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Are you living in fuel poverty?

Can you manage your fuel bills?

Gas and electric


Come and see us at 148 Deansgate, Bolton, no appointment necessary.

Or contact us on 07843392235 or drop us an email on boltoncommunityforum@gmail.com



Bolton Community Forum can offer advice and information to people experiencing difficulties with their fuel bills.

Listed below are some of the services we offer:

  • Have you thought about switching your fuel supplier? Bolton Community Forum can offer independent advice that could save you up to £300 per year.
  • You may be entitled to a £140 warm front grant, come and talk to us and see how we can help.
  • Are your meter readings accurate? Come and talk to us and see how we can help.
  • Advice and guidance on keeping your home warm this winter.
  • We do home visits and offer one to one support to vulnerable households.
  • We hold surgeries in community centers around Bolton and it’s surrounding areas.
gas

Fuel Poverty/Energy Efficiency

Getting debt written off by energy suppliers – A mini guide

Energy Company Trust Funds

The Big 6 energy companies have pots of money, trust funds, which you can apply to help you pay off your debt. Some are specific to just customers of that company, but some funds can be applied to from customers of any supplier.

A rough guide to the trust funds:

  • British Gas Energy Trust– applications can be made by customers of any supplier who are facing hardship, particularly in relation to fuel debt.
    01733 421060 / bget@charisgrants.com
  • EDF Energy Trust– any EDF customer can apply for grant to clear debt and meet essential household costs. 01733 421060 / edfet@charisgrants.com
  • Eon – can assist low income households with heating, insulation measures and energy efficient applicances. 0800 051 1480/ eonenergy.com/caringenergy
  • Npower – First Step Fund; Health Through Warmth (for all customers, not just npower customers); Macmillan Fuel Management Programme Energy Fund. Assistance for families and individuals at risk of cold-related illness or for households with someone living with cancer. Can make energy efficiency measures or grant assistance to pay bill.
    01733 421060 / npowerenergytrust.org.uk
  • SSE – apply for energy efficient appliances for fuel poor households.

The energy companies need evidence and a well filled-out application so get help with it if you can. They also like you to have got financial advice from others before coming to them, but they can also offer or point you towards this advice themselves. For more information on how they work and what they want to see, see here: http://z2k.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/3_Charis-Grants_understanding-energy-trust-funds.pdf, and your own supplier’s website. If you get this help, you then need to keep up with paying for what you use as you go along, or you could get landed with the old debt again.
To be successful with your applications you must:

– demonstrate a “good” reason why debt arose- eg lost job, someone got ill and
–that you are trying to meet your current energy bills

We can help with you application but you must sign and send off yourself.

Fuel Debt

Government help schemes

WARM HOMES DISCOUNT SCHEME

The Warm Homes Discount Scheme helps some pensioners with their energy bills. In winter 2014/2015, the scheme will give those who qualify a £140 discount from their energy bills.

The scheme applies to pensioners who receive pension credit, which is an income-related benefit to top up a state pension. Pension credit is made up of two separate parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. You might receive just one of these or both. If you’re not sure whether you receive pension credit or which parts you receive, or if you do not already receive it but want to find out if you are entitled, call the pension credit helpline on 0800 99 1234.

If you are on a low income, or on benefits you may also be entitled to the Discount. Contact your supplier to find out.

If you are under 80 years old, You are entitled to this discount if :

a) You receive the Guarantee Credit aspect of Pension Credit
AND
b) You DO NOT receive the Savings Credit aspect of Pension credit.
AND
c) Your name, or your partner’s name is on your electricity bill.
AND
d) You get your electricity from one of the following energy suppliers: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.

If you are over 80 years old, you are entitled to this discount if:

a) You receive the Guarantee Credit aspect of Pension Credit (if you are over 80, you can receive the discount even if you receive Savings Credit as well)
AND
b) Your name, or your partner’s name is on your electricity bill.
AND
c) You get your electricity from one of the following energy suppliers: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.

