconnection’ – as the customer has effectively disconnected themselves until they are able to get more credit. Whilst there are safeguards in place to make sure this doesn’t happen to vulnerable customers on credit meters,* –pre-payment meter customers are not protected from running out of energy. In addition to this, once they put in more credit, some of that money will be used up to replace the emergency credit and any standing charges that have been accumulated during the period that the client was disconnected for.
There is (unfortunately) no universal definition, used by all of the energy companies that describes a vulnerable customer. However, the Energy Retail Association (the trade body representing the major energy suppliers) have made the following statement: ‘ A customer is vulnerable if, for reasons of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity, they are unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household.’
Help for vulnerable clients is available. Suppliers have a commitment to support vulnerable clients. They do this through the PRS Easy to apply – can usually be done over the phone. Entitles the client to additional free services
Free gas appliance safety check - Free annual check for owner occupiers on a means-tested benefit who live alone or with other adults all of whom also qualify for the free service or who live with others at least one of whom is aged under 5. If the gas supply must be turned off for safety reasons, and all adults in the home are eligible for the Priority Service Register, alternative cooking and heating facilities will be provided. Relocation of meter for improved access - If it is difficult to read or access the electricity or gas meter, energy companies will consider moving the meter, free of charge, to a more convenient position. Password protection scheme - Energy companies and customers can agree a personal password for use by company staff when they visit the home. In this way, customers will be protected from bogus callers pretending to be representatives Quarterly meter readings - If customers have difficulty in reading their meter or are worried about inaccurate bills, their supplier can arrange for someone to call every quarter to read the meter. Bill nominee scheme - On request, bills can be sent to the address of a friend, relative or carer so that they can help to arrange payment. Advance notice if electricity supply is to be interrupted - Companies should recognise the possible increased dependence on energy services by vulnerable consumers e.g. those reliant on electricity to operate medical equipment, and make special efforts to provide these consumers with advance warning of supply interruptions. Services for customers with impaired hearing or vision - Companies can provide Braille and talking bills and must also have available suitable facilities to handle complaints and enquiries from customers who are visually or hearing impaired. In addition, suppliers are also prohibited from disconnecting any premises occupied by a customer eligible for the PSR
Advisers number to contact supplier – useful. Case study of client who was asked to pay £250 per month for her arrears on Income Support A client who has fuel arrears should contact their supplier to make arrangements for payment to prevent action being taken to disconnect the supply. The client will still have to pay for their current consumption, as well as paying something towards the arrears. A supplier must consider the most suitable method of payment for the client and take account of the client’s present circumstances and ability to pay. A client's ability to pay may depend on one or more of the following factors The client needs to make an offer to pay the arrears at a realistic level in relation to their income and outgoings. If the repayment plan breaks down, a revised plan is less likely to be accepted by the supplier and the client may be forced to accept a prepayment meter. (That is unless there has been a change of circumstances or the client is particularly vulnerable and would be unable to use a prepayment meter). The client should be prepared to provide information about their circumstances. If the supplier insists that the arrears are paid back at a rate that does not take account of the client's ability to pay, the supplier may be in breach of its licence conditions and the client should complain to the supplier.
The Energy Retail Association is an association of the main gas and electricity suppliers in Great Britain. Under the Energy Retail Association Safety Net policy, no vulnerable customer should be disconnected from their electricity or gas supply at any time of the year. The Energy Retail Association considers a client to be vulnerable if they is unable to safeguard their personal welfare or the personal welfare of other members of the household because of age, health, disability or severe financial insecurity. Under any circumstances, a property should be left as secure as it was when the warrant officer arrived. Before the actual disconnection takes place, a supplier should have made every attempt to contact the customer to assess whether that client is vulnerable and therefore protected from disconnection or to see whether a manageable payment arrangement can be set up. This should involve telephone calls, visits to the property on more than one occasion, paperwork being sent or left at the property asking the occupier to contact the supplier and if a disconnection can be prevented through either a payment plan being arranged or proof of vulnerability then a disconnection should not take place. In general, a client risks disconnection if they do not pay their bill within 28 days. In practice, if the client is able to pay for their current consumption and pay towards the arrears or accepts a prepayment meter, they are unlikely to be disconnected. A supplier must give at least 7 days notice in writing of a proposed disconnection.
