Tradespeople have warned applicants to the Government’s new Green Home Grant scheme to be ‘vigilant’ after it was revealed applicants only have until 31 March 2021 to claim the money and have all improvements completed.
The Government has made available 600,000 vouchers for energy efficiency improvements to homes and has set aside a budget of £2billion that households can apply for from today.
The vouchers are worth up to £5,000 for a variety of energy efficiency and heating measures, such as insulation and double glazing, increasing to £10,000 for fuel poor homes.
However, applicants will only have six months between the Grant opening and shutting to have all improvements finished, frustrating both households and tradespeople who are often ‘booked months ahead’.
The new Green Home Grant scheme is set to open for applications at the end of September
This means there may not be enough tradespeople to complete all improvement works around the country and as a result could attract cowboy traders instead.
Although households who have applied will only be offered a list of approved TrustMark and MCS registered tradespeople in their local area to carry out the work, trade firms have issued a warning to potential applicants to ensure they only hire reliable tradespeople.
Mike Fairman, chief executive of Checkatrade, said: ‘We welcome this move from the Government to help bolster the trade economy through the promotion of energy saving home improvements and providing increased job opportunities throughout the winter months.
‘However, we know that reputable tradespeople will often be booked many months ahead.
‘Given the timeframe for redemption of the vouchers is 31 March, we share concerns with our tradespeople that this may not give homeowners enough time to benefit from the Grants and, likewise, our tradespeople enough of an opportunity to benefit from the Grant’s use.’
How can I apply?
To find out if you are eligible for funding under the Green Home Grants and how you can apply, click here.
Checkatrade added that over the past few months it has seen a huge increase in searches on its platform for sustainable construction projects, which suggests there will likely be a capacity challenge for many of our tradespeople.
Fairman added: ‘We can understand why homeowners may be tempted to use a tradesperson who has immediate and ample availability, however this can sometimes be a sign of a rogue trade.
‘We’d recommend homeowners continue to be vigilant when choosing someone to carry out any works.’
A further concern is that homeowner demand could outstrip supply, meaning that those who need the work done the most could miss out.
A new poll by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit found that of the total respondents, including home owners and renters, a quarter are ‘very interested’ in the grant.
Rishi Sunak announced the Green Homes Grant in his mini-budget at the beginning of August
If only the ‘very interested’ participants take advantage of the scheme, this will total six million households, which is 10 times over what is currently on offer.
Adrienne Minster, chief executive of Rated People, a directory of tradespeople, said: ‘While we welcome the grant, there’s a risk that homeowner demand will outstrip tradespeople’s capacity to do the work in six months, so it’s important that we plan for that.
‘We hope that the Government will keep an eye on demand for the grant and reassess the length of time that it’s available for, if we start to find that not enough people can make use of it.’
Separate research from the Energy Helpline also found that less than half of the least well-off homeowners know about the scheme.
Tom Lyon, director of energy at Energy Helpline, said: ‘Months after the scheme was announced, it’s concerning to see that only 45 per cent of the poorest homeowners are unaware of the grants available.
‘These households are often the most in need of energy and cost-efficient homes.
‘Now that Government has opened the scheme for applications, to help make it a success, they must invest in further promoting it, so households can make use of the grants available.’
Trade firms have warned potential applicants to ensure they only hire reliable tradespeople
Key questions about the scheme
This is Money contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and asked them the below.
– Do the Government not think this is too short a time for 600,000 works to take place across the country?
The Green Homes Grant scheme will be time-limited to help stimulate the economic recovery and support and create tens of thousands of green jobs immediately.
– Is it not worried this will attract cowboys rushing to get the job done quicker due to the strict time limit?
The Green Homes Grant has been designed with the highest standards and consumer protection measures at its heart. All installers must be TrustMark registered, as well as MCS certified for heat and PAS certified for energy efficiency.
That means they will have been thoroughly vetted for technical competence, customer service and trading practices, and will be operating in accordance with the TrustMark customer charter, and MCS and PAS industry standards.
The terms and conditions will also mandate that installers provide a guarantee for major measures, so if the work isn’t up to scratch or fails within the agreed time frame then the company must put it right.
– How will this work if the Government changes the guidelines again for households not to mix and builders cannot enter a property? Or will they be exempt? If this is the case, will the vouchers be extended?
Installers must follow government guidance on ‘Construction and other outdoor work’ and ‘Working in other people’s homes’ and any other relevant COVID-19 guidance when undertaking installations.
– Will there even be enough tradespeople to complete all the changes?
We are confident that enough installers will have the required registration and certification ensuring consumers have enough choice of companies in their local areas to choose from.
We are working very closely with TrustMark, MCS and PAS certification organisations to ensure the supply chain is ready to support and benefit from this scheme.
A BEIS spokesperson said: ‘The Green Homes Grant will give the economy an immediate boost by supporting tens of thousands of jobs to make over 600,000 homes warmer and cheaper to heat in just six months.
‘We have worked with industry to ensure there are enough installers ready to deliver the scheme in a way that work is completed to the highest standards and upholds the UK’s world leading consumer protections.’
Watch out for scammers too
Another fear is that scammers are likely to be prevalent at this time, trying to cash in on the deadline, promising they can deliver improvements for a low price.
Victims of fraud could receive calls claiming they are builders looking to complete work and ask households to pay a fee upfront.
This was seen in 2014 when the Government ran its Green Deal to cover insulation work with scammers coming up with a host of ways to con people out of their cash.
Fraud prevention service Cifas says it has already heard of a surge of calls from fraudsters telling homeowners they’re eligible for the grants.
However, households looking to apply should only do so through the official Government website.
Questions over Government calculator
A Government endorsed calculator from Simply Energy Advice has raised questions about how accurately it predicts the cost of improvements – and how much it can actually save households.
For example, it recommended the following recommendations for a three bedroom house below, which is an estimated energy band D – which is the middle efficiency rating.
It claimed having floor insulation would cost £5,000 but this would only provide savings of £10 to £15 a year.
Thus, it would take 400 years for the floor insulation to pay for itself. Up to two thirds of this cost could be covered by the scheme.
Furthermore, it would take 160 years for new windows to pay for itself and 173 years for a condensing gas boiler.
This will obviously raise questions for those applying as to whether the Grant is actually worth applying for.
The calculator predicts how much investment is required & how much it can save people
A further issue is that, as many of the works will likely have to be undertaken in the winter time, when the weather is at its worst, this means the elements could affect progress.
With the coronavirus pandemic reemerging and a number of local lockdowns already in place, there is also concern that if work is commissioned, or even started, it may have to be shut down midway through.
If improvements in a home are underway, but a lockdown is then introduced and tradespeople are unable to enter the property anymore, this could leave people with unsafe homes.
It also raises the question, that if work is halted near the deadline of 31 March, will it be extended or do households then have to foot the rest of the bill?
Experts believe, however, that the six month deadline is just a trial period and hope the Government chooses to extend the scheme for a further six months, at minimum.
Jess Ralston, analyst at the ECIU, said: ‘Whilst the deadline is short at the moment, high demand paves the way for the Government to build on the success of the scheme and perhaps roll it out on a larger scale afterwards.
‘This will help put money back into the wallets of these installers, as well as families that take advantage of the scheme and save money on their energy bills, whilst delivering on the promises of ‘levelling-up’.
‘It delivers support for construction sector, skilled jobs at a time when this is really needed.’
The National Insulation Association is also calling for it to be treated as a six month pilot for longer term spending on energy efficiency.
This would be in line with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s recommendations for a wider programme on energy efficiency and low carbon heating.
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