Warm Front Grant Rant

I re-activated my Warm Front grant in Autumn 2010. It had been on hold while we waited for our landlord to invest in new windows Once he’d started compensating us for heat loss due to drafty windows and it was also apparent that we were staying put for a while ratther than moving, I phoned and re-activated my application to get free insulation work done on the house.

After I was re-assessed (or rather the house was) they can to the same conclusions as last time – loft insulation top up, cavity wall insulation, new jacket for water tank – but with the addition of cutting a new loft hatch in part of the house where to assessor thought wasn’t accesible from the main loft space.  Although he didn’t actually go into the loft as his ladders weren’t long enough (not very professional although he was very friendly and informative about the process).

I’ve been waiting around 4 months (maybe longer I forget the dates) to get an installer assigned to do the work. Today I got a letter from my newly assigned installer telling me they’ll come “to assess and where possible complete this installation” on 30th March 2011.  Except the letter also states that work must be completed by 27th March for me to qualify for the work. Huh? **update below

I phoned Warm Front, who are less friendly than they used to, to ask what that 27th March date meant.  Was it a deadline for the installer or some kind of deadline (previously unknown) to my grant eligibility?  I was told that all work for current outstanding applications must be completed by end of March or else the money would be gone.  If I couldn’t get the work completed by end of March I would have to re-apply when (if?) they re-open for applications sometime (unconfirmed) after April 2011. There’s some talk that the criteria will change next time so I don’t even know if I would qualify next time around.

It’s rather unsatisfactory to have enquired about progress of the work in January to be told it was awaiting assignment and there was a backlog then to discover a time limit for the work which they never informed me of.  Even their web site is woolly about it. It says applications are not being accepted and that,

“All existing applications to Warm Front will be honoured and, as far as possible, works will be completed by the end of March 2011.”

But it doesn’t state that if the work isn’t completed that’s the end of your grant and window of opportunity.  Being up front would have helped me not have to ring them up and get the advisor who must be sick of telling people the same thing and fielding complaints about not having work allocated and running out of time.

Something that really irritated me about the process though is my letter tells me to “please ensure that loft spaces are clear of personal belongings, debris and any boarding prior to our arrival”.  I’m presuming like so many things now if it isn’t clear they won’t install in that part of the loft.  But I’m getting this help because I qualify on the basis that I can’t take care of myself – I can’t bathe myself or go out of the house on my own let alone go up in the loft or shunt things around!

These Government assistance schemes don’t really go as far as they need to or join up the thinking. I got a letter last week about getting subsidised assistance to switch my tv to digital and am tempted to get a freesat box as they will install the dish and box for a very reasonable amount.  But what the scheme doesn’t do is tell you if you need, or help you to get if needed, planning permission for the dish.  They think if I struggle to negotiate switching my tv to digital that I’ll be perfectly fine applying for planning permission?  Hmmm.

As for the insulation work I’m going to have to ask Growler to ring them and see a) if the work is carried out on 30th March when the letter says it must be done by 27th if we’ll get a bill for the work and b) if they could come earlier because if they assess and can’t do it on the 30th March it won’t get done at all.  My ME/CFS brain can’t cope with that conversation plus he’ll know days he might be able to make himself available as they want to arrive between 8-9am and take 4 hours to do the work and they need access inside and out.   So a bit much for me on my own.

I imagine there’s going to be a lot of people who have been waiting a long time for they’re heating and insulation work (heating particularly was being quoted a long waiting list) and who are going to be furious to discover their grant has been cancelled because the scheme couldn’t get the work scheduled in time.  And Warm Front must be pretty unhappy that their budget got squeezed so much they had to stop accepting applications and ended up in this situation stuck between installers who want to get cash and clients who want to get warm homes.

I just hope my home gets to have the insulation work done in time.


**UPDATE: So hubbie spoke to the installer and the 27th March was a typo on the letter. Phew! Also she says there is a bit of wiggle room to get work done. Double phew!


12 Responses to “Warm Front Grant Rant”

  1. 1 leon March 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    To start I hope you do manage to get your work done,but I do feel that it is people like yourselves that give schemes like this a bad name.

    Warm front has help a lot of people of the years and people just act as if they should get this work for done for nothing and do not appreciate the work that they are actually having done.

    The scheme is due to end in 2013 and then their will be nothing to help people out so all these people moaning about warm front will then be moaning that their is nothing their to help people.

    If you are lucky enough to get work done on the scheme you should be grateful. If you don’t get to get work done on the scheme then you will have to pay for it like the rest of us.

    • 2 rachelcreative March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

      I am very grateful. It’s possible to be grateful for the assistance whilst critical of the process. I want value for tax payers money as much as anyone.

      I want that government funded assistance to reach the vulnerable people who really need it. Schemes for disabled, sick and elderly people with built in barriers to access that help are setting themselves up to not reach those who need it the most.

      I sympathise with Warm Front who must be under tremdendous pressure at the moment. But confusing people who get easily confused (like me) doesn’t help matters.

      As the government’s site says “Warm Front installs measures to make your home warmer, healthier and more energy efficient.”
      I qualify for that help because I cannot attend to my basic care needs by myself let alone move boarding out of my loft so for isntance the installer can put down loft insualtion. One might qualify for assistance because of disability but that disability might also mean the installer is unable to complete the work. And that would mean a waste of money which isn’t in anyone’s interest.

