Winter fuel payment delayed for nearly half a million off-grid homes until spring

Rural house
Rural house

Almost half a million homes will not get any help with their energy bills until spring as a result of Government delays in rolling out their payments.

Furious MPs have ordered ministers to “pull out all the stops” and speed up the delivery of cash to households which are off the electricity grid.

There are around 400,000 families who still have not received any financial support because they are not directly connected to the power network.

They are due to get a £400 one-off payment, but the Government has privately admitted it will not arrive in their bank accounts until the end of March.

The latest delay means those people will have had to endure the entire winter without the support which has been available to most households.

Many of those affected live in mobile home parks, on boats moored by rivers and canals, or in isolated houses in the country’s most rural areas.

There have been reports that many of them have been cutting back on their usage during the recent cold snap, with potential consequences for their health.

On top of that “hundreds of thousands” more homes which use oil or LPG gas for their heating still have not yet received a promised £200 payment.

'They should be banging on the Treasury’s door'

David Jones, the Conservative MP for Clwyd West, said it was “deeply worrying” that support has not yet been provided to off-grid homes.

He warned that many of those affected already have to pay higher prices for their energy than the average household.

“I’ve got a lot of constituents who are extremely concerned about this and wonder why they’ve been forgotten,” he said.

“It is really 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 possibly can to pull out all the stops so that people get the money. Absolutely they should be doing more.

“They should be banging on the Treasury’s door and insist that money be made available quickly and not left until the end of the winter.”

'Delaying compensation is counter-productive'

On Friday, Liberal Democrat MPs sent a joint letter to Rishi Sunak urging him to look at the problem “as a matter of urgency”.

“Off-grid households are being disproportionately disadvantaged, an issue that is being dangerously exacerbated by the cost of living crisis,” they warned the Prime Minister.

“Delaying their compensation until after the winter is counter-productive. Our constituents need this support now, when temperatures are at their lowest and bills are at their highest.”

Richard Foord, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton who was one of the eight signatories to the letter, said the Conservatives were “failing our communities”.

“It sums up the incompetence of this Government that winter will be over by the time many families receive the much needed and long-awaited ‘winter’ support,” he said.

“Rishi Sunak has ignored repeated warnings from MPs and in doing so, he has proved that he does not understand the needs of rural areas.

“The Government must get their act together and fix this mess, so we can get this money out the door and into people’s bank accounts without any further delay.”

Difficulty supporting mobile homes

Getting support to mobile homes has proved particularly difficult because power is supplied to them via a single point before being internally distributed to the dwellings on site.

That means that an entire park only appears on the system as one customer, which is technically eligible for just a single energy support payment.

The same is true for houseboats which use a single shared powerpoint.

It means that people in such situations have not received automatic deductions from their bills like those households with a direct electricity contract.

Ministers have been working with local councils to identify which households are eligible, but there have been repeated delays in rolling out the payments.

In a briefing to MPs this week Graham Stuart, the Energy Minister, said the families affected will be able to apply for their £400 payment from Feb 27.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is overseeing the rollout of the scheme, was contacted for comment.