Please note: The social tariffs below are offered thanks to a voluntary agreement. This is being replaced by a compulsory Warm Home Discount which will be phased in over the next four years. During this time some of the existing social tariffs will be phased out. If you think a client qualifies for a social tariff contact, then either they or you (with their authority) can contact the energy supplier for more details. Scottish Power are the only supplier that have closed their voluntary social tariff for new customers These reduced cost schemes are now being phased out and will be replaced this year by the mandatory Warm Home Discount (WHD) scheme. The WHD core group will be identified through data matching of consumers in receipt of Pension Credit (PC) from the DWP. However customers not in receipt of PC, but in fuel poverty (10% of household income spent on energy) may still be able to get a discounted tariff. Abbreviations - Income Support (IS), Housing Benefit (HB), Council tax benefit (CTB), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance (AA).
Most suppliers are still offering their social tariff whilst they are setting up their WHD’s If in doubt use adviser number to contact supplier Or visit the consumer focus website – they regularly update the information on social tariffs
Update (from Advisernet) - 1st April 2011 On 1 April 2011, the Warm Home Discount (WHD), which replaces existing voluntary arrangements (including social tariffs) with energy suppliers, comes into effect. All suppliers with more than 250,000 domestic customers will belong to the WHD Scheme. Smaller suppliers can join the Scheme on a voluntary basis. Suppliers belonging to the Scheme must provide an annual discount on electricity bills to all customers in a 'Core Group' and to some customers in a 'Broader Group'. The Core Group for 2011/2012 will be households receiving the guarantee element of pension credit and they will receive an annual discount of £120. The Department for Work and Pensions will try to ensure that all eligible households automatically receive the discount but there may be some eligible households who are not identified and who will need to request a discount. Suppliers have a discretion over which customers fall into the 'Broader Group', but they are likely to be customers who receive certain social security benefits. Further details will be available in the next few months. There will be a cap on the number of customers helped under this part of the WHD Scheme. Over the next four years suppliers will reduce their spending on social tariffs and rebate schemes and replace this with spending on the WHD Scheme. Customers who now receive a social tariff will be transferred to the new Scheme. However, some customers who now qualify for a social tariff may not qualify for help under the WHD Scheme and some customers may find that the WHD is less than the discount they now receive under a social tariff. Some transitional support may be available to these customers. All energy suppliers have to offer their most vulnerable customers cheaper tariffs. These are called social tariffs and offer cheaper energy deals and extra free services to certain customers. Clients may qualify for a social tariff if they are over 60, on means tested benefits or are on a low income. Below is a description of the range of social products currently available.
Core group rebate : The bulk of the spend would be targeted at an increasing sub set of Pension Credit customers who would receive an electricity rebate of £120 in years 1 and 2, £135 in Year 3 and £140 in Year 4 delivered by using data sharing in an extension of the Energy Rebate Scheme recently delivered. By 2014/15, 1.2 million customers would receive this Broader Group rebate : an identical rebate wouldbe paid by suppliers to customers most likely to be living in fuel poverty, with the discretion down to suppliers to develop eligibility criteria and approaches to verifying these and getting these ‘schemes’ approved by Ofgem. This would not be supported by data sharing and the onus would be on suppliers to administer eligibility processes or develop referral partnerships with partners who work with vulnerable households. By 2014/15, over 850,000 customers could receive this rebate. Legacy spend : To provide a smooth transition from the Voluntary Agreement, suppliers will be able to continue providing discounted and social tariffs to vulnerable consumers. The amount of spending by suppliers on these tariffs will decrease over the course of the scheme, as the amount of spending on rebates for the Core and Broader Groups increases. Industry Initiatives: Across the industry, suppliers could continue to give limited support to other initiatives such as Trust Funds, Charitable partnerships, energy efficiency schemes outside regulated schemes and energy training and advice, as well as the ERA funded Home Heat Helpline, if they choose to continue with this When it takes effect in April, the new program will force home heating energy companies to give automatic discounts to retirees on low fixed incomes. The program seeks to help approximately two million households every year for the next four years by dispensing 1.1 billion pounds (about $1.78 billion) to such energy companies. While the energy companies will be required to give rebates to retirees on pensions, they’ll also be allowed to decide which other vulnerable low-income households should receive heating assistance. Because it will be up to these companies’ individual discretion, citizens are concerned that some of the UK’s neediest households may not be granted access to the discount. Spokespersons from Consumer Focus, Save the Children, and other public health and safety advocacy organizations have requested that government officials consider extending the automatic discount to low-income families with children and terminally ill or disabled members. However, the program remains unchanged so far.