If you meet the conditions above you do not need to do anything now to get your discount in 2012/2013. The Government will write to all those potentially eligible for the discount in autumn 2012.

NB Several energy suppliers offer Warm Homes Discounts to a broader range of people beyond pensioners. To find out whether you could qualify, contact your energy supplier.

COLD WEATHER PAYMENTS
If there is a period of very cold weather in your area you may be able to get a Cold Weather Payment. A period of very cold weather is classed as when the temperature is an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days in a row. The value of the payment is £25 for each seven consecutive days of cold weather.

You don’t need to apply for a cold weather payment – if you’re entitled, you will automatically receive this.

To receive a payment, you have to receive certain benefiits:

– If you get Pension Credit, you will usually receive a Cold Weather payment.

– If you receive Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will get Cold Weather Payments if you also have any of the following:
a) a disability or pensioner premium included in your benefit
b) a child who is disabled
c) Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
d) a child under five living with you

– If you receive income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will usually receive Cold Weather Payments if you also have any of the following:
a) the support or work-related component of ESA
b) a severe or enhanced disability premium included in your benefit
c) a pensioner premium included in you rbenefit
d) a child who is disabled
e) Child Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element
f) A child under five living you you

If you think you are entitled to a Cold Weather Payment but have not received one within 14 working days of a very cold period, then contact your local pension centre or Jobcentre Plus.

Fuel poverty


WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS
The Winter Fuel Payment is paid to all households with an occupant who was born on or before 5 July 1951. The amount a household is entitled to depends upon your personal situation, but is between £100 and £300 per winter. The payment is paid regardless of your income and you can get it if you’re still working or claiming a benefit.

Your household will receive this payment in winter 2012/2013 if you (or someone else living in your house) were born on or before 5 July 1951 and NONE of the following applies for the week of 17-23 September 2012:

– you were in hospital for more than 52 weeks previously, getting free treatment as an inpatient
– you were in custody serving a court sentence
– you were subject to immigration control and did not qualify for help from the Department for Work and Pensions
– you lived in a care home, an independent hospital or Ilford Park Polish Resettlement Home (and had done so for the previous 12 weeks or more) and you were on Pension Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance
– you move to another European Economic Area country or Switzerland and didn’t qualify before you moved.

If you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment and receive any of the following, then you do not need to claim and will be paid automatically:

State Pension
Employment and Support Allowance
Income Support
Jobseeker’s Allowance
Pension Credit
Attendance Allowance
Bereavement Benefit
Carer’s Allowance
Disability Living Allowance
Graduated Retirement Benefit
Incapacity Benefit
Industrial Injuries Benefits
Severe Disablement Allowance
War Pension
Widow’s Benefit

If you do not receive any of the above benefits but you are eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment, then you need to claim. You can do this by downloading a claim form online or by requesting a claim form by calling 0845 9 15 15. If you need to claim, make sure that you have sent your claim form in to arrive on or before September 21 to get your payment before Christmas.

USEFUL CONTACTS

Government advice: http://www.gov.uk

Home Heat Helpline: useful advice service for people struggling with fuel bills. Find this online at http://www.homeheathelpline.org.uk or ring their free advice line on 0800 33 66 99.

Citizens’ Advice Bureau: find advice online and search for your local advice centre at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call 08444 111 444.

Energy Supplier helplines:
British Gas: 0800 072 8629
EDF: 0800 096 9966
EON: 0345 301 4875
RWEnpower: 0800 073 3000
Scottish and Southern Electricity: 0845 026 0658
Scottish Power: 0845 026 0658

Fuel debt


On benefits, low income and thinking about switching? Read this first:

The government tells us that switching is the solution to not being able to afford our bills. Whilst you might save money from switching, this is not always the case, no matter what the price comparison site says. This is because some of the Big Six energy companies give out the Warm Home Discount which in 2014-2015 , worth £140 off your bills, for people who are on a low income and/or on benefits.

