Saving money on your parents' energy bills
We’ve searched far and wide to find some useful information that may save your parents a bit of money on their energy bills. Whether you or your parents manage their gas and electricity, we’ve compiled a list of schemes and handy tips to help clarify those complex energy bills.
The choices depend on how your parents feel about you getting involved. If you and they are happy for you to take over, then the only hurdle is convincing the supplier that you’re authorised to do so.
If your parents are content to keep on top of finances themselves, then one option is to do the research online, and pass the information on. The problem with this approach is that often the best deals are only available online. So the final choice is to do it together from your computer.
Schemes to consider:
- The Warm Home Discount Scheme * (WHDS) If your parents are already on a social tariff this initiative is being replaced by WHDS. Their provider should notify them by letter that the social tariff scheme is being phased out. If you’re concerned that your parents won’t be informed of the WHDS then it’s worth a call to their supplier to ensure they’re receiving the appropriate help with their bills.
- Cold Weather Payment * If you think your parents should be due a payment you can use their postcode to check. Your parents will receive payments such as this from The Pension Service which operates out of their local pension centre which you can again find by entering their postcode. If you'd rather call or receive face-to-face information about what your parents are entitled to click here.
- Winter Fuel Payment * If your parents receive a state pension they could be entitled to annual fuel payments to help them cover their heating costs. As long as their circumstances don’t change you parents should receive this payment automatically each year. You can download the application form here.
- Energy Grants Calculator you or your parents can fill in 2 questions and the calculator recommends the grants and benefits they could be entitled to.
- Priority Services Register (PSR) If your parent is a pensioner, has had long-term ill health, is registered as disabled, or has a hearing or visual impairment, they may be eligible for extra help offered by energy suppliers. Most providers have a Careline number you can call to register your parents with the service.
- If you’re worried about salespeople coming to your parents’ door or calling and convincing them to switch to a more expensive tariff the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has produced a simple factsheet about how to deal with these people should the situation arise.
- The Home Heat Helpline is a service for vulnerable customers struggling to pay their bills. It is funded by the energy suppliers, and provides information on grants, payment schemes and benefits that may be available as well as basic advice about energy efficiency. If you or your parents have difficulty hearing you can use their Minicom service. They have produced a factsheet of advice for older people which provides information on how to save money and subsequently save energy.
- Switch and save is Surrey's collective switching scheme that you can join for free regardless of where you live. The website will be holding an auction of energy suppliers on the 9th of April 2013 which will determine the best deal for those registered based on each individual's usage. Although this scheme may seem localised it is very much available to all UK residents.
- If you or your parent has had difficulty paying their bill you may be able to apply for a trust fund which could help with paying debts owed to your energy supplier. Currently the only companies that offer this service are British Gas, EDF Energy and npower. Find out more here.
Top tips for getting the best deals and service:
- According to MoneySupermarket it’s generally 10% cheaper to pay your bills by direct debit. They also state that their energy comparison and switching services are all-inclusive which means that if you can’t get a hold of a particular energy company directly, they will do the leg work for you and have your application “sent to the new provider within 24 hours to start the switching process”.
- Often energy suppliers will only deal with the account holder which means that unless your impersonation skills are up to scratch you’ll fall at the first hurdle. Account security is hard to bypass. Most suppliers have a Priority Services Register that your parents can request to join which should grant you easy access to your parents account.
- If you feel like you’ve been on hold with your parents' provider for rather too long and their customer service isn’t what it should be try hanging up and calling through to their “customer complaints” or “account cancellation” department. Energy suppliers don’t want to lose customers and usually will deal with customers that take this route far sooner than if you jump through the automated system.
- Online tariffs are cheaper but they often come at a price. You’ll have to access the billing system online and you are not likely to receive paper bills, in fact only a handful of online tariffs send out paper bills, requested or not, and some actually charge you extra if you want a paper copy.
- Switching your elderly parents to a new energy supplier creates an opportunity to intercept the communication between your parents and their provider. If you’re acting on your parents’ behalf, in paying their energy bills, you can give the company your number so they can solely deal with you which also prevents them from making unwelcome sales calls to your parents’ home.
*If your parents are eligible they can apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme, Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments. None of these benefit claims effect the other so if your parents are entitled to all three they should be receiving them.
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