The UK Government has today (19 December) confirmed details of new schemes to provide additional support to households across Britain and Northern Ireland amidst the rising costs of energy bills.
These include: support for households in Northern Ireland; the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding (EBSS Alternative Funding); and Alternative Fuel Payments.
Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding (EBSS AF)
Consumers in England, Scotland and Wales without a direct relationship to a domestic energy supplier will receive additional support via a £400 payment towards their energy bills as part of the governments EBSS Alternative Funding Scheme (EBSS AF). This will be paid out as a non-repayable one-off payment.
According to today’s announcement those that will be able to benefit from the EBSS AF – subject to eligibility checks – include:
- Care home residents and others in wholly or partly self-funded care facilities
- Park home residents, houseboats and caravans with proof of address
- Social and private tenants who pay for energy through a landlord on a commercial supply
- Homes on a heat network/private wire
- Off-grid homes
- Farmhouses used for wholly domestic purposes
Eligibility for the scheme will be assessed via a short online application on the GOV.UK site, due to open in January. For customers without internet there will be a dedicated helpline, further details of which will be released next month.
Customers that are able to benefit from the main EBSS will not be eligible for EBSS AF.
The time that households will receive support is dependent on when each application is made and how quickly a payment can be processed by the Local Authority.
This scheme will run alongside the Energy Prices Act legislation passed earlier this year, which ensures that the benefits granted via the government’s business support scheme are passed onto customers that do not pay their energy bills directly.
Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Fuel Payments (EBSS AFP)
The second support scheme included in today’s announcement is the £200 Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP) to help the 2 million households in the UK that use alternative fuels to heat their homes.
This includes homes heated by: heating oil (used by 1.7 million); coal; liquified petroleum gas; and biomass.
The majority of eligible consumers will receive direct payment automatically via their electricity supplier. For those unable to receive direct payment, such as households without a direct relationship with an energy supplier, an application form will be made available on the GOV.UK site in February.
The government has also committed to paying the EBSS AFP to all homes in Northern Ireland – 68% of which use alternative fuel to heat their homes. According to the announcement, this step hopes to ensure that payments to households that do rely on alternative fuel will be able to receive payment as soon as possible.
“Getting this support for households’ bills out across the country will save hundreds of pounds for millions of people during the coldest months of the year,” said minister for energy and climate, Graham Start.
“This has been a top priority and joint effort, with close work between officials and electricity suppliers in Northern Ireland, as well as with Local Authorities in Great Britain who will help get support to over 900,000 households who don’t have the direct relationship with energy suppliers that the vast majority of households do.”
Energy bills support for all households in Northern Ireland
Households in Northern Ireland will each receive a one-off payment of £600, starting from January 2023, to help with their energy bills.
This benefit will be given in a single payment consisting of £400 provided under the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme Northern Ireland (EBSS NI) and £200 from the Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP), which will be granted to all homes in Northern Ireland regardless of how they are heated.
Energy suppliers will administer the payment directly into the bank account of customers who pay their energy bills by Direct Debit, whilst other households will receive a voucher, further details of which are set to be announced shortly.
The UK Government confirmed today that it will fund electricity companies for this payment, which is set to begin pay-out in January 2023.
The announcement coincides with a letter from the minister for Energy and Climate to energy suppliers in Northern Ireland urging the suspension of all debt recovery and enforcement activity until the end of January. The minister also called for payment holidays to be provided until 31 January 2023 for customers that are struggling to pay their bills.
“I am acutely aware of the uncertainty and frustration that people across Northern Ireland have felt about their energy bill support. Families can start the new year knowing that they will receive the full support from January,” said secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris.
“I am grateful that officials and Ministers and energy suppliers have found a solution, especially given the complexity of NI’s energy market, although I would have liked to have seen Northern Ireland political parties deliver this, as part of a restored Executive.”
The schemes will form part of the government’s existing cost-of-living package of assistance launched in the Energy Prices Bill this October, alongside the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), which is set to save £900 per British household this winter. The EPG has also allowed those using gas and electricity in Northern Ireland to benefit from savings for an estimated £550 over winter.