Soaring energy costs and the groundswell of anger against energy companies’ vast profits forced the Conservative government to announce in April 2022 that it would discount household energy bills. The announcement proclaimed:
The Energy Bills Support Scheme provides a £400 non-repayable discount to eligible households to help with their energy bills over winter 2022 to 2023.
In the original scheme, the eligibility of park home dwellers was a grey area, but in November, the provisions were clarified to explicitly include them:
This includes households without a domestic electricity meter and a direct relationship with an electricity supplier, for example if you live in a park home, houseboat or you live off the grid.
Park homes (sometimes known as mobile homes) do not normally have domestic electricity meters. Instead, the landlord has the contract with an electricity provider and might calculate individual usage which is then billed to each home, or include an average cost in the rental. The change in the discount scheme followed a backlash from park home campaigners (Guardian).
An Easing of the Financial Strain
For the wealthy, this discount may mean little, but for those struggling to heat homes and juggle the rising costs of food, travel, and other essentials, it represented a small easing of the strain. It is especially relevant to the 200,000 park home dwellers in England (NAHPR) whose homes can be difficult to heat effectively. Many park home dwellers are elderly and therefore more vulnerable to the cold (Age UK).
One such is Laurence* who rents a mobile home from housing association Housing Solutions. Knowing the levels of poverty and vulnerability amongst tenants on the Maidenhead park homes estate, Laurence asked his landlord when the discount would be applied. He was astounded to find that his landlord could not give a date.
Housing Solutions is not playing ball. They are claiming that they can’t pass on a discount because they don’t have the money.
I just think it’s very unfair as mobile homes have average insulation and will likely cost more to heat over the winter and this housing association has done nothing to help so far.
Housing Solutions’ justification is that although government has promised a separate Scheme for mobile home dwellers’ energy bills, the money hasn’t actually been paid out yet.
An alternative funding scheme is being finalised by the Government to supplement the original EBSS. Like all housing associations (and local authorities) we are awaiting further information from the Government so that we can inform and support our residents accordingly.Housing Solutions
Housing Solutions £21 Million Surplus
Housing Solutions posted a group operating surplus of almost £21 million as at March 2021. Park homes are a very small proportion of its estate, and the organisation could therefore well afford to discount residents’ energy costs, recouping the money from the government Scheme when it is finalised. Laurence adds:
I think it’s despicable how Housing Solutions think they can make everyone £400 worse off in their mobile home estates and get away with it. Very cold and callous of them.
Laurence is challenging his landlord’s decision through the protracted and challenging internal complaints system. Progress will be updated here.
Demanding Social Housing Justice
SHAC is campaigning to highlight the reality of housing association tenants’ and residents’ experiences as the sector becomes ever more commercialised and distant from its original founding purpose. Join us to demand better.
* Not his real name
24 November 2022
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