Pensioners on pension credit will automatically qualify for the Discount, but if you are on Disability Living Allowance or Job Seekers Allowance or on a low income you may qualify too. The rules for who can get this Discount are different with every Big Six supplier so you have to check. If you have been receiving the Discount with your current supplier but won’t qualify with your new supplier, it may well not be worth switching at all (unless you could make savings worth more than £140).

Two key pieces of advice:

1)Remember that price comparison sites don’t factor in Warm Homes Discount at all. So, before switching call the new company and see if you would qualify for the Warm Home Discount with them. All pensioners on pension credit will get the discount (£140 per year for 2014-2015) but under some energy companies, but not all, those on eg JSA, DLA etc can get this discount.

If you got the discount with your old provider don’t leave move to another provider without checking you will get it with them also.

2) Be careful about what time of year you switch
If you are entitled to receive the Warm Home Discount but not automatically (only those on Pension Credit receive it automatically) in 2014-2015 you must have been with your energy company from 21st July 2013-21st March 2014. If you have switched supplier during this time you will lose any right you had to the Warm Home Discount,

**If you could receive the discount, the safest time to switch is May, June and July.**

Some tips on how to bring down your fuel bills

1. Switch supplier
Consider switching your energy supplier, or switching your tariff from your current supplier. An easy way to do this is through consumer rights advocates uswitch. You can find the cheapest deal through uswitch online at uswitch.com or by telephone on 0808 178 3492.

2. Warm Homes Discount
This is a discount of £135 off your annual energy bill. People who get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit are the core group that is eligible, receiving the discount from the government automatically. But the energy suppliers also have broader schemes for other people, each with slightly different criteria. Contact your supplier to find out whether you qualify.

3. Insulation
• Insulating your home is an important way to save money on your bills. Several of the energy companies offer free insulation schemes. Get in touch with your supplier to find out if you could qualify.
• You can try out DIY insulation-measures: insulate cold walls on the inside with special insulating wallpaper, available from DIY stores.

4. Draughts
• Fill the gap between the floor and the bottom of the wall with draught excluder strip (buy this from the DIY store) or, if you can’t get hold of it, strips of rag or rolled newspaper.
• Fill up gaps in the floorboards with ‘plastic wood’ filler that you can buy from a DIY store or sawdust mixed with glue.
• Buy an inside letter-box flap from a DIY store to stop draughts getting in through your letter box. Or make your own with a cloth bag fixed around the inside of the letter-box (with a hole in the bottom to retrieve the post!)
• Fit draught excluder strips round doors and windows.

5. Heating…
• If you have gas central heating, use your room thermostat to control the heating so that you have temperatures of 18°C in most areas and 21°C in the living room.
• Turn your heating off in the summer.
• Set your central heating timer to switch the heating off half an hour before you leave the house or go to bed (if it’s warm enough to sleep without heating.)
• Don’t heat rooms that you’re not using – turn the thermostats in these rooms off, and keep the doors closed.
• Service your boiler every year – this will increase the efficiency of your heating system.

6. Keep doors/windows closed
Keep doors and windows closed when you are heating your home. When you need to ventilate, for example when cooking or bathing and the room gets steamed up, close the kitchen/bathroom door so the rest of the house does not cool down and moisture does not spread and cause condensation.

7. Think about your curtains!
• Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows.
• Don’t let curtains overhang radiators as this funnels heat out of the room via the glass.
• Don’t put heavy furniture, such as sofas, in front of radiators as this traps warmth and stops it from circulating round the room.
• Open your curtains during daylight to get the heat from the sun.

8. Hot water…
• Take short showers not baths. Showering uses about two-fifths of the amount of hot water needed for a bath. This saves about £45 per year.
• Don’t overheat your water. Setting the hot water cylinder thermostat to 60°C is adequate for bathing and washing.
• Repair dripping taps and make sure taps are turned off properly.
• Use the plug to save on hot water.

