Adam Scorer calls for ‘targeted financial support’ on energy bills
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An open letter – backed by 95 UK charities and other groups – has been sent to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps demanding more be done now to help the vulnerable pay soaring bills. The Government says it is looking at how it can help the vulnerable – from April next year.
But the letter calls for targeted support now for those on means-tested benefits, disability payments and carer’s allowance as well as those missing out on welfare support but struggling with their bills.
It describes “deep concern” that the withdrawal of universal energy support from April “will leave many older and disabled people in an increasingly desperate situation”. Campaigners say they are inundated with calls from people in “dire need”, including those relying on medical equipment such as dialysis machines.
They are facing a daily struggle to keep their equipment turned on and stay warm and well.
The National Energy Action group (NEA) warns that the energy crisis has pushed more than 6.7 million UK households into fuel poverty, up from 4.5million in October 2021.
This number will jump to 8.4million when the Government’s bills support scheme ends.
The NEA’s Matt Copeland said: “The energy crisis is having a profound impact on the poorest and most vulnerable households.
“Whether they are heating just one room for just a few hours a week, or rationing the use of their medical equipment, the results are completely unacceptable in modern-day society.
“So far, the Government has offered to stick plaster solutions. What is needed is structural change to the energy market. It must prioritise work to implement a social tariff as soon as possible.”
The call has been backed by James Taylor, of the charity Scope.
He said: “Astronomical bills are pushing disabled people to the brink. Our helpline has been inundated with calls from those whose bills have doubled or even quadrupled in a year. Prices will rise again this April but families have nothing left to cut back on.
“They can’t turn off life-saving equipment and budgets can’t stretch any further.” Household energy bills surged 54 percent in April and were due to rise by a further 80 percent in October.
The April hike was equivalent to £700 more across a year for “typical” levels of dual fuel consumption paid by direct debit.
The October cap would have been a jump of almost £1,600 but the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee limited the rise to 27 percent, with a further increase of 20 percent due in April. This will push the yearly bill for the average household to £3,000. The NEA and Energy Action Scotland on Tuesday release their latest Fuel Poverty Monitor analysis.
It confirms that those on the lowest incomes, in the least energy-efficient homes and on pre-payment meters, are hardest hit.
The report recommends the Government urgently consults on a mandatory social tariff to begin in April 2024 or sooner. Fuel poverty is defined as families spending more than 10 percent of their after-tax income on energy costs.
Meanwhile, a poll of over-60s by Age UK found a quarter living in homes which are colder than they’d like, rising to 27 percent for those with a disability. Boss Caroline Abrahams, said: “Imagine having to choose between staying warm, feeding your family or powering essential medical equipment. Many will simply not be able to cope with further price rises.”
Morgan Vine, of Independent Age, said: “People have told us they are turning off their fridge overnight, wearing a hat to bed and – despite the risk of falls – using their phone as a torch instead of turning on the light. Urgent help is needed.” On Monday the Government said: “We are working with consumer groups and industry to assess the best long-term approach to helping vulnerable households from April next year.”
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