Online application – apparently you can save progress now and come back to them. Search for Charis Grants on the internet. Takes roughly 20 – 30 minutes to complete Scored on FS and client circs. FS to balance- will score highly Explain client situation and the difference the application will make. Any other charity apps submitted? Can the client afford ongoing consumption? Substantial difference to the client? Npower approach – freeze debt for 6 months if client pays ongoing they will clear the arrears Some utility companies operate trust funds which can be applied to once a client has completed an income and expenditure sheet and received debt advice. The trust funds will not approve an application unless this has been done already. The general principle regarding the provision of such funds is that the client should be able to sustain themselves once current debts are clear, and this includes being able to manage ongoing fuel consumption. Current British Gas/EDF Energy gas/electricity arrears British Gas/EDF Energy/npower debts from old properties providing that applicants are still British Gas/EDF Energy/npower customers Debt that has been loaded onto a pre-payment meter Small funds for extreme hardship cases: to help with bankruptcy petitions, essential household bills and goods etc
Warm Front Given previous criticism of the poor match between fuel poverty and eligibility for Warm Front, allied to the fact that the budget is to be reduced by some 70%, there was strong justification for a review of eligibility criteria. The new eligibility criteria will combine extreme financial disadvantage, vulnerability and poor or modest standards of energy efficiency. Eligible households must: The new eligibility criteria will reduce the number of qualifying households from 4.3 million households to 1.5 million households but, since the scheme will only assist 57,000 households in 2011-2012 and 50,000 the year after (compared with 213,000 in 2009-2010), this is perhaps less significant than it might have been. Certainly demand will continue to outstrip supply and, unless there is a major change in Government thinking, Warm Front will terminate in 2013. The intention here is that, post-2012, the new Energy Company Obligation will be the main source of funding for heating and insulation measures for fuel-poor households. A further disappointing decision will see the end of Benefit Entitlement Checks under Warm Front. The recently published Warm Front Annual Report noted that, in those cases where benefit entitlement was identified, average annual income was increased by £1,850. The Government justifies this decision on the grounds that priority must be given to practical measures that result in the greatest improvement to thermal efficiency. In addition, the next phase of the scheme will not offer the £300 Heating Rebate Voucher or compact fluorescent bulbs. Warm Front is once again opening for applications from today (14 April) for the new priority group – i.e. those eligible for cold weather payments and with homes rated SAP 55 or less. The warm Front scheme is only for consumers in England (separate schemes run in Scotland and Wales). Eligibility will be through initial phone contact (0800 316 2805). Telephone advisers will ask questions about the home that will indicate if the home is above SAP 55, and then go through the survey.
Feed in tariffs (FITs) u nder this scheme energy suppliers have to (compulsory for big six suppliers) make regular payments to householders and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources such as solar electricity panels(PV) or wind turbines. CESP targets households across Great Britain, in areas of low income, to improve energy efficiency standards, and reduce fuel bills. There are 4,500 areas eligible for CESP. CESP is funded by an obligation on energy suppliers and electricity generators. It is expected to deliver up to £350m of efficiency measures. A list of eligible areas is contained:CESP promotes a “whole house” approach i.e. a package of energy efficiency measures best suited to the individual property. The programme is delivered through the development of community-based partnerships between Local Authorities (LAs), community groups and energy companies, via a house-by-house, street-by-street approach. This partnership working allows CESP to be implemented in a way that is best suited to individual areas and coordinated with other local and national initiatives. Around 100 schemes are expected, benefiting around 90,000 homes and saving nearly 2.9m tonnes of CO2 emissions. CESP is expected to deliver annual average fuel bill savings for those households involved of up to £300. For more information about this scheme, and a list of areas involved: The Home Heat Helpline. 0800 33 66 99 . The Home Heat Helpline is a free, not for profit phone line set up to help British energy customers who are struggling to pay their fuel bill and keep warm. Home Heat Helpline advisers give information on the grants, benefits and payment schemes that clients may be entitled to as well as basic steps that can be taken to save money on heating bills by making a home more energy efficient. They will then put the client straight through to the specialist team at the relevant energy supplier, or another advice or grant giving agency.
