student.union@newcastle.ac.uk

The Energy Crisis

You may have noticed you are now facing steeper gas and electricity bills, or may be worried about what this means for you moving out of Halls or private accomodation next year. It's all rather complicated and we understand that this is a massive issue facing everyone right now, so that is why we have put together the following information to help you navigate what's going on.

What is this Energy Crisis?

Watch this quick video by Liv (Education Officer) explaining what's going on & how we can help.

Council Support

The Government is providing £150 for most households living in properties in council tax bands A to D. This is typically being rolled out via the direct debit system. As most students are exempt from paying council tax they won't have Direct Debit payments set up, so the council will all be writing to every household that is eligible and does not pay by Direct Debit, inviting them to make an application. 

Students are still entitled to receive payment of this money - whether you pay council tax or not, the bands A-D are just the way the Council organises households.

The Newcastle Council Energy Support Scheme is not to be confused with the £200 cash discount on their electricity bills this Autumn. The government will provide funding to all suppliers for them to pass on to their domestic energy customers from October. This has to be paid back over 5 years from April 2023. We will provide more information on that when we know more. 

 

Energy Crisis FAQs

The information in these FAQS has been provided by our advisers at the Student Advice Centre and is correct at the time of publishing (16.5.22)

Q. Is the rebate available to only tenancies starting in the summer or can it also be applied to students who have been affected by the April hike?

The Energy support payment will only apply to those people living in a property on 1.4.22 with Council Tax band A-D who pay their own utility bills. This is a one-off payment from a current discretionary pot of funding from the Government. If you were not living in a property in Newcastle on this date you will not be eligible.

Q. How do I know what Council Tax band my property is in?

You can check it here.

Q. Will there be additional funds available once we know the level of hikes in the Autumn?

This is not yet known and there has been no announcement about whether a similar scheme will be announced later in the year.

Q. What will the eligibility criteria be?

The criteria is whether you are an occupant, your property is council tax bands A-D and you have not been entitled to the £150 rebate through the Council Tax direct debit rebate scheme because you are exempt from paying Council Tax, and you can pay your own utility bills.

Q. How do I apply?

All properties in Council Tax band A-D who have not already received because they pay council tax via direct debit, will receive a letter addressed either 'To the Household' or 'To the Occupier'. THIS IS NOT SPAM MAIL. This will have 'Revenues and Benefits Department' written in red on the back of this envelope.

This letter will contain the Reference number and account details you will need to use to make an application. An application can be made online or via the Energy Support helpline. Details of both will be included in the letter. Once you have applied with your bank details and this is verified, payment should be made within 14 days. 

Q. What if I have moved out and don't get a letter?

You can ring the council on 0191 278 7878 and ask the automated service for 'energy support payment'.

Q. I live in a shared house - can we each apply?

No - the payment is per household and not each person. It does not need to be the person named on the bill. Anyone in the house can apply and receive the money. To avoid conflict, we suggest you ask if anyone else in the property has already applied and if not consider/consult how this will be treated/shared. NB* If you live in a house with bills included in your rent this will not apply.

Q. Will we receive this if I live in a shared house but my bills are included in my rent?

Probably not. The support is intended for the utility bill payer.

Q. Is there any deadline for applying?

You must apply by the end of August 2022.

Q. Is this non-refundable?

Yes

Q. How will this work in shared housing where only one person might be on the bill but not be the person applying?

Whoever pays the bill is irrelevant in the dispersion of these support funds. As long as the person applying is eligible they will be paid the money.

Q. Can International Students claim this or is it considered public funds?

International Students can claim this if they are living in a A-D Council Tax band property and pay their own utility bills, it is not public funds.

Q. Is this a one-off offer?

Yes, currently.

Q. How are the council going to communicate these rebates to students?

Relevant households should receive a letter by late May or early June 2022. If you feel you are entitled but don't receive a letter you can ring the Council Energy Support Helpline or 0191 278 7878 and ask the automated line for 'energy support payment'. 

Q. Do I need to declare this as income if I apply to the University Student Financial Support Funds (SFSF) (Hardship Funds)?

We are seeking clarification on this. Receipt of the rebate does not prevent you applying for SFSF funds but it might be taken into account when making an assessment of your application. Each student in a property can apply for SFSF in their own right. This is not the council funds but university and it is not connected. 

If you live in one of the large Council Tax band properties E-G and are not eligible for the scheme administered by the council, you can apply to this. 

Q. Can I apply to University Student Financial Support Fund?

Only if you are in hardship.

