When it comes to monthly income, pensioners are often worse off than most of us. Although anyone of pensionable age should be getting something, it can often be a challenge when wages stop and the pension begins.
It is also an inescapable truth that as our age increases, our health will deteriorate. This all adds up to mean that pensioners are often some of the poorest and vulnerable people in our society.
Many pensioners will have topped up pension pots through private investments but this does not apply to all. Not everyone will have this luxury and the state pension alone can often fall short of expectations. In these circumstances it is all too easy for people to fall into fuel poverty.
So are there tariffs available to help protect pensioners?
Unfortunately, no. At least there are no tariffs just for pensioners.
When it comes to choosing the right energy supplier, pensioners get no special treatment. Many of the less tech savvy in society also fall into the pensioner category and so, some of our most vulnerable are at the highest risk of missing out. Obviously, energy deal comparisons are available to everyone, but some people simply don’t know how to access the best deals.
When it comes to selecting the best energy tariff, it comes down to shopping around for the best deal. There are ways to ensure that you are getting the best deal on offer and saving money in the process:
Buy your gas and electricity together and pay by direct debit. Becoming a dual fuel customer, especially if paying by direct debit, will get you the best deal. Energy suppliers want your business, so they will offer the best incentives if you agree get more than one fuel from them. Paying by direct debit adds an extra layer of security for the energy supplier, which is why they will push this as the preferred payment method.
Pay particular attention to fixed term deals. Whether they are over 12 or 24 months, fixed tariffs tend to offer the best value for money. This is not always the case but if a supplier offers both fixed and variable deals, the fixed deal is going to be best.
Compare deals and switch suppliers. In the modern world of energy supply, loyalty counts for nothing. You should be looking for a better deal around 2 months before the end of your current fixed term. If you are already on a variable deal, make sure you are regularly making comparisons to see if you could be getting a better deal elsewhere.
Take advantage of online accounts. Companies pay out much less in costs when you opt to manage your account online. If you choose to do so, your bills will be lower as a result.
Is there any help available?
Yes, in the form of grants and other schemes aimed at helping the most vulnerable.
For those that genuinely struggle with keeping away from energy bill arrears, help is available. There are a number of different schemes and pensioners can often be eligible for more than one.
In October 2019 the Warm Home Discount Scheme started. It runs between mid-October and March and is worth £140. It is paid via a rebate but not all energy companies are signed up to the scheme. If it turns out that your supplier does not offer this saving, you should shop around for someone that does.
Another annual benefit that is paid automatically is the Cold Weather Payment. During the winter months a low threshold of zero degrees Celsius is set. For every consecutive seven-day period at zero degrees, eligible customers will receive a £25 payment. This is to help with the increased costs of heating the home during extreme weather.
Becoming Carbon Neutral is one of the big government targets. Various grants are available to make your home more energy efficient. Adding loft or cavity insulation, installing improved windows and doors, or replacing an old or faulty boiler can all be covered with a grant. Traditionally, improvements such as these would cost thousands of pounds.
Of the many schemes available, the Affordable Warmth Obligation stands out as worth looking into. If you do qualify for a grant, you will not only make your home more efficient, but also have the added bonus of reducing your bills.
Despite the best will in the world and a number of schemes to help, some pensioners will still find themselves struggling. The first and most important thing to do is reach out and get help. Your energy company should be able to provide advice and if not, Citizens Advice will. If you have any special requirements such as a stair lift or home dialysis machine, you must let your energy supplier know. Under these circumstances your supply should never be shut off due to problems with paying bills.