  2. 3 Alastair March 26, 2011 at 9:20 am

    I had not heard the scheme was ending, but there is good reason to end it!
    The real problem was that only 2 or 3 companies got the contract to do all the work, and there is no proper independent inspection/audit of the work — the tax payer is often not getting value for money; where swapping an old boiler, like for like, reusing old radiators as is often possible, might cost from as little as £1000, the max grant per home is something like £3000

    Guess what?!
    The companies doing this work:
    1. always target the maximum price per job
    2. often ask the home owner/dweller for a top up fee
    “The work will cost £3600, and the maximum grant is £3000, so you will need to pay us £600 please.”

    A friend bought a new boiler for his large 1930s 3 bed semi- for £500. Fitting reusing old radiators was roughly 2 days work.

    So, hopefully, longer term, a new scheme will come in to help people according to their circumstances, based on properly priced work, where a schedule of rates gauges a more realistic price for a job, and random inspection places installer companies on their metal and at risk of losing the contract if 3 jobs are over priced. That would be in line with funding helping the most people in need.

    I hope your work gets done on time with efficient skilled workers.

    • 4 rachelcreative March 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      Absolutely agree with you that ensuring value for money and not exploiting the scheme or participants has to happen. Despite the scheme procees being quite beauracratic to try and ensure these things it hasn’t worked in all cases across the scheme. Heating work seems to be the most contentious.

      I hope I get skilled efficient workers too. I’m grateful for the assistance but I have no say in who does the work.

  3. 5 Dominique March 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Wow! That whole process sounds stressful reading it! I’m so sorry it is so challenging. For you and for them.

    Budget cuts really are affecting so many.

    I will be keeping my fingers crossed that they are not only able to assess but to complete it within the necessary time table. And, that the loft will NOT be an issue.

    • 6 rachelcreative March 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks I hope so too. In fact applying was made nice and easy and they were so helpful right up until the budget got cut then the staff seemed like strssed call centre staff rather than the patient friendly types they were before.

      As I am pretty much housebound having an efficient house for heating and staying cool will help my bills and the environment too. Not looking forward to the drilling for cavity wall insulation but shouldn’t last too long.

  4. 7 Rachel ratcliffe July 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I was informed by warm front at the begining of Nov last year that i would be entitled to new heating system as i have no heating in my home as it is completely broken. I am disabled and so this is how i qualify. Can’t wash without help and in a wheelchair due to kidneys failing.
    i phoned up today as not heard when the work was being done. i did phone April and was told they were waiting to get the right company to do the work.
    Today I was told the work is nolonger being done but i could apply again. i no longer qualify under the new rules as i don’t get income support. So yes I am very upset as I will be spending another year very very cold. Warm front were not nice though they apologised about forgetting to inform me in April.

    • 8 rachelcreative July 22, 2011 at 8:09 am

      That’s awful. I wouldn’t qualify now either because I choose not to claim ESA or Income Support although I would be eligible. It frustrates me so much that opting to not cost the government more money on benefits excludes people from targetted help like this. It’s worth checking with your local authority and/or keeping an eye open as some still offer this kind of work under a grant system. Also many of the energy companies offer this kind of work at a subsidised rate.

      • 9 Rachel ratcliffe July 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm

        I have applied for help from the local council but they are not sure if i qualify as my husband works. I was told if he stopped working we would qualify but this seems quite stupid to me as we will cost the state more. my daughter is my carer even though she is only 19 but at least this means as a family we don’t live completely off the state. However this doesn’t help my heating problem. if i wasn’t ill i would be working and so would my daughter and then we would be able to afford a new heating system ourselves. My daughter receives £55 a week which is hardly a fortune. i need her to take me to hospital appointments and take care of my everyday needs. It would just be nice to have some heat by the winter. Does that seem a lot to ask?
        oh well we will keep on saving and eventually pay for it ourselves 🙂

        • 10 rachelcreative July 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

          I know they have to have criteria and a cut off point somewhere but it is terribly frustrating especially when one person works but supporting someone who is ill and a carer carries additionalk expenses. I hope the council will grant you some help. Maybe write to a local counseller and see if they can argue your case. I don’t know. I hope you can get something sorted before the winter.

          I did notice that you can qualify for Warm Front if you have a disability (which it sounds as if you do) and if you are in the process of applying of ESA. I wonder if it would be worth beginning the assessment process to make a grant application even if you are not successful with ESA or had to withdraw your application for any reason. I know applying for ESA is hellish though. So many hoops, not designed to be friendly to chronically ill people.

          Well best of luck to you

  5. 11 kate August 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    There are crisis loans that The council do not sure on the amounts though and you pay them back whatever you can afford through an arrangment without intrest charges, and if not there are local charities around who help people like yourselves. Does your daughter get carers allowance if not she should! And do you claim DLA? Daft question i know

    hope someone can help no-one should be living without heating these days

  6. 12 rachel ratcliffe October 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    hi everyone. Thank you for all your advice. it turns out i do not qualify for any help so my parents have taken out some of their saviings so we can have heating. the work will finally begin at the begining of Dec. I am so grateful to them as they are both in their 70’s and in the current climate receiving no interest on the small savings so I know it is a big deal to loan us so much money. I do know without their help we would be facing a third year with no heating something my renal consultant has said is essential if my kidney function is to remain stable.

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Push It 11 Sep 2011

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