Advisor helping with ECO Grants

Heating and insulation grants explained: A Guide for advisors

This blog post is written for anyone providing entitlement advice to low-income households. Whether you are a benefit advisor working for a local authority, or an income maximisation officer for a housing association, or an advisor or volunteer at a Citizens Advice organisation, this blog will tell you everything you need to know about the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

Once you’ve read this blog you will be able to advise clients on whether they can get a boiler grant, insulation and more, and your clients will love you for it.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a funded scheme that is designed to reduce carbon emissions and the current phase targets fuel poor and vulnerable households.

Often the poorest and most vulnerable households are paying the highest energy costs and so these grants can provide much-needed funding to those that need it most.

It’s not always easy for advisors to know who is eligible and who isn’t, so this article will provide some guidance on who is eligible for grants and how clients can get their hands on heating and insulation grants.

What are ECO grants

1. What are Energy Company Obligation grants and why do they exist?

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grant scheme is a government initiative designed to help energy customers in England, Scotland and Wales who are experiencing fuel poverty.

There is evidence that people living with inadequate heating or insulation at home can suffer from serious health problems.

The scheme provides grants to eligible households to make energy-efficiency home improvements and, in doing so, tackles the bigger issue of tackling climate change and reducing our carbon emissions.

The ECO scheme was introduced in 2013 and there have been modifications to the scheme over the years.

The current phase is called ECO3 and it targets fuel poverty or low-income households. We are expecting announcements regarding the next phase, ECO4, which will come into force in April 2022.

In the next phase of the scheme it is expected that funding for gas boilers will be massively reduced, or removed altogether, in line with the Boris Johnson’s “net zero” by 2050 plan where gas boilers are to be retired and replaced with other forms of heating.

ECO grants are available for energy efficiency improvements to:

*private homes, including rented housing; and

*certain types of social housing properties

The ECO scheme is designed to help tackle fuel poverty by providing grants for energy-efficiency home improvements such as loft insulation or cavity wall insulation, boilers and upgraded heating systems.

2. Who is eligible for an ECO grant?

To be eligible for a grant your client will need to meet one of the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Receiving a qualifying benefit
  2. Receiving Child Benefit and meeting income rules
  3. Through LA Flex or Local Authority Flexible Energy rules

Eligibility

There are 3 ways to qualify for a grant:

1. Receiving a qualifying benefit
2. Receiving Child Benefit and meeting income rules
3. Through LA Flex or Local Authority Flexible Energy rules

This route to eligibility applies where a member of the household receives or has received a 'qualifying benefit'. If the benefit isn't a current claim (for example for households where they have gone back to work after the pandemic) providing the benefit has been claimed at some point within the last 18 months, the household will still be eligible for a grant.

Qualifying benefits include:

    • Armed Forces Independence Payment
    • Attendance Allowance
    • Carer's Allowance
    • Child Tax Credit
    • Constant Attendance Allowance
    • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
    • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - income-based (not contribution-based ESA)
    • Income Support
    • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
    • Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) - income-based (not contribution-based JSA)
    • Pension Guarantee Credit
    • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
    • Severe Disablement Allowance
    • Tax Credits (both Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit)
    • Universal Credit
    • War Pensions Mobility Supplement
    • Working Tax Credit

If your client receives Child Benefit they could be eligible for the scheme but unlike the qualifying benefits above they would need to meet an additional income criteria.

The Child Benefit income criteria depends on the number of children in the household and also whether the claim is a single or joint claim.

The income limits are as follows:

Single Person Child Benefit Income Thresholds

Number of childrenMaximum income
1£18,500
2£23,000
3£27,500
4+£32,000
The table shows the income limits for eligibility for the Energy Company Obligation Scheme for a single person. Income from all sources must not exceed the threshold detailed in the table.

Couple Child Benefit Income Thresholds

Number of childrenMaximum income
1£25,500
2£30,000
3£34,500
4+£39,000
The table shows the income limits for eligibility for the Energy Company Obligation Scheme for couples. Income from all sources must not exceed the threshold detailed in the table.