This graph shows the % difference of what heat is lost in homes for insulated against unisulated Loft insulation works like a blanket and stops rising heat escaping through the roof Cavity wall insulation is injected into the cavity between the outer and inner walls from the outside of the home. Big savings – average household saves £230 per year
Supposedly keeps home cooler in the summer too
Target to install 2016 Signal back to supplier every 15 minutes Better tariffs available Clients can closely monitor consumption
Clients we help do not normally have lots of spare cash to invest in energy efficiency measures such as solar panels etc. The message to give to clients is there are small changes they can make that don’t cost them anything/or very little and WILL save them money. Let’s see how many we can come up with
If everyone in the UK switched off unused appliances it would save £900 million a year – according to the government. Leaving appliances plugged in and switched on at the socket means they’re still using energy £140 million a year is wasted through leaving lights on in unused rooms Turn thermostat down by 1 degree could save 10% off bills If every household installed just one energy saving light bulb, the electricity saved in a year could power the Blackpool Illuminations for nearly 900 years Save £300 per year with loft and cavity wall Shower uses 50% less water on average Monitoring consumption helps people to become more aware of energy usage Tuck curtains in lets the heat into the room rather than out the window
Appliance has to work harder and use more energy when left open for long periods of time Phones charged for roughly 3 hours Water tank jacket has a payback period of 6 months. Emelent of a kettle – costs more for wider kettles than thin kettles
Get clients onto the PSR – they’ll receive lots of free services Negotiate with supplier. Use the adviser number. Can client pay ongoing consumption and something towards their arrears? The right payment method will help the client to budget better – if quarterly billed and on IS it is unlikely to work! Identify financial assistance available: ST, WHD, Trust Funds, Warm Front Get clients to make small changes that will make a difference to their bills – a lot of money can be saved!
Combating Fuel Poverty Marie Spiers Plymouth Citizens Advice Bureau
Impact of Fuel Poverty Households that are living in, or at risk of fuel poverty, risk mental and physical ill health as a result of cold, damp living conditions Source: Consumer Focus
Impact of FP - self disconnection Of the 8.8 million pre-payment meter customers in Great Britain, up to 1.4 million of these disconnect themselves from their supply at least once a year Source: Consumer Focus
Impact of FP - vulnerable clients Of the four million households currently living in fuel poverty in the UK, up to 3 million are classed as ‘vulnerable’ Source: Consumer Focus
Eligibility: pensionable age, or disability, or chronic illness
Easy to set up
Priority Services Register Password protection scheme Moving prepayment meters Meter reading Bill nominee scheme Special help if a gas supply is interrupted Gas safety check Advance notice if an electricity supply has to be interrupted Services for consumers with visual or hearing impairments
Updates are available on the Consumer Focus website www. consumerfocus .org.uk
Financial assistance – WHD Year Who ’ s eligible Annual Discount Number of customers helped 2011/2012 Households in receipt of guarantee element of Pension Credit £ 120 807,000 2012/2013 PC Guarantee and over 80 ’ s and in receipt of savings element of pension credit £ 130 1,097,000 2013/2014 PC guarantee and over 75 ’ s and in receipt of guarantee and savings element of pension credit £ 135 1,179,000 2014/2015 All households in receipt of guarantee and savings element of pension credit £ 140 1,355,000
May reduce noise from outside and increase resistance to fire
It’s very cost effective
Energy Efficiency – smart meters End to estimated bills Accurate real-time information on energy use in the home Two-way communication New tariffs will be available that measure consumption over time periods Capability to sell energy back to the supplier
Energy Efficiency – energy savings tips Loft and cavity wall insulation Turn off the lights Use energy saving light bulbs Take a shower instead of a bath Don’t leave appliances on standby Turn thermostat down Tuck curtains behind the radiators Only use the amount of water needed in the kettle Monitor gas and electricity consumption
Energy Efficiency – energy savings tips Turn radiators down lower in unoccupied rooms Try to do a full load of washing Draught proof windows/ doors Only charge mobile phones for recommended time Don’t leave fridge/freezer doors open Defrost fridge/freezer regularly Insulate the water tank by using a jacket Use a toaster rather than a grill to make toast Use correct size pan on the hob & use a lid
Some facts… Over half of the people who are living in fuel poverty are over the age of 60 Over 34,000 extra deaths occur during winter in the UK An average household would save £230 per annum if they had loft and cavity wall insulation The average fuel bill is £1300 per annum