Energy Bill Support Scheme grants – Interim update

NBTA Advice on Applications for
the Energy Bills Support Scheme – Alternative Funding (EBSS-AF)
Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP)

The Energy Bills Support Scheme – Alternative Funding (EBSS-AF) system may go live this week in the pilot areas of Wrexham, Chichester, Glasgow and West Sussex, with a full nationwide roll-out anticipated before mid-February.

At this stage, applications (which are made on and approved applications forwarded to the Local Authority) require a name, address and bank details, with the address needing to both match the bank account AND be cross-referenced against a Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN) which will be for a house, not an itinerant household. As a result, all applications by itinerants, including itinerant liveaboard boaters, will automatically fail.

However, following NBTA negotiations with the Deputy Director General at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), a work-around has been agreed (but now with a qualification). Itinerant boaters currently moored in the relevant pilot areas are encouraged to make the application using the page, then take a screenshot of the fail notice. There is a BEIS helpline for those who cannot get online or otherwise have difficulties filling in the online form. Both this number and the application page will be made available in an update when the pilot scheme finally goes live (we will update you again when that happens).

Applicants must then send the fail notice screenshot to the pilot scheme local authority where they are currently moored as an application for the Household Support Fund (HSF) Grant (England), Scotland Welfare Fund (SWF) Grant (Scotland) and Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) Grant (Wales). Applicants should identify themselves as an ‘itinerant boat dweller applying for (and rejected) EBSS-AF / AFP’. Applicants are reminded that they must only apply in this manner once, to one local authority. Government guidance has been given to local authorities nationwide that the HSF Grants are to be paid to eligible EBSS-AF / AFP applicants who fail the current EBSS-AF application system. The difficulty with this work-around is that HSF, SWF and DAF are all essentially depleted and there is no clarity yet in relation to their replenishing.

In order to establish the workability of this proposed fix, the NBTA encourages boaters in the pilot scheme areas to go through this process, seeking further advice from if required. The NBTA also requests that applicants take both screen shots and notes of the whole process (including applying to the local authority) and return these to the NBTA using the above email address.

Itinerant boaters who use diesel, coal, bottled gas or wood for heating are also entitled to the Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP) – £200 in addition to the £400 from the EBSS-AF. Since the AFP payment is currently designed around an additional declaration on the EBSS-AF application, itinerant boater applicants in the pilot scheme areas are encouraged to request the AFP equivalent (if eligible) as a part of their application for HSF, SWF or DAF citing their use of relevant alternative fuels.

The NBTA is continuing to work with BEIS for a more direct solution to this ongoing problem, with the demand that changes be made to both the EBSS-AF and AFP by the time the system goes live nationwide. We will share further information as and when it is established, and will continue to fight to ensure that our rightly concerned community are offered the same support as those that live on land in the midst of this cost-of-living crisis.

Despite ongoing negotiations and the agreed work-arounds the government has currently still failed to design a system for extending either the EBSS-AF or AFP to itinerant communities, including itinerant boaters. The NBTA will give further updates in the next few days as and when – or if – the arrangements enabling itinerant households to claim their grants are finally sorted out by BEIS.