For many of those of pensionable age, living on a fixed or low income means having to budget wisely. A key aspect of this is ensuring gas and electricity bills remain affordable. And, while there aren’t any gas and electricity deals exclusively for those over 65, there are a few things to look for that can assist in ensuring you get the best deal to keep your energy bills as low as possible.
I am a pensioner. What can I do to ensure I’m getting the cheapest energy?
Making sure you’re paying the cheapest possible price for energy is not limited to finding the right deal. How you pay for your gas and electricity, as well as qualifying for certain payments from the Government can all contribute to your final cost.
Switching to a fixed rate tariff
A good starting point to ensure you’re getting the cheapest gas and electricity is to switch to a fixed energy tariff. Energy suppliers generally offer fixed tariffs for 12 months, but some will offer longer term deals.
With a fixed-rate tariff, you pay a fixed amount for your energy usage every month. In other words, unlike a standard variable tariff - where the price you pay for your energy fluctuates based on the Ofgem price cap and wholesale energy prices - the price you pay for each unit of gas and electricity is “locked in”, protecting you from volatility in the energy market.
Pay by direct debit
A report conducted by energy supplier Octopus earlier this year found that customers who pay by cheque, cash, or card – the preferred payment method of those over 65 - are charged up to £254 more per year than those who pay by monthly direct debit.
While non-direct debit payment methods do incur slight additional costs to energy suppliers, these surcharges are not driven by the rise in wholesale energy costs. Ofgem have said they will clamp down on these charges but not for at least two years. We'd like to see this done much sooner to help bring prices down across the board.
However, until Ofgem takes decisive action, and to avoid these unnecessary charges, setting up a direct debit with your current supplier can help reduce your total bill.
Signing up for a dual fuel tariff – meaning your gas and electricity comes from the same supplier – can bring some small savings. This is because energy suppliers will usually discount the cost of gas and electricity if you choose to buy them together.
Will pensioners get help with energy bills in 2023?
In addition to the common government grants and schemes that many pensionable age customers are eligible for - such as the Warm Home Discount and the Cold Weather Payment - there are also a number of additional one-off payments that will be available for the 2023/24 period. These are:
£300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment
Households that qualify for a Winter Fuel Payment for 2023 to 2024 will get either an extra £150 or £300 to be paid from November.
To qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment for the 2023/24 period - and subsequently the Pensioner Cost of Living Payment - you must have been born before 25 September 1957.
How do I apply?
You do not need to do anything. If you’re eligible, you will be sent a letter in October or November 2023 with information on how much Winter Fuel Payment and Pensioner Cost of Living Payment you’ll get.
£900 Cost of Living Payment
Individuals or households on means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit and Universal Credit may be eligible for a £900 payment to be paid out over three instalments of £301, £300, and £299.
To qualify for the first Cost of Living payment of £301, you must be receiving one of the following benefits or tax credits during certain dates:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- ·Working Tax Credit
If you were in receipt of Universal Credit during the assessment period between 26 January and 25 February 2023 (or later found to be entitled to a payment during this time), you are eligible for the first Cost of Living Payment.
For all tax credits and other benefits, including Pension Credit, you will be eligible if you were entitled to receive your benefits or tax credits (or later found to be entitled) for any day in the period 26 January 2023 to February 2023.
Eligibility for the Second and Third Cost of Living Payments
Eligibility criteria for the Second and Third Cost of Living Payments are yet to be announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
How do I apply?
If you’re eligible you will receive the payment automatically.
£150 Disability Cost of Living Payment
Those receiving disability benefits will automatically qualify for the Disability Cost of Living Payment. The payment will be made between 20 June and 4 July 2023.
To qualify for the Disability Cost Living payment of £150, you must be receiving one of the following benefits:
- Attendance Allowance
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance for adults
- Disability Living Allowance for children
- Personal Independence Payment
- Adult Disability Payment (in Scotland)
- Child Disability Payment (in Scotland)
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- War Pension Mobility Supplement
How do I apply?
You do not need to apply. If you’re eligible, you will receive the payment automatically between 20 June 2023 and 4 July 2023.
When will these payments be made?
Payments for the above schemes are approximated by the Government to be paid out as follows:
£301 – First Cost of Living Payment (between 25 April 2023 and 9 May 2023)
£300 – Second Cost of Living Payment (during Autumn 2023)
£150 - £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment (during Winter 2023/24)
£299 – Third Cost of Living Payment (during Spring 2024)
Sign-up to the Priority Services Register (PSR)
The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free support service operated by energy suppliers and network operators. It is designed to ensure extra help is available to vulnerable customers, including those who have reached state pension age.
Services offered by the PSR include:
Energy account information and bills available in large print, Braille, textphone, audio, or a language other than English.
Nominate a friend, family member, or carer to receive bills and information about your account from your supplier.
If you have medical equipment that uses electricity or water, you’ll be given priority service during prolonged interruptions to your energy supply. Portable generators and bottled water can also be arranged to be delivered to your place of residence.
Advanced notice of planned power cuts
If your energy needs to be switched off to carry out essential maintenance, you will receive advance notice.
An official website was recently launched where you can sign-up and be added to the Priority Services Register. Simply enter your postcode and complete the sign-up questionnaire. Alternatively, you can phone your supplier and asked to be placed on the PSR.
Beware of ‘targeted’ energy tariffs
Although there are no fixed rate tariffs exclusively for pensioners, this doesn’t mean that some suppliers or organisations won’t try and sell a particular energy tariff as if it were tailor-made to a targeted demographic.
For example, in 2016, the UK’s biggest charity for older people, Age UK, was found to have partnered with one of the “big six” energy providers to promote an energy tariff to pensioners that was not the cheapest available. Because of this, around 150,000 pensionable age customers ended up overpaying by more than £200 a year on their energy.
For this reason, it pays to be aware of any organisation or energy companies advertising tariffs towards a particular demographic. If you see these kinds of offers, always compare them against what other suppliers are offering to make sure you're really getting the best value for money.
Avoid the dangers of targeted energy tariffs
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