What is a Social Tariff?
Many people are worried about the rising cost of gas and electricity bills and the effect that this will have on their income. For those with limited incomes, such as pensioners and the chronically sick, this worry is increased as these are customers that may need to use more energy than an average household.
Social tariffs are a way of providing these more vulnerable customers with cheaper energy bills. However, it can be difficult to find details of these tariffs and to work out if you are eligible for them.
How do social tariffs work?
The important thing to note is that Social Tariffs as a special type of tariff have been largely replaced by a benefit scheme called the "Warm Homes Scheme". This is a government scheme funded by the energy suppliers, and which offers money off to those who qualify. The amount in 2011/2012 was £120, this will rise to £130 for the coming winter 2012/2013. The saving is applied to your electricity bill.
Can I get on the "Warm Home Scheme"?
Generally speaking, those who qualify for the Warm Homes Scheme are the elderly, long term ill, those on benefits such as income support, and families with very young children. However, this will vary from supplier to supplier as they set their own eligibility criteria (which are approved by Ofgem).
It is not possible for our price comparison service to include this benefit as part of the savings we show simply because we cannot know if you qualify - the energy suppliers decide who is eligible. If you think you qualify then it's best to act quickly, because this benefit is offered to only a limited number of qualifying customers. All of the major energy suppliers are participating in the scheme, so contact your energy supplier to see if you can get cheaper energy bills this way.
Is there any other help available from the government with my energy bills?
Yes, there is. You may, for example apply for an energy efficiency grant, to partially or maybe even fully cover the cost of improving the energy efficiency of your home. Help is available for installing loft or cavity wall insulation, in particular for vulnerable customers.
Also, if you are 60 years of age or over, you automatically qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment (a seasonal heating allowance) of between £150 to £300. This is not means tested and you don't need to be a pensioner to get it.
The Energy Savings Trust can give you more details about what grants may be available to you, while information about the Winter Fuel Payment and how you can apply for it can be found on DirectGov website.
The Home Heat Helpline is funded by energy suppliers offers more advice about social tariffs, and energy efficiency home improvement grants. You can call them free on 0800 33 66 99.