Coronavirus: information and updates

Scope responds to government changes to the Warm Home Discount

The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP 

Secretary of State
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 
1 Victoria Street 
London SW1H 0ET 

17th May 2022

Dear Secretary of State,

I am getting in touch regarding the Government’s planned changes to the Warm Home Discount scheme for Winter 2022 to 2023, the final decision of which was published on Friday 1st April.

We already know that life costs more if you are disabled. Many people have no choice but to use energy to power vital medical equipment, keep their temperature stable or charge equipment such as powerchairs.

The surge in inflation over the past few months is having a major negative effect on many disabled people. It has driven an increase in disabled people’s living costs, real worries about the future, and a deterioration of their health and wellbeing.

The Warm Homes Discount payment has therefore been a welcome form of assistance to disabled people who have received it. However, amid the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, many disabled people are set to lose this vital support with their energy bills.

Scope and all the signatories to this letter have real concerns about the changes to the scheme, in particular changes to the eligibility criteria for the new Core Group 2. These changes will mean that some people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA) will no longer be eligible for the scheme when it reopens in October, if their income is above a certain level.

Worryingly, even by BEIS’s own Impact Assessment, some 290,000 disabled people who need and would benefit from the support WHD offers will now miss out. We feel that this is an unacceptable change.

At a time when we are facing a real-terms cut to benefits, energy prices have more than doubled and the cost-of-living crisis continues, it’s critical that the Government reverses this decision to cut support for disabled people. Whilst the focus by BEIS on fuel poverty target numbers from a pure policy perspective is understandable, these changes don’t take into account that disabled people have higher energy costs and usage.

We note that BEIS argues that the majority of DLA and PIP households who are not in receipt of a means-tested benefits have higher incomes and are therefore theoretically less at risk of fuel poverty. This however fails to take into the account the higher energy costs and usage that we know disabled people have, on top of the extra costs disabled people face because of their disability or impairment.

Under the reforms, receiving DLA or PIP is not considered a proxy for being on low income – so being on one of them alone is not enough to qualify. Instead, Government will calculate fuel poverty based on the characteristics of a person’s home and income.

However, DLA and PIP are benefits designed to help with the extra living costs that can come with being disabled. Receiving these benefits demonstrate that you have extra costs. The removal of the WHD for many will make the current situation even worse. People who rely on high energy usage to keep them alive have no alternative – if you use a ventilator or have vital medical equipment, there is no choice but to pay these higher costs.

Scope and the signatories to this letter are calling on the Government to immediately reverse the decision to remove some disabled people in receipt of DLA, PIP and AA from the WHD eligibility criteria. If the Government is going ahead with these changes, we feel they need to do a better job of communicating exactly who will qualify for WHD once these changes are implemented.

Furthermore, in an earlier version of these proposed changes a new industry initiative was put forward as an option to support disabled customers, but now appears not to be mentioned. Clarity on this would also be welcome.

We would be happy to discuss this further and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely, 

Mark Hodgkinson – Chief Executive, Scope 

Co-signatories:

 

Diane Lightfoot - Chief Executive Officer, Business Disability Forum
Tracey Lazard – CEO, Inclusion London
Ruth Owen OBE – CEO, Leonard Cheshire
Paul Farmer CBE - Chief Executive Officer, Mind
Edel Harris OBE - Chief Executive Officer, Mencap
Caroline Stevens - Chief Executive, National Autistic Society
Matt Stringer - Chief Executive, RNIB
Mark Atkinson - Chief Executive, RNID
Richard Kramer – CEO, Sense

 

 

 

Opens in a new windowOpens an external siteOpens an external site in a new window