Jane Hutt MS, Minister for Social Justice
We know people across Wales are struggling to make ends meet during the cost-of-living crisis, as they see inflation, petrol, essential household items and energy bills all rising.
The Welsh Government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable and doing everything we can to ensure they can get through this difficult time.
That is why today I am announcing that £90m will be made available to support households through a Welsh Government Fuel Support Scheme. A scheme in recognition of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on those struggling to pay their energy bills.
Previously, over 166,000 households on universal credit, legacy means-tested benefit and working tax credits benefitted from the Welsh £200 Winter Fuel Support Scheme which ran last winter.
I am pleased to announce that for this year’s scheme, in-line with feedback we have had from our stakeholders through our cost of living summits, we have been able to extend the eligibility criteria to support more vulnerable households with this vital support.
The extension of the fuel support scheme will mean nearly 200,000 more households on child tax credits, pension credits, disability benefits, carers allowance, contributory benefits and those receiving help from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme to pay their council tax bill will now be eligible.
Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 payment from their local authority to be used towards paying fuel bills. This payment will be available to all eligible energy customers regardless of whether they pay for their fuel on a pre-payment meter, by direct debit or by paying a bill quarterly and regardless of whether they are using on or off-grid fuel.
The scheme will open for applications on the 26 of September 2022 and we expect the first payments to be made in October 2022.
We are targeting the Fuel Support Scheme at low-income households and extending the number of those eligible, as we understand how the winter months can be the hardest of the year and families face the difficult choice of heating or eating.
This support is in addition to the Welsh Government fuel voucher scheme announced last month and aimed at providing crisis help to those households that have to pay in advance for their energy and are unable to do so.
Since November we have invested more than £380 million to mitigate the impact of the cost of living crisis for disadvantaged households.
It is helping to fund a £150 cost-of-living payment for all households in properties in council tax bands A to D and to all households, which receive support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in all council tax bands. To date, £112m has reached the pockets of the eligible households.
We will continue to do everything possible to protect the people of Wales from the effects of the severe cost of living crisis. We know that the financial assistance we have provided to vulnerable households is making a difference. However, the key levers for tackling poverty on a more sustainable basis – powers over tax and welfare – sit with the UK Government.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.