As a leading energy supplier, we recognise the role we have in supporting the UK Government alleviate fuel poverty. We do this by providing debt advice, energy efficiency products and services alongside delivering a discount on bills to our most in need customers primarily through the Warm Home Discount scheme.
The scheme is mandated by the UK Government and requires energy suppliers to support customers in need of assistance in England, Scotland and Wales through a one-off rebate on their electricity bill.
To qualify for the discount, customers are split into the ‘Core’ and ‘Broader’ group. The ‘Core’ group focusses on the most vulnerable households who automatically receive a discount, such as those receiving certain pension benefits. Under the ‘Broader’ group, energy suppliers can determine which households qualify for support and in 2014, British Gas continued to have the widest eligibility criteria among leading energy suppliers which means we can help more people through the scheme than anyone else. Our Broader group households include those in receipt of means tested benefits in addition to for example, having a child below five years of age, having a disability or spending more than 10% of their total income on energy.
During 2014, British Gas provided over £100m through the scheme in rebates for customers; amounting to a quarter of the £400m we spent supporting people who struggle to pay for energy.
Rather than the scheme working on a calendar year, it spans across two and during the 2013/14 scheme, we provided a rebate of £135 to 579,306 vulnerable households (363,645 Core group and 215,661 Broader group). We additionally made a voluntary payment of up to £60 to further help these customers during 2014.
In the current 2014/15 scheme, the rebate on bills has risen to £140. By the end of the scheme, we expect to support around 662,500 vulnerable households.
One of the main challenges of the scheme is to identify eligible customers. To tackle this problem, we continue to work closely with the Department for Work and Pensions as well as wider Government, to verify customer eligibility and improve data sharing. We also continue to train our customer service advisors to better detect customers able to benefit from the scheme