Every person over 70 is entitled to the free electricity or gas allowance, but many customers receiving the payment are afraid to switch energy suppliers, potentially losing out on hundreds in savings.
If you're over the age of 70 in Ireland you're entitled to what's called the free electricity (or gas) allowance, a monthly supplement provided by the state to help with the cost of your energy bills.
And while the payment is used to help subsidise energy bills for slightly over 450,000 people across the country (according to figures from 2019), a substantial number of older people are still overpaying on the cost of their gas and electricity bills. This is because they haven't switched suppliers in years as they're afraid they might lose the allowance, despite this not being the case.
And with energy usage at home higher than ever due to Covid-19, it's never been more important to know how to save some money on your bills.
In this article we'll help to dispel any rumours about the switching process for those over 70 who might be afraid of losing their allowance.
What is the free electricity allowance?
The electricity or gas allowance is a monthly supplement of €35 paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to help individuals pay their energy bills. It’s available for either your gas or electricity bill, but not both, and is also not means tested.
The payment is part of the Household Benefits Package and anyone over the age of 70 can receive the payment. Those under the age of 70 may also be eligible but must first meet certain criteria, for example, if you are under 66 and are on Disability Allowance you can also claim for the electricity or gas allowance.
While the most any one person can receive is €35 per month (€1.15 per day), some of those who receive an electricity or gas allowance may also be eligible for a fuel allowance.
For more information about the free allowance you can read our guide here.
If I switch suppliers will I lose my allowance?
This is a common question many elderly customers ask when looking to switch their bills, and the short answer is no, you won’t lose your electricity or gas allowance if you switch providers. But a small bit of extra work is needed.
As it stands, customers who get their electricity from Electric Ireland or their gas from either Bord Gáis Energy or Flogas can have the allowance automatically deducted from their bills each month. This means being with one of the above energy suppliers can be particularly handy for many older people receiving the payment as little to no admin is involved once the payment has been set up.
However, all the other energy suppliers do not provide this service, so if you switch and still want to receive the payment you will need to contact the DEASP to arrange how to get your monthly allowance. However this should only take a few minutes' work...
Switching while receiving an allowance
When switching, all you have to do is provide the DEASP with proof of your new energy supplier (a recent bill marked with the date of the move). You will also need to tell them how you would like to receive your payment in the future: either directly into your bank account or collected at your local Post Office. Both payments are made on the first Tuesday of each month and if you choose the Post Office you have 90 days to collect the payment.
Similarly, if you are moving to one of the three suppliers who can deduct the payment for you, all you need do is inform the department as outlined above and they will do the rest.
Other than this, customers will be glad to know that the switching process is still as simple as ever over on bonkers.ie and can be done in a matter of minutes with our energy comparison tools.
Considerations for elderly customers
While changing suppliers is a simple and effective way of saving hundreds on your energy bills, it might not be the most straightforward for many elderly people, especially those living at home alone with no connection to the internet.
Additionally, many elderly customers who are supplied by Electric Ireland or Bord Gáis Energy may not have changed their supplier in a number of years for fear of losing the allowance (despite this not being the case) and may be overpaying on their energy bills.
However, as we’ve explained above, your allowance can be easily carried over to a new supplier without missing any payments, all you have to do is inform the DEASP as soon as you switch and you can organise how you would like it paid. Any missed back payments can also be credited.
While many people may prefer to collect their payment in a local post office, by far the easiest option for elderly customers is to have the allowance paid directly into a bank account. However, it really comes down to personal preference.
I don't have the allowance. How do I apply?
If you're not currently receiving the allowance and think you're eligible, you can apply by filling out form HB1. To complete the form you will need your PPS number, MPRN/GPRN, as well as your BIC and IBAN.
If you haven’t switched your electricity or gas in a number of years it might just be time to see how much you could save here on bonkers.ie
At the moment customers who use an average amount of energy could save up to €490 if they switched their bills to a new supplier today, but it could be more depending on your tariff and who your current supplier is.
Head on over to our energy page on bonkers.ie and use our energy price comparison and switch and save today.