Energy Bills Support Scheme – still no definite answers for itinerant households

The NBTA has been working with Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) to try to get the promises made by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the spring about the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) to apply equally to itinerant boat dwellers and Travellers on land alike. It has been a rough ride.

At about 11am on 29th November Graham Stewart MP, Minister for Energy and Climate sent the message below to all MPs claiming “work in progress, no one will be left in the cold and applications will open in January 2023”. At 12.23 BEIS wrote to the NBTA contradicting Mr Stewart’s letter by saying that people who could not prove their residential address would not be eligible, otherwise saying nothing new and regurgitating a cut-and-paste from the summer. Meanwhile the 4,000+ strong petition has no home to take it to (BEIS has slammed its doors to engagement with the public, the Contact Centre is closed, the Automatic Telephone Attendant says “e-mail” and “goodbye”, and BEIS is proving to be not very good at replying to letters.

Meanwhile FFT has issued the following Guidance note and the letter from Graham Stuart should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt. It is time to up the ante. Join the Zoom on 6th December to work out how to make our voices strike home.

Broadcast from Graham Stuart MP to all MPs
29-11-2022 11.40

Dear Colleague,

Energy Bills Support in Great Britain: Complex Cases

Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine has sent energy prices soaring across the country, threatening to drive up bills and drive down thermostats in the winter ahead.

We understand the gravity and the urgency of the situation. That’s why, even as we work to secure our energy supply for the future, we are acting now to keep homes warm this winter. However, we’re not just thinking about terraced houses or tenement flats – we are supporting concerned constituents in caravans and canal boats, too.

Our Energy Bills Support Scheme has provided relief for millions. It is delivering a £400 non-repayable government discount in instalments over six months from October to March to help 29 million households with energy bills over the winter. However, the scheme has not been able to reach some 900,000 households in the UK without a domestic energy supply.

This is one of the reasons we introduced the Energy Prices Bill on 12th October. This enables us to deliver the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding, providing £400 to these households and ensuring that they do not miss out. No one can be left in the cold. This is a critical and complex task, and I welcome this opportunity to clarify questions which colleagues have raised about who is eligible for support, when they will receive it, and how.

Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding

The £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding will provide much-needed help for those households who do not have a domestic energy supply and have not received support through the main Energy Bills Support Scheme.
This includes residents of park homes and care homes, as well as other households who either receive their energy through commercial intermediaries or are off the energy grid entirely. We will be publishing further detail about eligibility shortly. As these households cannot be identified by their energy supply, the scheme cannot be delivered in the same way.

The government has worked through a number of alternative delivery options, including procuring an external delivery partner and administering the scheme centrally. We have since concluded that the best way to deliver the scheme is through Local Authorities in Great Britain, who are best placed to process applications and carry out verification checks.

As there is no single register of eligible households, payment is still a complicated matter. We are working flat out to ensure that the right money gets to the right people at the right time.

This includes making the process as simple as possible for applicants. An eligible household will be able to fill out a short form on GOV.UK with a few simple details, including their name and address. Much of this data will be verified up-front to reduce burdens on Local Authorities, who will then verify the address and administer the payment.

We are currently finishing and testing the application model, including verification and antifraud measures, to ensure that it functions as intended before it can go live. Whilst we understand that speed is of the essence, we must do all we can to prevent errors that could result either in households not receiving the support they need, or in a loss of public money.

The scheme will open for applications in Great Britain in January 2023, and we are committed to delivering the payment to households this winter. 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.

It will be extremely important to make clear to potential applicants how they can apply for the Alternative Funding. Public messaging will need to provide clear guidance on eligibility criteria and key groups likely to be in scope, on timings and the application window, as well as information on how to apply via GOV.UK. Alongside general communications to the public, it will be important to work with core stakeholders to reach specific groups, bearing in mind that potential applicants may be disproportionately elderly and more vulnerable compared with those covered by the main Energy Bills Support Scheme.

Alternative Fuel Payments

The government recognises that growing bills are not limited to gas and electricity – fuel costs are increasing across the board, and that is why we have doubled the Alternative Fuel Payments to £200, delivering support for those in properties using fuels such as heating oil, liquified petroleum gas, coal or biomass for heating.

The vast majority of Alternative Fuel Payments eligible households in Great Britain will receive payment automatically via their electricity supplier with no need to take any action, and we anticipate this payment being made shortly after the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding has opened.

There will be a small number of customers who are unable to receive the funding automatically, for instance households in Great Britain who are located in areas on the gas grid but do not have a gas connection, and we will ensure there is a route for those households to apply for and receive the £200 support. This support and Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative funding will be delivered as soon as possible in the new year.

Heat Networks

Heat network households will not be eligible for Alternative Fuel payments. The government recognises that those households on heat networks need support for the rising cost of heating. Heat network households who also have a separate domestic electricity supply will already be receiving support through the Energy Bills Support Scheme. Those on private wire networks, or where energy bills are included within rent, are eligible for support through the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding.

Vulnerable households

Many of the most vulnerable households will be eligible for multiple forms of support, depending on their circumstances. Cost of living payments are available for pensioners, those in receipt of disability-related allowances, and those on means-tested benefits. The Household Support Fund provides additional assistance for those most in need.

Nothing is more important than a warm home when temperatures start to drop. The government is committed to supporting communities in every corner of the country to keep the cold out this winter.

This is a complex picture and I hope that this letter provides clarity about the different forms of assistance which we are delivering, and gives confidence that we are acting as quickly as we can.

We are working to finalise the details of these schemes, and I look forward to sharing further information with you as soon as possible.

Yours ever,

Minister of State for Energy and Climate