Financial expert Martin Lewis has called-out the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It’s over its advice on people switching energy supplier. The DWP has been targeting claimants telling them they could save up to £290 by changing energy company. Arguing this is far from the case, Lewis has stepped in and branded the department’s actions “dangerous”.
The DWP: meddling in people’s energy suppliers
The National reported on the story in October. The DWP has been sending a letter out to people who claim Winter Fuel Payments. These are social security payments for older people to help with energy costs. But as the National reported, the DWP appears to have been misleading this group of people.
It reported that the DWP had put a message on the back of envelopes. These contained letters notifying people about their Winter Fuel Payments. The DWP’s envelope message read:
What would you do with an extra £290?
That’s how much the average consumer saved in 2020 by switching to the cheapest tariff on the market.
It then told claimants to contact Citizens Advice for more information. The DWP sent these in September – despite, as the National noted, wholesale gas prices rising 250% since the start of the year. And Sophie King expanded on the problem for Money Saving Expert.
King noted that:
Households are currently unable to save money by switching and would in fact lose out heavily as the energy crisis means there are no tariffs cheaper than the energy regulator’s cap. Households are instead better off rolling onto their supplier’s standard tariff as then they’ll be protected by Ofgem’s price cap until April next year.
In other words, if people switch energy supplier now, they’ll be worse off. As Lewis tweeted:
The government is (knowingly) wrongly advising millions of people who get the warm home discount, including many who are vulnerable, to switch energy firm. Spread word that is not correct, the best advice is DO NOTHING .
Full explanation… https://t.co/HtGhGUUWgv
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) November 10, 2021
Not that the DWP seemed bothered by the fact it’s knowingly telling customers something that will lose them money.
The DWP… doesn’t care
It told Money Saving Expert:
This is an initiative that has been in place for a number of years to encourage switching and the latest batch of 10 million envelopes was created before the rise in energy prices. The message is simply a suggestion.
It would’ve been impractical, costly and wasteful to replace the 10 million envelopes with new ones, and crucially it would potentially compromise our ability to make millions of Winter Fuel Payments before Christmas.
But Lewis was not having any of it.
Listen to Lewis
He said that the DWP sending out this “incorrect message” was “too big a risk to take” – because of the fact switching energy tariffs simply won’t save people money at present. Lewis summed up by saying:
This is why this back of the envelope message, which seems to confirm that switching is the right move, is so dangerous – it adds a halo to the message from the energy firms to get people to switch.
Of course no one wants to see paper wasted. Yet these envelopes could be held for the future, when hopefully things get back to normal. To use them now, and therefore putting out a damaging message when many people are already struggling with bills, is simply wrong.
So, Lewis’s message is clear. Ignore the DWP and stick with your current energy supplier. Otherwise, your Winter Fuel Payment may, like the department’s message on its envelopes, not be worth the paper it’s written on.
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