We understand that in the continuing tough economic climate, with rising unemployment and welfare reform, an increasing number of people in the UK are struggling to pay for essentials such as energy to power and heat their homes. We remain committed to helping our vulnerable customers and in 2013 British Gas spent over £380m in support of those who need our help through a range of initiatives including support programmes, advice and specialist products and the UK Government’s important Warm Home Discount.
The Warm Home Discount is a mandatory programme that requires energy suppliers to provide care to vulnerable customers in England, Scotland and Wales through a one-off rebate on their electricity bill. In 2012/13 energy suppliers were required to collectively spend £275m which is increasing to £344m for the scheme year 2014/151.
We were able to support 530,972 customers with a rebate of £130 during the 2012/13 scheme year and in the period 2013/14 we expect to support a total of 565,000 people with a rebate of £135, rising to £140 in 2014/15. In addition to this rebate we also provided a £60 winter discount off energy bills following our 2013 price rise. This means these vulnerable customers will have experienced lower bills this winter compared to 2013.
Qualifying conditions for the Warm Home Discount are split into two groups, the ‘Core’ and ‘Broader’ group. For the 2013/14 scheme the criteria is outlined below while further information is available here.
The ‘Core’ group focuses on the most vulnerable households, who automatically receive the discount:
- Customers receiving the Pension Credit Guarantee aged under 75
- Customers receiving the Pension Credit Guarantee and Savings Credit aged 75 and over
Under the ‘Broader’ group, suppliers have discretion over which households fall within this group with each company setting out their own qualifying conditions. British Gas has gone above and beyond the minimum regulatory requirements to have the widest eligibility criteria of the ‘big six’ energy companies, without a cap on the number of applicants. This means we can help considerably more households in need of support than any other energy company.
The ‘Broader’ group in 2013/14 consists of households in receipt of means-tested benefits in addition to one of the following:
- Child Tax Credit that includes disability or severe disability element
- A household with a child under the age of five
- A disability or pensioner premium
- Households on incomes less than £16,190 where a member of the household is living with a physical or mental illness, or where the household spends greater than 10% of the total income on energy
One of the main challenges of the scheme for us is to identify eligible customers while for our customers; it can sometimes be an onerous task to provide the evidence required to prove that they fit the criteria. To overcome this problem we are working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to verify customer eligibility so that we can reduce this burden for our customers. We are also improving the training of our customer-facing advisors to better detect those who can benefit from the rebate.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting our vulnerable customers both now and in the future.
1 The Warm Home Discount Scheme year does not run on an annual basis; it instead spans across two years.