SUPPORT with winter energy bills is on the way for millions more households across the United Kingdom, as the Government today confirms details of a single £600 payment to help households in Northern Ireland with their heating and electricity bills, as well as details of how those using alternative fuels and households without a direct relationship to an energy supplier will receive help with their energy costs.
These schemes augment the cost-of-living package of assistance the government has in place to help reduce energy bills for households across the United Kingdom. This includes the Energy Price Guarantee which saves a typical household in Great Britain around £900 this winter and an equivalent level of support in Northern Ireland.
Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Putin’s illegal war has caused global energy prices to soar, but we are continuing to work hard and urgently to get help to households across the UK, and this update provides people with more certainty on when and how we will deliver help with fuel bills.
“We’re already limiting the amount suppliers can charge consumers for their energy through the Energy Price Guarantee, which will continue to help consumers through to March 2024. We’ve all seen and felt the temperature dropping recently, so today’s updates will help millions worry less about their energy and heating bills this winter.”
Energy bills support for households in Northern Ireland
All households in Northern Ireland will receive a single, one-off £600 payment to help with their bills. Payments will start in January 2023. This will be made up of £400 of support under the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme Northern Ireland (EBSS NI), and £200 of support under the Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP) scheme, which will go to all households in Northern Ireland irrespective of how they heat their home.
The UK Government has confirmed today it will fund electricity companies for this payment to ensure they’re administered quickly, and that suppliers should start to make payments to customers in January. This means most NI consumers will receive the full amount of energy bills support before households in Great Britain, whilst still receiving the same level of support this winter.
All households in Northern Ireland will receive the support in a single payment to ensure the full benefit of the scheme is felt as soon as possible. The Northern Ireland scheme differs in this respect from EBSS in Great Britain to account for the particular nature of the NI energy market.
Administered by energy suppliers, customers who pay by Direct Debit will receive the £600 into their bank account directly. Other customers will be sent a voucher to redeem for the £600 payment, with further details of how they will work and what ID will be required to be set out shortly.
Today’s announcement comes as the Minister for Energy and Climate writes to Northern Ireland energy suppliers setting out his expectations, which includes urging them to suspend all debt recovery and enforcement activity until the end of January, as well as provide payment holidays until the end of January where customers are struggling to pay their bills.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said: “I am acutely aware of the uncertainty and frustration that people across Northern Ireland have felt about their energy bill support. Families can start the new year knowing that they will receive the full support from January.
“I am grateful that officials and Ministers and energy suppliers have found a solution, especially given the complexity of NI’s energy market, although I would have liked to have seen Northern Ireland political parties deliver this, as part of a restored Executive.”
Energy bills support in England, Scotland and Wales via EBSS Alternative Funding and Alternative Fuel Payments
As well as this support for homes across Northern Ireland, the Government has also announced details today for how people in England, Scotland and Wales without a direct relationship to a domestic energy supplier, including many care home residents and those living in park homes, will receive a £400 discount on their fuel bills through the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding (EBSS Alternative Funding).
The Government is also providing a further £200 Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP) to help those households in Great Britain who use alternative fuels such as biomass or heating oil to meet energy costs this winter. Most households eligible for the AFP support in Great Britain, will receive payment automatically via their electricity supplier in February, with no need to take any action. Those households who will need to apply for the AFP, for example because they do not have a relationship with an electricity supplier, will be able to do so in February, through the same GOV.UK portal as the one that will be used to apply for support under the EBSS Alternative Funding scheme.
Minister for Energy and Climate, Graham Stuart, said: “Getting this support for households’ bills out across the country will save hundreds of pounds for millions of people during the coldest months of the year. This has been a top priority and joint effort, with close work between officials and electricity suppliers in Northern Ireland, as well as with Local Authorities in Great Britain who will help get support to over 900,000 households who don’t have the direct relationship with energy suppliers that the vast majority of households do.”
Online applications will open in January for households in England, Scotland and Wales who are eligible for the £400 EBSS Alternative Funding to submit their details, alongside a helpline for those without online access. Payments to households that meet the eligibility criteria – including people who get their energy through a commercial contract or who are off-grid – will be made by Local Authorities in Great Britain. This is likely to include:
- Care home residents;
- Residents of park homes;
- Tenants in certain private and social rented homes;
- Homes supplied via private wires;
- Residents of caravans and houseboats on registered sites;
- Farmers living in domestic farmhouses; and
- Off-grid households.
Most households who don’t have a direct relationship with a domestic energy supplier have already been benefitting from subsidised energy bills through the Government’s business support scheme, with the Energy Prices Act legislation passed earlier in the year to ensure those benefits are passed on to consumers who do not pay their energy bills directly.
To make the process as simple as possible for consumers, those who are eligible for the EBSS Alternative Funding will need to submit a short online form via the Government’s GOV.UK pages, with the application portal due to open in January. A dedicated customer helpline will be available to assist customers who do not have online access, with further details to be released next month. Customers who are eligible for support under the main Energy Bills Support Scheme are not eligible for EBSS Alternative Funding.
Once customers have applied to receive support and their applications have been processed and verified, eligible customers’ details will be shared with Local Authorities across England, Scotland and Wales, who will deliver the one-off, non-repayable support this winter. Applicants will only be able to submit information through GOV.UK from January and should not contact their Local Authority in the meantime. The exact date that an eligible household will receive support will depend on when the application is made and when the payment can be processed by the relevant Local Authority.
Existing support for energy bills this winter
As well as discounts provided through the EBSS and Alternative Fuel Payments, the government’s Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will save a typical household in Great Britain around £900 this winter, based on what energy prices would have been under the current price cap – reducing bills by roughly a third. For households in Northern Ireland, the Energy Price Guarantee is already providing equivalent support to the rest of Great Britain – helping those using gas and electricity save around £550 this winter. Further support in direct payments is also being provided to vulnerable households this year, including cost of living payments for pensioners, people receiving disability-related allowances and those on means-tested benefits. The Household Support Fund provides additional assistance for those most in need and £26 billion worth of targeted support will help protect the most vulnerable in the next financial year.