Cost of living crisis: get help with energy and care costs

The information below is provided by Inclusion London on their website.  We repeat it here, so you don’t keep having to click on links from our website, to others, just to access public information.  However, their website is excellent and worth visiting.

The information is not legal advice. It comes from public sources. Please seek legal advice if you have an individual case.

The last few months have seen large increases in the cost of living – particularly for necessities like food and fuel. This is expected to get worse in April because of an increase in the Energy Price Cap. Disabled people are already more likely to be living in food and fuel poverty than non-disabled people, and the situation we face is getting worse.

Many individuals and organisations have asked us for advice on where to get help, so Inclusion London have pulled together a list of suggestions and resources, which is below.  

Unfortunately, the help that is currently available is not enough. Disabled people, on average, have much higher energy costs than non-disabled people. This is because many medical and mobility devices require charging or constant electricity to function. Many of us also have to run our heating at higher levels or for longer than most people to stay warm (reduced mobility makes this much harder), reduce pain, or avoid becoming dangerously ill. All this means that the energy price cap increase will affect us more than many other sectors of society.

Despite this, the Chancellors’ Spring Statement, issued by the Government this week, did not announce any specific help for Disabled people. We think this is unacceptable. Inclusion London are starting a new Disability Poverty Campaign Group, which is led by Disabled People’s Organisations and works with many other kinds of campaign groups, with the aim of ending poverty among Disabled people in the UK. They will be pushing the government to change the policies that make us poor. If you would like more information, or to join the group, please contact julia.modern@inclusionlondon.org.uk

What should I do to cope with the increasing cost of energy?

1. Make sure you are receiving any benefits you’re entitled to.

2. Ask a local food bank if they issue fuel vouchers.

3. Contact your local council to ask for fuel vouchers or a grant from the Household Support Fund.

4. Ask your energy supplier for emergency credit and/or a discretionary discount.

5. If you have a pre-payment meter and your impairment means your health would be negatively affected by your heat or electricity going off, ask your energy supplier to replace the meter with a conventional type.

6. If you use an oxygen concentrator at home, claim the rebate from your supplier.

7. If you pay care charges and your disability-related expenses were not taken into account during your means test, ask for a financial reassessment

8. Join campaigns!

Detailed advice

1. Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to. You can check what you should be getting by using the Turn2Us benefits calculator to check this: https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/ Citizens Advice also have a helpful page on support for energy costs here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-help-paying-your-bills/grants-and-benefits-to-help-you-pay-your-energy-bills/

2. Some foodbanks offer fuel vouchers as well as food, though not all of them do this. If you use a foodbank, ask them if they can give you a fuel voucher too. You can find a local food bank here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/

3. Some councils offer support with fuel costs. Unfortunately, this varies from place to place.

3a. Some councils provide fuel vouchers on application or have other schemes to help with emergency needs.

3b. The Household Support Fund is a central government fund delivered through local councils, who decide how to use it. Some councils allow households to apply for a grant from it. Others claim to have identified those most at risk of fuel poverty and contacted them directly to give them a grant. The government announced this week that the Household Support Fund will receive another £500 million in April, so it is worth asking your council if you can get a grant from their portion of the fund.

3c. Check your council’s website or contact them directly to see if anything is available. You can find your local council’s website by entering your post code here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council.

4. Some energy providers give emergency credit. If you have received emergency credit and it’s still not enough, or you can’t pay it back, some providers also give discretionary discounts. It’s a good idea to contact them and ask if there is any help available.

4a. Tell them about your circumstances, including any impairments you have, and if you use medical equipment that relies on constant power, or your condition can be made worse by being cold. Both these things should mean you can get special consideration (for example, you might be eligible for the Priority Services Register).

4b. You will have to find out which company supplies your power, and then look up their contact details. These should be given on your bill.

4c. Pre-payment meters are often problematic for Disabled people (though they can help you keep track of how much you are spending). They are problematic because there are safeguards through Ofcom (the energy company regulator) against disconnecting ‘vulnerable people’ (for example, a vulnerable person must not be disconnected in winter), but for people on pre-payment meters, the safeguards do not apply: there no safeguards against ‘self-disconnecting’ (which means not topping up because when don’t have money, so your power goes off). Normal meters are also usually cheaper than pre-payment meters.

4d. If you have a pre-payment meter and you live with an impairment that means your health would be damaged by your power going off, your energy company must replace it with a normal meter if you ask them to. See https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/problems-with-your-energy-supply/problems-getting-to-or-topping-up-your-prepayment-meter/

4e. Your energy supplier cannot move you onto a pre-payment meter if you are in a ‘very vulnerable situation,’ even if you are in debt. This includes if you need to use medical equipment that requires a constant power source. See https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/check-prepayment-meter-rules

4f. If you fall within these groups and your energy supplier is refusing to change your pre-payment meter or is trying to force you onto a pre-payment meter, there is advice on making a complaint here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/complain-about-an-energy-company/complain-to-your-energy-supplier/

5. If you use an oxygen concentrator at home, you can get a rebate for the electricity it uses. The company that supplies your concentrator will provide these payments on behalf of the government, but you have to apply for them. Details about how to claim are here: https://www.scope.org.uk/advice-and-support/government-payments-discounts-heating-bills/

6. If you pay charges for care in your own home, you will have had a means test from your council to check that you will be left with a ‘minimum income’ to live on. The means test should take into account any expenses you incur because of your impairment, but it often does not. If you think your disability-related expenses were not taken into account during your means test, you can ask for a financial reassessment.

6a. Use Inclusion London’s template letter to request this, listing your disability-related expenses. You should include additional energy you use for charging medical or mobility devices or for your heating, giving as much information as you can about each item’s energy consumption, and a copy of your energy bill. The template letter is here: https://97f2d5a9-ec44-4459-bc22-4c8c4ff0fdb2.filesusr.com/ugd/4e74de_25c50ed35dd24765ab2d4bb05e8dd8f7.docx?dn=Requesting-a-review-of-financial-assessment.docx

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