Q. Which department of Newcastle City Council is administering the scheme?

Revenues and Benefits Department.

Q. What if I live in an area that has a different council?

Contact their Council Tax/Revenues and Benefits department

Q. Where can I find that information?

Newcastle City Council Energy Support Payment webpage including their FAQs

Newcastle City Council dedicated Student webpage

NUSU webpage

Student Advice Centre Advice Pages 

Q. I have seen that some households are getting a payment of £150 in April from the local councils into their bank accounts via the council tax system – does this include students? 

People who pay council tax by direct debit in council tax bands A to D will see the £150 go directly into their bank accounts from April. Those who do not pay by direct debit will be contacted by their council and invited to make a claim.

Most student accommodation is exempt (halls of residence) and the main student housing sits in the bands E to H for council tax anyway.

However, students in the main (apart from part-time students) do not pay council tax as they are exempt,  and therefore they will not receive this payment.

An extra £144 million will also be given to councils to provide discretionary support to vulnerable households who may not qualify for the £150 council tax rebate. This includes people on low incomes in council tax bands E to H.  We do not know yet the criteria for this as they are still deciding how to administer this fund.  We will update this when we have that information

Q.  I have had a letter increasing our household energy bill, what should I do? 

If this has happened, it means you are on the price cap and probably on a variable rate.  This is because you: 

  • Haven’t switched your tariff to a fixed rate; 
  • Were on a cheaper fix and it ended, and you didn’t fix again; 
  • or your supplier has gone bust, and you have moved supplier.  

Q.  What does a variable rate mean? 

This means you are on the standard rate of cost for your supply and because this isn’t fixed i.e. until July 2022, your rate may go up or down in line with inflation, so your bill will most likely change from month to month - therefore variable.  

Q.  Does the price cap affect me? 

It applies if you’re on a default energy tariff, whether you pay by direct debit, standard credit, or prepayment meter.

If your supplier has stopped trading (gone bust), and you are switched to a new supplier, you are likely on a price-capped tariff. 

It won’t apply if you: 

  • are on a fixed-term energy tariff 
  • have chosen a standard variable green energy tariff which Ofgem has exempted from the cap. 

Q. I haven’t had a bill increase, why? 

Some students might be lucky enough to still be on a cheap fix from before this all happened. If so, just stick with it for as long as you can, because energy prices have increased so much that you'll be paying way below what you'd be paying if you switched to another supplier.  

Or, your landlord may not be increasing your bills payment as its integral to your rent payment and so you won’t be affected 

Or, you live in university halls where the hike most likely won’t affect you (*TBC with the university in the coming months).

Q. What is the £200 discount the government is saying we shall receive and when will we get it? 

This is happening in October 2022, so if you are moving from halls to private accommodation for your 2nd year, the deduction will be added to your bill for the new house.  It is going to every eligible British household  

* we don’t yet have the definition of an “eligible household” – this will update when we have it. 

Q. How will I get it? 

The money will be given by the Treasury to energy suppliers who will then cut everyone's bill by £200 – so you won’t actually get the cash, it comes off the bill, but you will not need to apply for it.  Pre-payment meter customers may get a voucher instead. 

Q. I have a prepayment meter – what happens with that? 

This will be sent via credit of some means – this is yet to be determined.   The suggestion is however to credit your payment meter as much as you can now on the current rate, stockpiling so you have more credit for when the rise happens in April.   

The prepayment hike is much higher than a normal meter however around £1000 per year v £693 for a standard meter bill. 

Q. I don’t want this £200 reduction, so can I say no? 

The government has confirmed that it is not possible to opt out. 

The £200 energy bill rebate is not optional, meaning that every eligible household in the UK will have the lump sum deducted from their energy bills in October. 

Q.  The discount is a loan, when do we pay it back? 

That discount will automatically be repaid from people's bills in equal £40 installments over the next five years. 

It's understood that the repayments will start from April next year (2023) when it's hoped that the energy market will have returned to normal. 

Q. I don’t know who my energy supplier is, how do I find out? 

If you contact any energy supplier, then you can ask them to look at the database to check.  There is only one database that they all use. If the supplier you ring isn’t yours they will of course try to get you to move to them, so be prepared for that! 

Q. Is this just happening to students? 

No,  everyone in the country is affected that receives energy supply, so we are all in this together. NUSU and Newcastle University are looking at ways to try to assist students with this issue 

Q. I am still confused as to what is happening, is there someone who can talk me through it? 

Yes, you can speak to one of the advisers in the Student Advice Centre who can talk to you about any concerns you have – you can book in here.