If your client is eligible through the Child Benefit route to eligibility they should apply as soon as they can. The Government's Green Homes Grant excluded Child Benefit recipients so potentially this eligibility route could be removed altogether in the next phase of the scheme.

If your client is over the limit then there is one final route to eligibility that we cover below.

Local authorities are allowed to expand the eligibility criteria for ECO so that more households can benefit from the scheme and they each are able to tailor energy efficiency eligibility rules to their respective area thanks to Local Authority or LA Flex schemes.

Each local authority is obligated to published a Statement of Intent that details their rules for eligibility.

There is a full list of each Statement of Intent on the Government website.

While each local authority has their own scheme generally if you have a poorly heated or insulated home indicated by a D, E, F or G rating on your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and an income of less than £25K per annum there is a good chance you will qualify. Or if you are vulnerable and/or have health conditions you might qualify regardless of how much you earn.

3. Are social housing tenants eligible for grants?

Yes, social housing tenants are eligible for most ECO grants but there are additional rules around the property’s energy-efficiency status that have to be met.
Social housing tenants are only eligible for grants where the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has a rating of E, F or G. 
If your client is a housing association tenant that meets the property eligibility criteria they could be eligible for a range of insulation grants. They could also be eligible for electric heating upgrades if their home is currently heated by electric. However, social housing tenants aren’t eligible for boiler grants as they are restricted to “home owners” only in the current phase of the ECO scheme.

4. Are landlords eligible for grants?

Landlords aren’t eligible for grants themselves but, if they have tenants who live in their rental property that meet the eligibility rules, their properties can be upgraded using the grants with their permission.
 
The application is made by the tenant and it is the tenant who needs to meet the eligibility criteria such as claiming benefits or meeting LA Flex rules.
The landlord will need to complete a consent form and agree to any works before they are undertaken. Most landlords are generally happy for their tenants to apply for grants as it means they are getting their rental property improved under the scheme. This is particularly important with the introduction of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for landlords and the expectation that this will be raised in the coming years.
So, the tenants of landlords can apply for grants if the property has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of A, B, C, D or E, but not if the property has an EPC rating of F or G.

5. Are renters eligible for grants?

Yes, tenants residing in properties with an EPC rating of at least A, B, C, D or E are eligible for grants.
Tenants living in rented property that has an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of F or G cannot apply for ECO grants.
The tenant must meet the eligibility criteria and the landlord will need to consent to the tenant receiving the grant on their behalf.
A landlord cannot apply for ECO grants, only tenants can.

6. What properties are eligible for grants?

Properties have to be located in England, Scotland and Wales and your client will need to live at the property as their main residence. Whether your client lives in a rented or owner-occupied property, they can still apply for ECO grants.
There are grants for flats, houses, maisonettes, bungalows and pretty much every type of property. The scheme even includes park homes! The property’s age and construction usually determines what type of grants are available. For example, cavity wall insulation is only available in properties with uninsulated cavity walls.
The largest properties attract the most funding because the funding levels are assessed on the lifetime savings that can be made by improving the heating and/or insulation at the property. In some cases, contributions will be required for smaller properties, but these will always be explained and estimated after a no obligation free home assessment.

7. What grants are available?

There are two main categories of Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grants available:
 
1. Insulation grants
 
• Cavity wall insulation
• Loft insulation
• Roof or room in roof insulation
• Solid wall insulation (either internal wall insulation or external wall insulation) – only available where the property is heated by electric (not available where gas is the main heating)
• Underfloor insulation
 
2. Heating grants
 
• Boiler upgrades or replacement (for homeowners only)
• Electric storage heaters (where the property isn’t currently heated by mains gas)
• First time central heating (where they property hasn’t ever had central heating previously)
• SMART thermostats (some installers will install these alongside boiler upgrades but they are only available in some areas)
 
The type of grant will depend on what type of heating system the property has and the construction of the property.

