Hundreds of thousands of UK households are failing to take advantage of assistance with paying their energy bills, according to new figures.
Data published by the Home Heat Helpline shows that 3.4 million households in the UK are entitled to help with meeting the cost of gas and electricity bills, but a relatively small proportion of these people are benefiting.
The helpline, which offers free and impartial advice to people on low incomes, noted that these householders are entitled to an average of £160, with the number of people eligible particularly high in some regions.
In areas of Wales and the North West, for example, a fifth of households are eligible for help, with this assistance comprising discount and rebate schemes, grants for insulation and new boilers, in some cases.
However, as the helpline only receives around 50,000 calls annually, it is clear that many people may be missing out on the vital help available to them.
To raise awareness of the help available to people and shed light on the number of households that could benefit, TV presenter and broadcaster Fiona Phillips is promoting a campaign to ensure low-income homes are given the assistance they need.
She is encouraging people to call the Home Heat Helpline and find out how they could help to reduce their outgoings and free up funds to spend on other things.
With Christmas approaching, many homes will be cutting back on their expenditure, and for some this will mean skimping on heating and other things deemed essential to the majority of households.
“I remember all too well the worry of colder weather setting in and the bills I couldn’t pay when I was starting out, so I have huge sympathy for anyone who is struggling to keep warm this winter,”
Ms Phillips explained.
“That’s why I am encouraging those in need to call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 336699. Everyone is looking for ways to save money at the moment, so it’s definitely worth picking up the phone. It is absolutely free so you’ve got nothing to lose and possibly lots to gain,” she added.
It comes after five of the Big Six energy suppliers raised their fuel prices in the second half of 2012, the most recent being EDF, which revealed that from December 7th its customers will pay 10.8% more for their energy.
The rise is greater than those of any of the other Big Six firms to increase costs in recent months, after rises of 9% by npower and 6% by British Gas.
Just a few weeks ago, Scottish Power raised its prices by up to 8.7%, while SSE increased its prices by 9% in August.
Furthermore, EON is expected to round off the Big Six by increasing costs in January, off the back of a dip in profits and the end of its price freeze promise.
Christine McGourty from the Home Heat Helpline said that as the weather gets colder and households turn on their heating, it is now the ideal time to remind people that lots of help is available to keep warm,
“We’re urging anyone on a low income, older people, families with young children and those with long-term health conditions to call the Home Heat Helpline to claim the free help they are entitled to in reducing their bills,” she added.
In addition to taking advantage of subsidies to help cope with the costs of heating a home, the helpline has offered tips to households to bring down energy outgoings.
It is widely acknowledge that by turning a thermostat down by 1 degree Celsius, people could cut their heating bills by up to ten per cent and save more than £100 a year.
Additionally, people could turn radiators down in rooms they only use occasionally and switch lights off when they are not using them.
Turning devices such as TVs and phone chargers off at the plug rather than leaving them on standby can be effective, as can replacing regular light bulbs with energy efficient ones
Regularly defrosting the freezer to make sure it is operating at full efficiency is also recommended, while drawing curtains over windows at night provides insulation for the room and moving furniture away from radiators allows heat to circulate around the room.
These tips can all help to bring down the cost of heating the home this winter, and for the 3.4 million households eligible for assistance, this may prove invaluable.
You can contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99
More tips on how to save on your energy bills