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 timeframe for transitioning eligible customers from a social tariff to the Warm home discount.
It is importnant 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
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 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.
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 £350 instantly.