9. Electical Applicances…
• Buy energy efficient appliances. An energy label must, by law, be shown for most electrical appliances, with ‘A’ rated appliances the most efficient and ‘G’ rated the least efficient.
• Turn appliances off at the socket.

10. Cooking
• When boiling the kettle, only boil the water that you need to use. This will save you around £25 per year.
• Cooking with gas or in the microwave is cheaper than an electric cooker.
• You can save on gas by cooking two or more things at once in the oven and by putting lids on saucepans.

11. Washing…
• Washing at 30 degrees means less money spent heating the water in the washing machine.
• Make sure you wash full loads of clothes if possible.
• Use the economy setting on your washing machine if you have one.
• Tumble dryers use a lot of energy. If possible. dry clothes outside or on drying racks.

12. Lighting…
• Use low-energy light bulbs.
• Make sure you turn lights off when they’re not being used.

Ten things you didn’t know you were entitled to from your energy supplier…

1) Get compensation for wasted time
You don’t have to wait in all day for a meter reader or engineer. If your energy firm needs to visit you at home, you are entitled to a two-hour appointment slot – and, should they not turn up, you are entitled to compensation of £22 for a gas or electricity appointment or £44 for both.

2) Know the backdate limit
If you have had your bills recalculated because of a mistake by the energy provider, there is a limit to how much they can ask you to pay up. If your usage has been underestimated, the supplier can backdate your bills for only up to 12 months. However, to avoid even a year’s worth of charges, get into the habit of providing regular meter readings to ensure you always pay the right amount.

3) Know your rights with price rises
If your energy provider is putting up its prices, it is required to give you 30 days’ notice and cannot implement the increase if you tell it within 15 working days that you’re leaving. And despite what the name suggests, those on fixed-rate tariffs cannot be charged an exit penalty if they switch within this time.

4) Payments for power cuts
If consumers lose power, they can claim compensation for power cuts from their energy distributor, rather than the supplier. If your power is out for more than 18 hours you are entitled to £54, and £27 for each additional 12 hours without power. Similarly, those who have four or more power cuts lasting three hours or more in a year should receive £54. To get your refund, contact your energy provider.

5) Get extra help
Pensioners and people who are disabled or chronically ill can get extra help through their supplier’s Priority Services Register. This includes free quarterly meter readings, bills in large print or Braille or bills sent to a friend or relative, and a free annual gas safety check for those in receipt of means-tested benefits.

6) Know the switching timetable
If you switch energy supplier in order to ensure that you are on the most competitive tariff, it should take no longer than five weeks from start to finish. This includes the two-week cooling-off period and three weeks for the switch. Keep in mind that suppliers have also committed to make switching hassle-free, so if there are any problems it is their responsibility to sort it out, not the customer’s.

7) Compensation for being misled
If you have had your energy supply switched to another provider without your permission, you are entitled to compensation of £250. You are also entitled to compensation if you can prove you were deliberately misled by a sales person.

8) Know where to get help with debt
If you get into debt, your supplier must agree repayments that are affordable for you. Some suppliers, such as British Gas, EDF and npower, also have trust funds that can help you to settle debts or other essential costs.

9) Find free insulation
Loft insulation can save you an average of £120 on your annual energy bill, but costs as much as £300 to install. Many suppliers will offer free loft and cavity wall insulation with cash incentives. For instance, E.On and EDF are offering incentives of £100 and £200 respectively to those on low incomes who register for free insulation. Contact your supplier to find out, or check out the deals that other suppliers are offering…

10) Remember your cooling-off period
Have you switched your tariff only to have a cheaper one launched just days later? Or maybe you felt pressurised or put on the spot by a telesales agent? Not to worry, it is not too late to change your mind. All consumers who switch energy supplier are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period during which they can switch back without incurring any charges.