- By Dan Whitworth and Daniel Wainwright
- Radio 4 Money Box and BBC Verify
More than 700,000 UK households have missed out on £300m of support for energy bills, according to a BBC analysis of government figures.
These are households in places like park houses and houseboats that don’t have an energy provider to automatically apply for a one-time £400 payment.
But only about 200,000 applications were made by the May 31 deadline.
The Government announced last year that all households would get £400 off their electricity bills over the winter. For households that pay their bills by direct debit, assistance is provided through monthly payments between October and March.
However, for those with unconventional energy facilities, the government launched an Alternative Grant to the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme earlier this year.
BBC Verify analysis of data from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero shows that of the more than 200,000 applications made under this scheme:
- nearly 125,000 was paid at the beginning of June
- nearly 6,000 approved but unpaid
- nearly 13,000 have been detained or are being confirmed by local councils
- about 60,000 were rejected or canceled.
Matt Cole from charity Fuel Bank Foundation, said it was disappointing that so many people had missed out and believed it was due to a number of factors.
“The rollout of the program this spring rather than before winter when it’s needed most, the reliance on families self-determining that they’re eligible rather than having them automatically receive it, and the process is a bit complicated. complex to ask for help will all contribute.”
The government said it had spent more than £50 million to “support 130,000 households without an energy supplier in the country”.
This data shows just over £300m of the possible £360m in the UK has gone unclaimed ahead of time.
Those who think they are eligible need to register on the government website or call the helpline, which is what Mark, who lives in his narrow boat, did.
“There are many people [on canal boats] tried to put an application through to claim it [but] we hit a roadblock when it said: ‘Do you live in the marina or are you offline?’
“As soon as you clicked ‘off grid’ you went to the box that said ‘you are not eligible at this time’.”
Mark uses three and a half sacks of coal for his multi-fuel stove each week in the winter. He paid around £9 per bag but last winter the price almost doubled.
“[The £400 payment] would be a great help. That money has to come from somewhere so it has to come from the rest of my budget or savings.
“It would have made my winter a little easier, maybe I could have spent more money on the grandchildren.”
“We’ve spent billions of dollars protecting homes from rising prices during the winter, covering almost half of a typical household’s energy bill,” said a government spokesman.
“We are now seeing costs fall further with wholesale energy prices down more than two-thirds since their peak.
“We are urging boards to process applications and complete final checks as quickly as possible to ensure all eligible people receive the support they need.”
The government said anyone who did not apply by the deadline should visit its website. Help for Household page.
Carol lives on a property southeast of Runcorn. She said the application process was simple, but she was forced to apply three or four times because of repeated rejections.
“We got rejected countless times. I just kept going, refusing to give up. Because I thought ‘Why should I give up?’ I have worked all my life, I have paid for the system.
“[The £400] is very important because 99.9% of the people on these sites are all retired and many of them only have a basic pension, or maybe a little extra.
“But it didn’t go very far because the food went up, the gas went up, so £400 is totally a godsend.”
Park homes were the largest single group seeking the £400 grant, with 47,400 households out of 203,580 registered.
Single-family tenants have the highest rates of rental rejections and cancellations, with 47% of applications from this group being stopped. Applications were rejected if people received support, created a duplicate app, or were not eligible.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that around 137,000 nursing home residents in the UK pay for some or all of their care and that these people are eligible to apply for assistance.
There were just under 22,000 applications from households in nursing homes across the UK.
In a similar scheme for Northern Ireland, 28,000 households are eligible for assistance worth £600, totaling around £16.8 million.
There are just over 8,000 applications in Northern Ireland from people without electricity, just over 4,000 applications have been paid by June 1, 2023, and 160 are pending.
Of the remainder, just over 2,700 applications have been canceled or denied, and more than 1,000 are still being processed. This means that nearly 23,000 households in Northern Ireland could have missed out on around £13.6 million.
Here are some energy-saving ideas from environmental scientist Angela Terry, who founded One Home, a social enterprise that shares green, money-saving tips:
- Get a free water-saving shower head from your water company and use the shower instead of the tub
- Consider loft insulation, which she says costs around £460 for a typical townhouse and could save £355 a year on gas bills
- Hang the washing machine instead of using the tumble dryer
- Use windy days to feel where drafts are in the house. Wet the back of your hand to help locate them, then use insulating or draft-proof tape