Measures Available - ECO

MeasureHomeownerPrivate renterHousing association tenant
Boiler grantYesNoNo
Cavity wall insulationYesYes

Only properties with an EPC rating of A, B, C, D or E
Yes

Only properties with an EPC rating of E, F or G
External wall insulationYesYes

Only properties with an EPC rating of A, B, C, D or E
Yes

Only properties with an EPC rating of E, F or G
First time central heatingYesYesYes

Only properties with an EPC rating of E, F or G
Loft insulationYesYes

Only properties with an EPC rating of A, B, C, D or E
Yes

Only properties with an EPC rating of E, F or G
Room in roof insulationYesYes

Only properties with an EPC rating of A, B, C, D or E
Yes

Only properties with an EPC rating of E, F or G
Underfloor insulationYesYes

Only properties with an EPC rating of A, B, C, D or E
Yes

Only properties with an EPC rating of E, F or G
The table shows the measures available available to households.
8. Why should advisors be promoting ECO grants?
 

The current phase of the grant scheme is set to end in March 2022 and the rules are set to change – it is expected that gas boiler grants will be removed altogether and that social housing tenants will be removed from the next phase of the scheme.

Aiming to help people save money on expensive fuel bills is a great way for advisors to build trust with clients and improve their clients

These grants are paid by the energy suppliers and, as they are grant and not a loan, they do not have to be paid back.

The grant is a tax free benefit. It is paid directly to the installer and it will not affect eligibility for other benefits such as Income Support or Universal Credit.

The promotion of this fund will mean your clients can receive these grants which could make their energy bills more manageable.

As an advisor you have a crucial role to play in ensuring that eligible households know about these grants. By promoting the scheme your clients will love you and you’ll sleep soundly at night knowing you’ve helped vulnerable clients escape living in fuel poverty; you’ll also have helped to reduce carbon emissions and the climate emergency!

9. How can I apply for a grant?
 

The process of applying for an ECO grant is fairly straightforward, with the following steps:

– Firstly applicants need to apply for the scheme. You can fill in the short form here https://energysavinggenie.co.uk/energy-company-obligation (you can also apply for grants directly with most energy companies).

– Once the form has been completed, you’ll get an immediate indication of what grants can be claimed and what contributions would be, if any.

– The application will be referred to a Registered Installer. The Registered Installer will be registered with TrustMark. All work carried out under the ECO scheme comes with a range of guarantees.

10. What happens after applying for a grant?
 

After the application is made online it is issued to an installer. The installer should contact your client within 48 hours of the application being allocated. This is usually by phone, so it’s really important that the client answers the telephone when the installer calls.

If the property is suitable for a grant, and if the applicant is eligible, the installer will send a Data Match request to the DWP to confirm benefits claimed. The Energy Saving Trust carries out Data Matches on behalf of the DWP and they return the result, the main ones being ‘Matched’ or ‘Unmatched’. If your client is applying through the LA Flex route to eligibility, they’ll arrange for a declaration to be agreed by the relevant local authority. 

The installer will then arrange for a free “no obligation” survey of the property. Usually this is carried out as a physical survey but, in some cases, they can be carried out as a virtual survey. The installer will report back on the findings of the survey and confirm the viability of grants and talk the client through any considerations.

The final step in the process is for installation to be booked. Hopefully, this will mean that your client will have lower energy bills and funded home improvements.

The installer will provide all the relevant documentation including warranties and guarantees to the client, and they will also provide contact details for any follow-up queries.

Fuel poverty and climate change are two massive issues facing our world today. If you’re a benefits advisor, now is your chance to make a difference. Please tell your clients about these energy saving grants by mentioning them during conversations or using promotional materials like brochures and flyers.

Visit https://energysavinggenie.co.uk/energy-company-obligation/ to check eligibility for grants and apply.

Thanks for reading, we hope that this information was helpful! If so, please share with friends and family via social media or email today! You never know when someone will find this information useful!