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4 in 5 of all those eligible for the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Fund missing out

Published on 21 August 2023 09:50 AM

New figures secured by Age UK show that almost 4 in 5 of all those eligible for the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Fund missed out on the £400 they were due 

Treasury stands to pocket £300 million in unspent cash as a result of this failure, but the Charity calls on Ministers to do the right thing and overhaul and re-run the scheme instead 

More than half a million households have lost out including over 250,000 care home residents

New figures published by Age UK show that the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) Alternative Fund[i], designed to give a crucial £400 to households that receive their energy supply indirectly via a landlord, site owner, or other intermediary, has completely flopped, having failed to reach almost 4 in 5 of all those eligible.  

Sadly, hundreds of thousands of older people living in park homes and care homes, among others, have therefore missed out on financial support that could have made a significant difference to them, in the face of soaring fuel bills. As a result of this failure, £300 million in unspent funding is due to return to Treasury coffers, but Age UK is calling on the Government to improve and re-run the scheme instead, so everyone gets the help to which they are entitled, help which seems set to be really important this winter as we know the cost-of-living crisis will continue to bite.  

New Freedom of Information data requested on behalf of Age UK reveals that of the Government’s estimated 883,000 eligible UK households with atypical supply arrangements, only around 17%, equivalent to about 150,000, were actually awarded the £400 of energy support available this year. 

Based on Government data[ii], Age UK found around 13% of eligible households in the North-East and 13% in London, where fuel poverty rates are higher, were able to access the EBSS Alternative Fund, compared to 22% of eligible households in the South-East where fuel poverty is lowest. 

Eligible care home residents were the least likely to successfully access the EBSS alternative fund, with only around 1 in 14 of them (7%) receiving the £400 energy help. This compares to around a third of park home and houseboat residents (35%) and over half of eligible heat network users[iii] (58%).      


Eligible Households 

Households awarded £400 payment 

Proportion of eligible households awarded 

Fuel poverty rate by region 











East Midlands 






























West Midlands 





Yorkshire & The Humber 





Source: Age UK Freedom of Information request to DESNZ; DESNZ EBSS alternative fund application outcome data; DESNZ & DBIS fuel poverty data (2022)  

Rather than simply keeping the unspent money from the fund, as the Charity believes the Government currently intends, Age UK is calling for the remaining £300 million to be recommitted to the scheme and for the process of applying for it to be made more straightforward, thereby increasing take-up. The Charity has previously advised that the money should be paid out automatically wherever possible, rather than it always having to be claimed. It has also called for a simpler application process and for a government funded communication campaign to be targeted at the groups who are eligible.  

Longer term, Age UK continues to press for the introduction of a ‘social tariff’ so that vulnerable people of all ages always receive a discount on their energy bills. The Charity believes that people in need should be able to get this cheaper tariff regardless of how they receive their energy,  including those reliant on indirect supply arrangements and covered by this fund.   

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director of Age UK said: “Unfortunately, we have now established that most older people who receive their energy indirectly and who were eligible for £400 to help them with their bills, never actually received their money. In fact, almost four in five of them totally missed out.  

“The process designed by the Government to distribute the funding was flawed so we’re not surprised the scheme has flopped, but rather than siphoning off the unspent £300 million for other purposes we call on the Government to do the right thing and improve the scheme so these older people get the money they are due. After all, with energy bills expected to stay high this winter, they are going to need all the financial help they can get.     

“More than half a million households have missed out on this financial support as a result of the fund’s failure, many of them older and living in park homes and care homes. We know the fees have gone up substantially in care homes because of rising costs for everything from energy to food, so the extra £400 could have really helped some residents to continue to make ends meet.

“The need for this extra funding certainly hasn’t gone away and that’s why we think the Government should try again to get the money out to everyone in line for it, rather than giving it up as a bad job, to the benefit of Treasury coffers but at the expense of older people in need. It’s not too late for Ministers to act and we very much hope they will.  

“The responsibility on Ministers to resurrect and improve this funding scheme is surely all the greater when you consider that some of the areas with the biggest concentrations of older people who have missed out on the funding also have above average levels of fuel poverty.”

Age UK is urging any older person living on a low income or struggling with their bills to contact Age UK’s free Advice line on 0800 169 65 65 to check they’re receiving all the financial support available. Alternatively, people can visit or contact their local Age UK for information and advice.  For further information about the cost-of-living crisis, please click here


 Notes to editors:

To arrange a media briefing on Age UK’s calls for an energy social tariff, please contact the Age UK press office via

  • The EBSS Alternative Fund (EBSS AF) was opened to applications on February 27th 2023 and the core component of the scheme closed to applications on 31st May. It was designed to deliver the £400 electricity rebate for residential households with atypical supply arrangements, who generally pay for their energy via an intermediary or have their supply underpinned by a commercial contract. This includes many park homes, care homes, private and social tenants, farmhouses, and others. 
  • This dataset displays estimates for the number of households in the UK eligible for the EBSS Alternative Fund and the number and proportion who successfully received or are approved to receive the scheme (including regional breakdowns) as of 29th June 2023. The data is based on two data sources:
  1. Number of households successfully awarded the £400 payment is published here: For our figures on successful awards, Age UK combined the figures for Britain and Northern Ireland for those households who had received the £400 or had been approved for payment. We did not include figures for those cancelled, rejected, on hold, or under central/local authority validation. DESNZ indicated that these figures are their best working estimates on scheme outcomes so should be interpreted with caution.
  2. FOI request to DESNZ on the numbers of households eligible. In response to our FOI DESNZ indicated that these figures are their best working estimates on the number of eligible households for this scheme so should be interpreted with caution. It should be noted that 82,000 UK households (80,000 farm properties, and 2,000 off the grid) were removed from the regional figures – this may therefore impact the regional figures and regional proportions for awarded households.

Additional numbers..

  • Government estimated that 883,000 households would be eligible for the £400 payment, at a total cost of £353,200,000
  • As of end of June 2023 147,760 households have been awarded the £400, at a total cost of £59,104,000
  • 735,240 households have missed out which equates to £294,096,000 (i.e. £735240 * £400 which round equals £300m)
  • Government estimated 306,000 self-funded care home residents would be eligible for the £400 payment
  • As of end of June 2023,  20,460 self-funded care home residents have been awarded the £400
  • So 285,540 self-funded care home residents are missing out

[i] The Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) delivered £400 discounts to domestic electricity customers over winter 2022/23 to help with their energy bills. The scheme was designed to be universal but risked excluding certain housing types.  

[ii] Age UK Freedom of Information request to DESNZ; DESNZ EBSS alternative fund application outcome data; DESNZ & DBIS fuel poverty data (2022).  

[iii] Heat networks are a centralised heating system supplying heat from a single source to multiple consumers (e.g. one boiler supplying heat to several flats). 


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Last updated: Aug 21 2023

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