People and households struggling to pay their fuel bills and to keep their household warm due to financial difficulties as a result of the COVID pandemic may be entitled to support as part of the COVID Winter Grant Scheme.

The assistance is available via a fuel voucher from Act on Energy, or help with heating costs from Age UK. There’s also help and advice available for households which either don’t have any heating or have faulty heating in need of repair and maintenance. There’s also help available to purchase white goods and other household essentials, such as food and clothing to help ensure that everyone in the borough are warm and fed during the winter.

Solihull Council has commissioned Act on Energy to deliver a winter fuel scheme for vulnerable households. Through this scheme fuel vouchers are available for families and households who are using pre-payment meters. There’s also help available to people who pay for their gas and electricity via direct debit, in receipt of paper billing or paying directly to a fuel supplier for oil or LPG.

Anyone who has seen a drop in income due to COVID or is in receipt of benefits should check the eligibility criteria and complete a self-referral form here to see if they qualify for any help. Alternatively, if you are unable to access the internet you can call the Freephone advice line on 0800 988 2881 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm with an answering service for out of hours).

Similarly, the Council has commissioned Age UK Solihull to extend its Winter Warmth campaign to help more local residents stay warm and fed this winter by providing heating repairs, heater provision and other essentials such as warm clothing, blankets, quilts, electric blankets and food vouchers.

For general enquiries please email or you can call the Solihull Winter Warmth Helpline on 0121 704 8080 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm). The service is not just for elderly or unwell residents; it is for anyone who needs help staying warm and fed this winter.

Funding for both projects has been provided by Solihull Council via the Government’s COVID Winter Grant Scheme, running until 31 March 2021. The funding is a fixed amount and will be allocated on a strictly first come, first served basis.

In addition, information and advice on how to access local community support, food or financial assistance can be obtained by calling Solihull Connect on 0121 704 8001. Solihull Connect can also refer and connect families to local food networks, as well as to the Council’s Discretionary Crisis Fund (DCF). The DCF can provide financial and fuel assistance to any household experiencing severe financial hardship. This includes access to food, fuel top-ups and, if needed, essential white goods.

Councillor Alison Rolf, Cabinet Member for Stronger and Safer Communities, said:

“For many residents this will be the hardest winter they have ever faced. The pandemic has led to many people struggling with their finances, and therefore not being able to heat their homes. No one should be in that situation, particularly as home is the very place many of us are now spending most of our time.

“I would encourage anyone struggling to look at the help available through Act on Energy and Age UK. There’s no problem in people asking for support, Solihull Council and its partners can help this winter.”

Rachel Jones, Chief Executive, Act on Energy said:

“We are pleased to be able to deliver this programme and provide much needed tailored advice and support to those who are struggling to heat their homes. With energy bills costing an average of £1,200 per year and the current pandemic hitting incomes hard, it’s really important to look more at how we can keep warm affordably, so that people are more able to manage day to day in these most challenging times.”

Lucy Garratt, Director of Services at Age UK Solihull, said:

“It has been an incredibly difficult time throughout last year and increasingly we are seeing people who have never gone without before, suddenly unemployed, furloughed or unable to work because of COVID in a position where they are really struggling to make ends meet.

“This funding is for vulnerable households, not limited to those households in receipt of benefits, elderly or unwell, many other households are faced with the burden and worry of paying the next utility bill or affording the next food shop due to the pandemic. The money can offer households much needed breathing space and mean one less thing to worry about, which can make a real difference in people’s lives.

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