Energy bills: George Eustice grilled on ‘off-peak discounts’
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Nearly half a million households that are disconnected from the gas grid are still yet to receive any support for their energy bills from the Government. As energy costs surged to historic highs amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Government stepped in to offer every household connected to the grid a £400 discount under the Energy Bill Support Scheme (EBSS). However, MPs have raised the alarm over the nearly half a million households not directly connected to the grid and not currently included in the EBSS.
Support for off-grid homes was supposed to be delivered by the end of January. But last week, the Government announced that the application date will be pushed back until the end of this month.
This means, while millions of households receive vouchers and discounts sent straight into their accounts, off-grid homes are being left with nothing.
But not only are they unable to access the £400 discounts get in monthly £66 instalments, but they are also yet to get their hands on the £200 payment under its Alternative Fuel Payments (AFP) scheme, which the Government has offered households the gas grid.
The Government claims that, once it arrives, it will help around two million off-grid households meet their energy costs this winter.
Now, MPs are urging the Government to “provide off-grid households with energy support, via winter fuel payments, as a matter of urgency”.
It is thought that hundreds of thousands of households living in off-grid areas rely on oil or liquified petroleum gas (LPG) to heat their homes.
David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West said: “It is rather disturbing that they haven’t put any measures in place yet to make the payments they’ve been promising these people for several weeks now.
“The government should be doing everything they can to pull out all the stops so that people get the money.”
Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, commented: “People in the Highlands have faced rising costs in alternative heating fuels and now there are real concerns that LPG prices could rise after changes to supply chains to Scotland.”
Energy Minister Graham Stuart told MPs in a briefing last week that eligible off-grid households will be able to apply for their £400 payment from February 27.
Glenda and Neil Cruickshank, 79 and 82 respectively, live in a park home in Shropshire. They both their gas via LPG bottles and have their electricity via their site owner, who has a contract with a supplier.
Ms Cruickshank told the Mail on Sunday back in November: “My husband is type-one diabetic, so we need the support to keep our home warm. I was happy when the Chancellor announced more help, but I just thought: can we have the first lot please?”
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And for some Britons in rural areas living off the gas grid, many believe are still puzzled as to where the Government support is and how to access it.
Posting on Twitter,Fiona Martin wrote: “So this £400 help with energy bills. Our situation is that we buy cards for our electric meter (no bill), we buy LPG bottles paying buy credit card when we order them. How are we supposed to get the £400?? Surely other people are in similar situations? Who can help?
“I don’t consider myself stupid but to me this is totally contradictory. If we have no direct relationship with the electricity supplier, ie, no bill, how is the discount going to be applied to the bill? Our meter is pay-as-you-go and we buy cards for the meter from our landlord.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We know this is a difficult time for households, which is why the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding will provide support of £400 for energy bill costs for households without a relationship to a domestic energy supplier in Britain.
“The government is also supporting families without a mains gas connection. The Alternative Fuel Payment Scheme will begin from February 6, with most eligible households receiving payment automatically through their electricity supplier.”
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