The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is temporarily freezing payments from benefits to energy companies
Thousands of UK households claiming benefits will have automatic increases in their energy bills temporarily frozen.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced it will not increase gas and electricity payments, which are automatically deducted from utility benefits, at their current rates.
As part of the temporary measure, the DWP said it will not honor automatic requests to increase payments from utilities, even if a bill has been paid.
Will families claiming benefits pay additional costs?
For the next 12 months, only claimants will be able to increase payments, and the DWP will reject requests from suppliers to increase bills.
This means that even as energy bills increase, benefit payments remain the same and at the same level. Freezing automatic increases also gives struggling families time to talk to their utility company and discuss alternative payment options.
Despite the increasing freeze on automatic deductions, energy bills will continue to rise and claimants will need to find a way to pay for the increase.
Payments should be made by paying any additional charges directly to the energy company or asking the DWP to increase your payment from your benefit money.
Around 100,000 people applying for Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Pension Credit have had their energy bills deducted from their benefits. This is referred to as “third party deductions” and sometimes “fuel direct”.
David Rutley, Secretary of State for Welfare, said: “This is another practical change that brings back support from our £1bn Budget Support Fund.
“Budget requirements differ from household to household, and this change allows people to tailor their benefit payment to their needs while taking advantage of other available support.”
The DWP will also not process new utility claims for ongoing payments unless an agreement already exists, but will consider utility company claims for arrears deductions, which are lower, fixed amounts that prevent alternative enforcement actions from being sought.
What Help Can You Get for Electricity Bill Expenses?
To help manage rising energy costs, you can speak to your utility to see what hardship funds they can offer or if there is other support.
All major energy companies have charitable hardship funds and grants that you can qualify for if you’re struggling.
That British Gas Energy Trust, a £6 million pot, is available to anyone, not just British Gas customers, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. It will write off energy debts of up to £750, with 2,450 grants awarded so far.
If you are having trouble figuring out what grants or help you might be entitled to, you can speak to one of the specialist energy charities such as: Home Energy Scotland, National Energy Action (NEA) or the NI Energy Consulting. The charities can also help you if you think you have been treated unfairly and wish to make a complaint.
The Warm Home Discount scheme offers £140 lump sum payments for those on the pension credit guarantee element or those on low incomes, or the Winter Fuel Payment scheme allows those on the State Pension to pay between £100 and £300 to receive £.
The Cold Weather Payment scheme can also help low-income households save £25 a week to help with energy bills in winter.