A little known silver lining for Universal Credit claimants

The number of people applying for Universal Credit has surged to record levels as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the numbers are set to rise further with further economic uncertainty.
 

In addition to a loss of income, households could also be facing a rise in energy-bills due to more time spent at home and cold weather approaching. Many will be coming to grips with the benefits system for the first time and starting to understand the rules, regulations and complexities around making a claim.

However, there is a little known silver lining for these claimants. Anyone who has claimed Universal Credit successfully will also be eligible for home improvements under the Government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme.

This current scheme, called ECO3, targets people that have high energy costs comparative to household income. The scheme has a list of ‘qualifying benefits’ for eligibility. Universal Credit is on that list.
 
Plus, there are no savings or income-tests for the qualifying benefit part of the application, so if you receive any benefit on the list below (excluding Child Benefit as that has an income cap), it’s likely you’ll be eligible.
According to Ofgem (who administer the ECO scheme), claimants will still be eligible for a period of 18 months following the date of the letter for the Universal Credit award (page 233 of the Ofgem ECO3 guidance has full details).
 
So, if say you were awarded your Universal Credit in April but you got a job last week and came off Universal Credit today (for example), you still have a significant period of time (a year and a half) to have the measure installed, as you would still be classed as eligible even when you return to work. While you can wait to apply, we’d recommend applying sooner rather than later as funding rules can change at any time.
 
Even if you have returned to work or are planning to return to work, you will still be eligible, providing you have had at least one award for Universal Credit.
 
And it isn’t just Universal Credit recipients who are eligible for grants. Also on the ‘qualifying benefits’ list are the following benefits:
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • ? Child Benefit*
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Pension Credit (Guarantee)
  • Employment and support allowance (income-related)
  • Jobseeker’s allowance (Income-based)
  • Income Support
  • Industrial injuries disablement benefit
  • Mobility supplement
  • Personal independence payment
  • Severe disablement allowance
  • Universal credit
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement
  • Working tax credit

Note if Child Benefit is the only qualifying benefit you receive, you will also need to meet additional income rules detailed here.

ELIGIBILITY

Covid-19 and eligibility

You will still be eligible if you return to work as you can claim for a period of 18 months after claiming benefits.

What grants are available?

There are a range of energy-efficiency measures that can be installed under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, including boiler upgrades, home insulation and heating upgrades. The Scheme is funded by the major energy companies and if you claim benefits, you are entitled to this funding.

Table: Measures available under the Energy Company Obligation Scheme:

First Time Central Heating Grant

How much could you get?

The amount of funding available depends on a range of factors, including property type, your existing heating, wall type and potential energy savings from proposed work.
 
The first step in working out what you could get is to check your eligibility online. There’s a quick form on the Energy Saving Genie site where you can enter your details to see if you are eligible.
 
If you meet the criteria, you can choose to apply and once the application has been submitted, your application will be passed to a Registered Installer.
 
The Registered Installer will arrange a free survey of your property. You can choose to proceed ASAP with a survey taking place following strict health and safety guidelines or you can choose to wait until after Covid-19.
 
Once the survey has taken place, the surveyor will report back to the Registered Installer, who will talk you through the grants that are available towards energy-efficiency measures at your property.
01

Apply

The application process is easy and will take 2 mins.

02

Free survey

If you are eligible, a free survey will be booked.

03

Installation

Installation at a time that suits by a Registered Installer.

Boiler Upgrade or Replacement

Included as a measure in the scheme for homeowners where the existing boiler is inefficient or broken.

Electric Heating Upgrade

Included as a measure where existing heating is electric.

First Time Central Heating (FTCH)

Included in the scheme for properties that have never had central heating.

Insulation

A range of insulation options are included in the scheme including cavity wall insulation, underfloor insulation, loft insulation, room in roof insulation and solid wall insulation

The grant is paid directly to the installer and they are awarded on lifetime savings (LTS) scores. Currently electric heated properties and larger properties tend to receive the most funding. But even if your home isn’t large or heated by electricity, it is worth applying as you could still receive a significant grant towards home improvements.
 

So, if you are one of the many million new Universal Credit claimants due to Covid-19, you can start the process of applying for a home improvement grant that will knock £££s of your energy bills for years to come, well after the pandemic has passed.