The End Fuel Poverty Coalition has responded to the government’s Warm Home Discount consultation calling for the extension of the programme to 2026 and welcoming the possibility of debt relief being introduced.
The response is summarised below and can be read in full online: http://www.endfuelpoverty.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/End-Fuel-Poverty-Coalition-WHD-Submission-FINAL.pdf
In our responses to government consultations, we have been clear that there must be urgent delivery of government promises on tackling fuel poverty, such as confirming the extension of Warm Home Discount (ideally to 2026), introduction of the promised Home Upgrade Grants and social housing decarbonisation programme.
This also needs to include an extension to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) from April 2022- March 2026 and maintain its key focus on low income and vulnerable households.
Government should further ensure that the Shared Property Fund (SPF) helps end cold homes across the UK and plans are introduced to extend and, as suggested by National Energy Action, strengthen the increase to Universal Credit for low income households.
Therefore, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the publication of this consultation for an extension of the Warm Home Discount.
During this extraordinary time, for many, personal finances are under intense pressure and schemes such as this will prove welcome relief for many households. Overall, the proposals within the consultation move the scheme forward in a positive direction. However, there is a need to accelerate wider reforms of the scheme.
The Coalition broadly supports the principle contained in the consultation of a debt write off. This is suggested to be capped at £2,000 in order to enable energy suppliers and delivery partners to assist customers who have a debt which is likely to be less than 4 years old, even if they have a higher than average level of debt. This will allow for more customers to be supported within the limited budget for industry initiatives, while allowing significant debt clearance for potentially more than 3,000 households.
However, this should be kept under review to ensure it meets the needs of the most vulnerable in light of Covid-19 lockdowns and the likely increase in energy usage as people stay at home.
This consultation contains welcome proposals for reform, especially within the context of Industry Initiatives, but it is clear that these tweaks in rules will only serve to remove support from one group to improve support for others.
A broader set of reforms is needed to increase the financial envelope of the scheme and to ensure that it can support all of the households that need it.
More information from our wider proposals is available in our response to the Comprehensive Spending Review.