Grab that grant!

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Mature woman keeping warm while reading a book

I have recently discovered that those of us in the ‘over 50’ age bracket are eligible for a range of money-saving discounts. If, like me, you were also oblivious to this state of affairs, then I hope this blog post helps remedy it and saves you, or people you know, a few pennies.

For many people entering their 50s, this period of life represents a financial change. According to the Office of National Statistics our earnings reach a peak between age 40 and 49, dropping off thereafter. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it is the ‘average’ trend. One way to counterbalance a dwindling income is by seeking out the grants and discounts that are available, particularly in relation to energy consumption and home improvements. You’d be surprised at the billions of pounds in grant money that goes unclaimed every year, and it’s hard to say whether this is due to lack of awareness, or because the bureaucracy involved in making an application is over complicated and time consuming. Personally, I’d hazard a guess that it’s a bit of both.

Energy efficiency

It makes sense that with energy usage under scrutiny there should be a number of incentives to help reduce use and expenditure. The government has set targets for itself and the big energy providers, which are meant to reduce the cost to the consumer. But, how can you enlist aid to lower your household bill?

The first answer is ‘free insulation’ and ‘boiler repair or replacement’. The Energy Company Obligation explains the government’s targets and the energy companies’ responsibilities, whilst this useful information on The Affordable Warmth Obligation explains the energy-saving improvements you can access whether you own your home or are renting privately and the various ‘eligibility’ markers you must meet. The energy companies have annual targets that they are required to meet, and if they don’t reach these then they face a fine, so it is in the energy companies’ interests to make insulation as easily and widely available as possible.

You may also look at what your local council has to offer. To ease the search here’s a link to The Energy Saving Trust in Scotland and to the Gov UK page where you can find more details about what you might be eligible for.

Keep your home warm

Many of us will have heard of the Cold Weather payment and might mistakenly think that it is only for pensioners. In fact it is available to people on various forms of benefits and tax credits, regardless of age, so it’s worth looking at if you think you might meet the requirements. For example, if you have a child under five living with you, whether that is a grandchild or foster child, then you should be getting this payment.

The Warm Home Discount is also another scheme to investigate. It is designed to help vulnerable people regardless of age, and is paid in the form of an annual rebate. It seems to me that whilst I am sure that many of us are fortunately financially secure, I’m convinced that plenty of us know a person who could use the help, but doesn’t know how to access it. Finding your way through these application processes is tough for older members of our communities who need a hand with filling in those application forms that would muddle a Mastermind champion.

 

Mature woman shopping for furniture

Furniture and white goods

For anyone looking for help with furnishings, or reconditioned white goods, then Turn2us is the place to go for help. They welcome requests on behalf of friends or relatives, so you don’t need to be the person in need – you can find that information out for someone of any age who requires help with furnishing a home.

Contact Citizens Advice Bureau

If you or someone you know needs to spread payments with the energy companies, then the company itself will usually help. There are also local trusts, hardship funds and other grant-making bodies across the UK that can help with utility bill payment. However, the contact details are not conveniently stored in one place, but the services of the Citizen Advice Bureau are there to help you find them.

Finally, everyone, regardless of income, is eligible for a free fire safety check from your local fire station. This will assess risks and help you devise an exit plan in event of fire. The peace of mind that such a professional assessment gives you is almost beyond value.

These are just some of the ways you can help reduce your bills, and just as importantly help vulnerable people who are unaware of their rights, to save pennies and have a more comfortable life in their home.

 

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by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.