Energy bills: Extra £200 payment announced for more low-income households in Wales this autumn

More than 400,000 low-income households could be set to benefit from a £200 payment Credit: PA

More households in Wales will be offered extra financial support with rising energy bills.

The Welsh Government will invest an extra £90 million in its fuel support scheme in recognition of the impact of the cost of living crisis on those struggling to pay their energy bills.

It estimates more than 400,000 low-income households will be set to benefit from a £200 payment to help keep their homes warm this autumn and winter.

Previously, around 166,000 households on universal credit, legacy means-tested benefit and working tax credits benefitted from the £200 2021/22 Winter Fuel Payment.

Who qualifies for the extra support?

People on universal credit and means-tested benefits like income support and working tax credits were already eligible for extra support through the fuel support scheme.

Recipients of the following will also qualify under the new plans:

  • Child tax credits

  • Pension credits

  • Disability benefits

  • Carers allowance

  • Contributory benefits

  • Council tax reduction scheme

People can claim through their local authorities and applications will open on September 26.

It is understood payments will be made from October and one claim can be made per household.

The additional support has been introduced as annual energy prices are set to rise once again in the autumn.

The energy price cap in the UK is expected to rise by almost £1,000 in October when regulator Ofgem re-adjusts pricing for domestic customers.

There are fears more households could be plunged into fuel poverty in the autumn. Credit: PA

Social justice minister Jane Hutt said: “We know people across Wales are struggling to make ends meet during the cost-of-living crisis, as they see inflation, petrol, essential household items and energy bills all rising.

“We are targeting the fuel support scheme at low-income households and extending the number of those eligible, as we understand how the winter months can be the hardest of the year and families face the difficult choice of heating or eating.

“We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable and doing everything we can to ensure they can get through this difficult moment.”

The new payment by the Welsh Government is separate to support already announced by the UK government.

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Social Justice Minister Mark Isherwood MS said: “I’m pleased to see this announcement after we backed calls to revise the winter fuel support scheme and see the eligibility for payments widened to reach more low-income, vulnerable households in need.

“I’m also happy that the changes were made ahead of autumn to ensure the payment reaches as many eligible households as possible, and now want to see the raising of public awareness of the scheme to boost uptake.

“Governments across the world are having to grapple with rising inflation and energy costs, and it’s a genuine concern for people across Wales and the rest of the UK.

“So, the Welsh Conservatives welcome this announcement and the fact the Labour administration in Cardiff Bay has used the largest ever financial settlement from the Conservative Government to increase support payment for those who need it most, in addition to other Conservative action to deal with the cost-of-living.”

Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for social justice and equalities, Sioned Williams said: "The Winter Fuel Scheme, as it stood, was not fit for purpose – this is why Plaid Cymru was so pleased that our motion calling for its revision was passed in the Senedd earlier this month.

"This action by Welsh Government to extend the eligibility of the scheme to those claiming other types of welfare payments, including carers benefit and disability benefit, is long overdue, as too many people who desperately needed the additional support missed out last winter.

"This must also go hand in hand with an awareness raising campaign to improve uptake of the scheme as we know last time too many households didn’t claim the support they were eligible for.

“Given the energy price cap rise that’s expected in October, Welsh Government must also consider extending this scheme beyond winter. 

"Poverty does not adhere to seasonal constraints - this summer’s bills are now as high as those that used to be limited to winter, and because we are not yet out of the cost-of-living storm.”