Cost of living crisis: O’Connell issues fuel poverty warning
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The Warm This Winter pressure group argues that, despite the energy price guarantee and the £400 energy bills payment, more support is needed. They argue that the support will be needed to prevent “severe health impacts of living in cold, damp homes crippling the NHS and causing excess winter deaths”.
The group are calling for support to be targeted at the most vulnerable.
Financially they argue that a third cost of living payment should be made on December 1 for those on income based benefits.
They are also campaigning for a suspension of all forced transfers of households onto more expensive pre payed meters whether by court warrant or smart meters.
Warm This Winter are calling for a further £150 in disability benefits along with the restoration of the £20 Universal Credit uplift.
There is also a demand to increase the support for people who do not have a mains gas connection.
Campaigners from the group also believe that all households who received the Warm Homes Discount last winter should be able to access a £150 rebate this winter.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition calculates that the unit cost of gas has increased by 153 to 165 percent since winter 2021 while the unit cost of electricity has increased by 63 to 68 percent.
There are also concerns from health advocates that cold homes could make lung and breathing problems worse.
Sarah Woolnough, CEO of research and campaigning charity Asthma + Lung UK, said the charity was “extremely concerned the nation’s lung health will rapidly deteriorate”.
Ms Woolnough added that without adequate financial support some households will not be able to heat their homes creating the perfect environment for viruses to thrive.
She said:”We know people with lung conditions are already struggling with price hikes – one in five we surveyed said they’d had an asthma attack because of changes they’d made to their lives in response to the cost of living crisis, such as skipping meals, not picking up prescriptions, and using mains-powered medical machinery less.
“Things will only get worse when temperatures plummet and colds and viruses ramp up.”
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The Government has introduced the energy price guarantee which limits the amount a household can be charged per unit of gas and electricity.
As a result the taxpayer will pay the difference between the set unit cost and any higher unit cost.
The £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme is administered by energy suppliers and paid over the course of six months starting in October ensuring the winter months are covered.
However Simon Francis co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition argued that the current support package would only create a “cliff edge in April 2023” when payments stopped.
He said: “This will result in the numbers of households in fuel poverty rising to almost eight million.
“The situation will be made worse if benefits are not uprated by inflation and if prescription charges increase.”
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