In an open letter sent to the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP, 95 Charities and non-profit organisations across the UK have joined together to call for more targeted support in the form of a social tariff for the energy market to help older and disabled households heat their homes.
New research by Age UK reveals strong support for a social energy tariff amongst the over-60s, with 71 per cent – increasing to 76 per cent of those with a disability – agreeing that a social energy tariff should be available for those who need it most.
NEA estimates that the energy crisis has pushed over 6.7 million UK households into fuel poverty, up from 4.5 million in October 2021. A social tariff would support low-income households who face a double burden from the rising cost of bills and paying more for their energy due to the poverty premium.
Age UK, Fair by Design, National Energy Action (NEA) and Scope – are warning today that many older and disabled people, their carers and low-income households face an uncertain future as they grapple with unaffordable energy bills. Age UK’s new polling shows that a quarter (24 per cent) of over-60s live in homes that are colder than they would like them to be, rising to 27 per cent for older people with a disability.
Collectively, they are calling for targeted support to be made available to those who need it most – including those on means-tested benefits, disability benefits and Carer’s Allowance, and those missing out on welfare support but still struggling with their bills. They are deeply concerned that further price rises and a withdrawal of universal energy support from April 2023 will leave many older and disabled people in an increasingly desperate situation. Demand for the Charities’ services is high, and they are being inundated with calls from people in dire need, for example, those relying on medical equipment like dialysis machines, who are facing a daily struggle to keep their equipment turned on and stay warm and well.
In addition, National Energy Action and Energy Action Scotland have today released their latest Fuel Poverty Monitor, which provides an annual analysis of how the energy crisis has impacted fuel-poor households. Confirming that households living on the lowest incomes, in the least efficient homes and on pre-payment meters are being hardest hit by energy price increases, the report recommends the Government urgently consults on a mandatory social tariff to begin in April 2024, or sooner if practicable, to provide affordable energy for low-income and vulnerable households; and that the focus of this should be to ensure that the targeting of such a scheme goes beyond just those households that receive means-tested benefits.
From April 2023, the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme will come to an end, and the support provided by the Energy Price Guarantee will be reduced. Without continued financial support, it is predicted that the number of all-age fuel-poor households will jump to a staggering 8.4 million across the UK.
“Imagine having to choose between staying warm, feeding your family, or powering essential medical equipment. This is the reality for increasing numbers of older and disabled households across the country.
“Older people are struggling to get by now, and that’s before another energy price increase comes in a few months. Many will simply be unable to cope with further price rises, and we’re extremely concerned that their health and well-being will pay the price. There needs to be much more protection for those with no other means of paying such extortionate energy costs. The Government must introduce a social tariff for the energy market whilst prices are so high and ensure we never face a crisis like this again.”Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK
“We need to ensure vulnerable households are protected from future hikes in energy prices. This is why Fair By Design has been calling on the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to introduce an energy social tariff. This would benefit those in greatest need, who would no longer be faced with the impossible decision of going without essentials such as food just to heat their homes.
“The number of signatories to our joint letter to the Chancellor shows broad consensus on the solution. We urge the Government to make good on its commitment to work with organisations like ours to consider the best approach for those struggling with their bills.”Martin Coppack, Director of Fair By Design
“For our Fuel Poverty Monitor, we spoke to over a hundred organisations across the UK, directly with our clients and polled the general public. From this, it’s clear that the energy crisis is profoundly impacting society’s poorest and most vulnerable households.
“Whether households 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 UK Government has offered to stick plaster solutions to the crisis.
“What is really needed is a structural change to the energy market. We were told time and again that a social tariff is what is needed. Today we come together with hundreds of other organisations to say just that. The UK Government must urgently prioritise work to implement a social tariff as soon as possible.”Report author Matt Copeland, head of policy and public affairs at National Energy Action
“Astronomical energy bills are pushing disabled people to the brink.
“Our helpline has been inundated with calls from disabled people whose bills have doubled or even quadrupled in a year. Prices will rise again this April, but disabled families have nothing left to cut back on. They can’t turn off vital, life-saving equipment, and budgets can’t stretch any further.
“The Government must introduce a social tariff – a discounted energy rate – for disabled people before it’s too late.”James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope