Social energy tariffs were designed to help those in fuel poverty — where energy bills add up to more than 10% of household income.
Social tariffs were introduced to provide discounted energy bills to those most vulnerable to falling into or already in fuel poverty by providing special price plans from individual energy suppliers.
These social tariffs began being phased out in 2011, when the Warm Home Discount was introduced. Each supplier has its own time-frame for transitioning eligible customers from a social tariff to the Warm home discount.
It is important to understand that while you may still be on a social tariff now, these types of tariffs will be phased out by 2015.
The Warm Home Discount provides rebates on electricity bills. This rebate is set at £135 for the 2013/2014 winter season.
Social tariff transition
Each supplier has its own timetable for transitioning customers off their respective social tariffs.
So, even though you may still be on your supplier's social tariff now, the aim is to have customers completely phased out of social tariffs by 2015. Meanwhile, no suppliers are currently offering social tariffs to new customers.
This means there are two important changes for those who are on or previously qualified for social tariffs:
- Not all social tariff customers are eligible for the Warm Home Discount. That means their tariff will likely change to a more expensive standard plan without any rebate provided
- Those who do qualify for the discount will receive a one-time rebate of £135 applied to their electricity bill; these households can be on any plan they choose, and would make the most of their rebate by being on a competitive plan
If you do not qualify for the Warm Home Discount, there may be other help available to you:
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment is a payment from the government to help the elderly pay for their energy over the winter months. While most people are enrolled automatically you should still check if you’re not sure whether you qualify.
If you are aged 60 or over, you may qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300, to help you meet the costs of keeping warm in the winter.
To find out more about the payment and to see if you qualify, visit the uSwitch guide to the Winter Fuel Payment.
Cold weather payment
The Cold Weather Payment is similar to the Winter Fuel Payment, but only rarely comes into force.
The Cold weather payment is a £25 payment for each week that the temperature drops below zero Celsius for seven consecutive days.
The payment is only available for cold weather snaps that occur between 1 November and 31 March, and households must qualify for the grant.
For more information and to see if you qualify, visit the Cold weather payment guide page.
Energy efficiency grants
Energy efficient grant schemes are available through the government for vulnerable customers in England, Wales and Scotland.
Grants can be provided to cover a range of energy efficiency improvement measures, such as installing insulation and draught-proofing.
Energy efficiency grants come in two forms – those that subsidise costs and those that provide a loan that you pay back over time. For energy upgrades like insulation you may receive a subsidised deal for instance, just take a look at our insulation guide to learn more.
However, for larger upgrades like wall insulation, solar panels or replacing a boiler, you may be able to get a loan for the payments built into your future energy bills. That way you can make the costly upgrades now but pay for them over time with the energy savings you make on your bills.
More help with energy bills
Energy suppliers fund a not-for-profit helpline called the 'Home Heat Helpline', which offers advice and assistance on payment schemes, social energy tariffs, grants for home improvements, and benefits you may be entitled to.
You can call free on 0800 33 66 99 and lines are open 9am-8pm Monday to Friday and 10am-2pm on Saturdays.
You could also try Consumer Focus' Help Finder tool - it identifies what grants, discounts, free energy help and assistance you might be able to get access to in your personal circumstances.
Save by switching online
You could make huge savings on your energy bills simply by comparing and switching online. It only takes a few minutes, and switching energy plans online could save you up to £412 instantly.
If you use our energy comparison service all you need is a recent energy bill to hand. Just enter your details, using you usage details in kWh to get the most accurate results, and we’ll show you how much you should be paying for your energy.
The process takes just five minutes, and if you’ve never switched before, or it’s been a while, there’s a very good chance you’re paying over the odds.
If you do decide to switch we handle everything for you. Just enter your details online, including your payment details if you wish to set up a payment by Direct Debit, and sit back, we do the rest. Within a few weeks you should receive notification from your new supplier, and within six weeks you’ll be switched over.
So what are you waiting for? Run your comparison today and stop paying too much for your energy.