Thousands of homes across the Highlands and Islands could benefit from the Warm Homes Discount - but they are left out.
The discount can result in a £140 reduction for electricity bills over the winter months.
The money is paid directly to the suppliers and is a one-off discount on electricity bills, between September and March.
Utility customers may also be able to get the discount on gas bills instead if the supplier provides both gas and electricity.
Those receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit - or those on a low income who meet the energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme are eligible to claim the discount.
A response from the U.K. Government from Rt Hon, Kwasi Kwarteng MP the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth to MSP Rhoda Grant, however, has revealed that even with a widening of the scheme due ahead of next winter, there will be around 1,350,000 customer accounts U.K. wide which are not covered by the WHD.
The U.K. Government is now planning on consulting on a Reformed WHD in the first half of this year, where the threshold for participation will be reviewed. Subject to this consultation, the threshold may continue to fall, potentially to zero or a small minimum, delivering a level playing field for energy suppliers.
Commenting Rhoda Grant MSP said: “It’s clear from the Government’s response that the Warm Home Discount scheme is crucial to the Highlands and Islands and this is reflected in the number of claims that are made across the region each year. It is, however, very concerning that there still might be thousands of people missing out on this discount every year just because their energy supplier is not a registered participant in the scheme.
“The U.K. Government must support a move towards ensuring mandatory participation the scheme for all energy suppliers, regardless of customer numbers, to ensure that there is a level playing field and that no household misses out on this valuable discount which could mean the difference between heating and eating for many.
“With one in four household across the Highlands and Islands living in fuel poverty, both the Scottish and U.K. Governments must do everything they can to reverse this scandal and ensure that everyone can afford to heat their homes, expanding the warm home discount to all energy suppliers would be a step in the right direction.”