The COVID-19 Crisis Fund is an emergency fund, introduced by the Energy Saving Trust, to support households in vulnerable situations during the COVID-19 outbreak, to maintain adequate energy supplies for health and wellbeing and to avoid self-disconnection. The fund is being established in recognition of the additional burden the COVID-19 outbreak is having on many households, who may struggle to pay their fuel bills due to loss of income or increased fuel use.
2) How are the funds being distributed?
This COVID-19 Crisis Funding has been released in three ‘waves’ of funding since May 2020 through a competitive bidding process, with applicants asked to put forward proposals on how they would get vouchers to where they are needed most at a regional or national scale. This funding was secured by HACT (in partnership with Charis Grants) as part of ‘wave 3’ and has a national focus. This funding round will run from September to November.
3) Who are the delivery partners for this particular grant?
HACT are the grant holders and accountable body for this particular tranche of funding. HACT will receive and administer the grant funding, design and deliver reporting and allocation processes, and take responsibility for quality assurance, programme monitoring and answering any queries our housing partners may have. Charis Grant’s Let’s Talk Shop will be the portal for accessing and administering vouchers.
HACT (Housing Association Charitable Trust) are the charity for the housing sector. For sixty years HACT have worked alongside social housing organisations to drive change within their own businesses and in the communities they serve through a range of platforms, products, research and consultancy. HACT founded and runs the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment which exists to bring social housing organisations together to collaboratively achieve impact in communities – which is very much in the spirit of this fund.
Charis Grants work across a wide variety of sectors supporting clients to effectively manage their charitable funds. They have developed the Let’s Talk Shop – an online portal that allows for 24/7 access to energy voucher codes. Over fifteen years they have supported a number of housing associations to manage their hardship funds and to provide advice and guidance services.
4) I think our residents would benefit from this scheme. What are the eligibility criteria for receiving vouchers?
HACT are inviting social housing organisations from across England, Wales and Scotland to sign up with us to access this funding.
With regards to voucher beneficiaries the eligibility is as follows, recipients should:
Have a traditional pre-payment meter – where the household is responsible for going to top up the meter rather than managing through an energy provider application or direct debits.
Have been affected by the covid 19 pandemic – this may be directly through loss of earnings or indirectly, for example due to increased energy usage at home.
Be at risk of self-disconnection
As Housing Associations, we understand that you are uniquely positioned to identify those households who will benefit the most from support through this scheme.
You will be expected to confirm with the resident that they are at risk of disconnection and that they typically pay for their gas and electricity through Post Office or PayPoint services.
5) What fuel vouchers are available and who to?
There are two types of vouchers available, ‘single household’ (worth £28) and for those with multiple occupants ‘family household’ (£49). Voucher purchases can choose to receive these as Post Office or PayPoint voucher codes depending on which is more convenient for the recipient (see below)
The specific vouchers specific available through this scheme are:
Paypoint Emergency Fuel Fund £28 – for single person households
Paypoint Emergency Fuel Fund £49 – for family households
Post Office Emergency Fuel Fund £28 – for single person households
Post Office Emergency Fuel Fund £49 – for family households
It will be for participating HA’s to identify the most appropriate voucher for the recipient’s circumstances and their eligibility against the criteria (see Q4).
6) Is there a maximum number of vouchers we can allocate to one household?
Yes. No household should receive more than three vouchers from our allocation over the three months that the programme runs for (September to end of November 2020).
7) Are there any exemptions or limitations within the scheme?
Due to their own Covid relief fund British Gas customers are unable to access funds through this scheme. This is because British Gas do not currently participate in energy voucher schemes and instead run their own redress scheme. We are not aware of any other providers that do not participate.However, households with ‘smart prepayment meters’ will also find themselves unable to benefit from this scheme as the vouchers issued by the Post Office and PayPoint are not compatible.
8) How can my organisation sign up to access vouchers through this fund?
If you would like for your organisation to be involved in the scheme you need complete an Expression of Interest Form and agree to the terms and conditions.
Once HACT receives the completed form, we will register you on the Charis system. Once registered you will be able to access the vouchers through the Let’s Talk Shop platform. Links to the platform will be included when you receive notification of being registered on to the system.
If you would like a copy of the terms & conditions and Expression of Interest forms please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the appropriate documents.
9) Once I’m signed up how do I access and allocate vouchers?
HACT will be working with Charis to distribute vouchers to you and your organisation. Once you have completed the Expression of Interest Form, we will create an account on the Let’s Talk platform. This will allow you to request vouchers and issue them to those households you have identified.
As outlined in Q5 there are 4 voucher types available through the fund which can be redeemed either at one of the 28,000 Paypoint or 11,000 Post Office locations across the UK. Links are available on each voucher to identify the households nearest location.
10) How do I identify which energy vouchers our residents need?
This will be down to you to establish with the beneficiary. We suggest asking how they typically top up their metered energy.
You can find their nearest PayPoint store here: https://consumer.paypoint.com
Or their nearest Post Office (and the services they provide) here: https://www.postoffice.co.uk/branch-finder
11) There are other vouchers available on the platform – can I access those.
No – the Energy Redress Covid 19 relief fund is only applicable to the 4 vouchers detailed in questions 5 and 9. As per the terms and conditions of this agreement any organisation who purchases other vouchers available through the platform (for example food vouchers) will be liable for the full amount (including the admin fee and VAT). Any organisations who repeatedly purchase other voucher types will be removed from the scheme completely, please see terms and conditions for more details.
