Warm Home Discount Scheme 2018/19
Citizens Advice welcomes the government’s overall proposed approach for this Warm Home Discount scheme year (2018/19). Given the short timescales to get the scheme up and running, making substantive changes to eligibility and the customer journey would be difficult at this point.
We support the inclusion of financial assistance under the industry initiatives. Providing credit for prepayment customers at their time of need is likely to add much greater value than writing off debt. Our recent research (Switched on: improving support for people who’ve self-disconnected) also shows it is likely to benefit the low income and vulnerable households that are the target of this scheme.
We believe the time has come to reconsider the supplier threshold for participating in the scheme. We accept the timescale argument for 2018/19 and also have some sympathy with the desire to protect new entrants from burdensome set up and administration costs. However this exemption significantly distorts competition, acts as a barrier to getting the best deals for low income households, unfairly exempts some households from paying towards the costs of helping the vulnerable and makes the process of deciding if a deal is right more confusing. Also, once data-matching is in place, the arguments based on entry costs should disappear.
These new uses of data also promise to make the scheme much easier for consumers to navigate. The current scheme requires broader group applicants to jump through a series of hoops by a set deadline but without any guarantee of success. A data-matching process would see support brought to those who need it.
We also appreciate that access to more information about a consumer offers the opportunity to target support where it is needed most. We look forward to engaging with the Government’s proposals as they are brought forward. However we would be concerned if the changes resulted in some low income families losing a rebate they have come to rely on. We would like the Government to explore ways of providing comprehensive support to all low income and vulnerable households who need it.