The National Housing Federation has signed a letter to the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, urging him to extend the deadline for applications to the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Fund. The letter dated 26 May 2023 was co-signed by representatives from several organisations representing heat network providers.
Dear Secretary of State,
RE: Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Fund deadline extension
We are writing to you as representatives from the housing and heat network sectors whose members include heat suppliers working at all scales across the country, to urge you to extend the deadline to apply for the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Fund that is due to end on 31 May.
One of the most pressing issues for our members and their residents at the moment is the immediate financial challenges they face as a result of the rise in energy prices. Residents who are not connected to the mains electricity or gas grid, including those on heat networks, have been particularly affected by this. Due to the way they receive their energy they have not been protected by the Energy Price Cap and they were also not eligible for the Energy Bills Support Scheme when it was initially announced in February 2022. Within social housing, these residents are on lower incomes thus are unlikely to be able to afford to pay the high amounts for their heating and hot water which we have seen over this last winter as a result of the gas price crisis.
We therefore strongly welcomed the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Fund to ensure those customers who were not connected to a public network, which include a number of heat network customers, could receive the £400 energy bills discount that all others have received automatically though their electricity bills.
However, our members have been having difficulty in ensuring all their eligible residents apply for the discount before the deadline. In many cases, these members provide supported housing; accommodation provided alongside support and supervision to help people live as independently as possible in their community. Some of these residents are not aware of the fund or their entitlement to it. Our members are therefore sitting with each resident to support them through the application process. This means going through hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of individual applications to ensure residents receive the financial support they are entitled to and need.
There have also been issues with applications from residents who are eligible for the funding being incorrectly rejected. In these cases, residents have been told they are in fact not eligible for the fund because they have received the £400 via their electricity supplier, when this is not the case. These rejections are unfairly depriving vulnerable households of essential financial support that has been offered to other consumers.
Based on the figures published on the DESNZ website on 11 May, it is clear that uptake of the scheme has been low. A total of 165,100 applications have been made so far, with 100,940 of these having been paid and 37,530 rejected. The original government advertisement for the scheme stated that 900,000 households would be eligible, yet fewer than 200,000 applications have been made to date. Furthermore, it was highlighted in Parliament recently that the closing date for fund applications was not on the government website until 9 May – just three weeks before it is due to close.
Collectively, these issues combined with the low uptake of applications and high numbers of incorrect rejections highlight the need for a clearly communicated campaign that ensures all those eligible for the fund know where and how to apply. We are calling on you to extend the deadline for applications to the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Fund until August 2023 so all residents who are eligible can have access to the support they desperately need.
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive, National Housing Federation
Lily Frencham, Chief Executive, Association for Decentralised Energy
Stephen Knight, Director, Heat Trust
Professor Vic Rayner OBE, Chief Executive, National Care Forum
Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, National Energy Action
Rachael Mills, Secretariat, The Heat Network
Simon Woodward, Chairman, UK District Energy Association
We understand that not all eligible residents were able to apply for the Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Fund discount before the closing date of 31 May. We would encourage you to write to your local MP if you have residents that have been affected by this.Download a template letter