12) How long is the scheme open?
The funding round will be open from Wednesday 2nd September and vouchers are accessible for three months until Friday 27th November.
13) How long are the vouchers valid for?
Charis will purchase vouchers on our behalf from energy suppliers. At this point of purchase, they are valid for 90 days. This can mean that vouchers are on their site for a number of weeks, reducing the validity period of the voucher. However as this is an emergency fund, with the eligibility criteria due to focus on short term help, we would expect vouchers to be purchased from Charis and distributed to eligible residents within 14 days. As a further precaution, Charis will withdraw any unused vouchers 14 days before they are due to expire. In the unlikely event that a voucher is allowed to expire the monetary value will be lost and cannot be reclaimed.
14) Can the vouchers be split between Gas and Electricity meters?
If the gas and electricity are on the same account and the Post Office/PayPoint terminal where the voucher is being exchanged has the facility to separate out funds, then yes. Unfortunately, however, this is at the discretion of the retailer/Post Office, their technology, and the accounts being used so beneficiaries may not always be able to split the voucher allocation. In this instance they may require two vouchers, one for gas and one for electricity. This would be counted as two of the three vouchers any household is eligible for over the three months this funding runs for.
15) What happens if there is a problem with the voucher itself?
For any problems while redeeming the Paypoint vouchers, please direct them to the helpline number (0330 400 0002) which will be on the voucher. If they are unable to help or for any problems with a Post Office voucher, please contact Charis via the information on the Let’s Talk platform.
If you have any other vouchers, please contact email@example.com help if the problem cannot be resolved through other avenues.
16) What happens if I have a problem accessing the Let’s Talk Platform
For problems relating to using the Let’s Talk Platform, please contact Charis directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For problems related to the scheme (e.g. voucher or fund availability) please contact email@example.com.
17) I already have a Charis account through my HA – can I still access the scheme?
The Charis system can only allow you to access one Let’s Talk Shop platform per email address. If you have an existing account with Charis we recommend using an alternative email, or allocating access to others in your organisation who are not already registered with Charis. For any further queries regarding this please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss options.
18) Why are there reporting requirements for the scheme?
As part of HACT’s agreement with the Energy Savings Trust, we are required to notify them of the take-up of vouchers on a regular basis. We will therefore be asking participating HA’s to log details about each voucher claimed and beneficiary reached and to share these with us in line with the reporting schedule in the terms and conditions.
The funders are also keen to learn about how their investment is benefiting individuals and communities, and to help them understand patterns of take up across the UK. We are therefore asking for postcode details to help us better understand how these funds are being used and to identify areas of the country where there may be clusters of those more affected financially by Covid-19, helping all to better understand where more support may be needed in the future.
We would also welcome case studies and anecdotal updates about the impact the vouchers are having so that we can share these with the funders and to also inform the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment’s wider influencing work. We’d also like you to share with us examples of ‘additional’ services you are providing residents having engaged with them around fuel vouchers e.g. signposting to support services, enrolment in employment or money management programmes, support from income teams, etc.
19) What monitoring or due diligence measures will you be taking?
We also have a contractual obligation to ensure that we carry out due diligence and quality assurance checks to provide confirmation that the funds are being used as they are intended.
We will be monitoring allocation of vouchers and may ask you to provide proof that vouchers have been allocated in line with the requirements of the fund.
20) Is there a maximum number or value of vouchers I can claim for my HA?
No, but the fund is open to all HA’s across the UK, we therefore ask that you make fair use of the scheme, purchasing and allocating vouchers as you identify need.
21) Does the account balance reflect the full remaining balance of this fund?
No, any unused funds have to be returned to the Energy Saving Trust, to minimise risk of underspend and to ensure fair allocation of resources we will be ‘topping up’ the fund periodically. We will regularly update participating HA’s on the progress of the fund and will monitor the account balance to ensure it does not fall below £10k. However, in the unlikely event that the balance is less than what you require please contact email@example.com to discuss.
22) Can I promote this scheme to residents through social media or our newsletters?
As part of the funding agreement neither HACT or any of our partners are permitted to publicly promote the fund through social media, adverts or on your websites. We are however permitted to share within the sector through mailing lists, email and trade press.
If you want to reference your access to fuel vouchers in any of your customer contact, please do not reference HACT or the Energy Savings Trust in these communications or share any of the registration documents. This is to reduce the risk of fraudulent claims or abuse of the fund. Please do however share this opportunity with others in your professional networks.
23) What data protection policies do you have in place?
24) What happens if we don’t spend all the available funding within the project timeline?
On closure of the scheme (27th November 2020) HACT has a requirement to return all unspent funds to the Energy Savings Trust within 14 days. This does not include vouchers that have already been purchased by organisations through the Let’s Talk shop platform, however as highlighted in earlier questions we have a requirement to ensure that all vouchers are allocated in line with the project’s eligibility criteria. In the final report due w/c 30th November 2020 all vouchers purchased by your organisation should be allocated to households in line with the reporting requirements detailed above.
25) Do voucher recipients have to be our residents?
No – however you need to ensure that households receiving vouchers fulfil the schemes eligibility criteria. Whilst this allocation of funding is primarily focused at social housing organisations, we know that many of your work closely with partners, or commission partners to deliver services on your behalf, who will have access to the households we are trying to reach through this scheme.
If you chose to purchase vouchers on behalf of these partners you will be responsible for collecting the required reporting information as if they were your own residents. If you would like them to register to access our allocation please introduce them via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will look into the viability of this.