IN AN OPEN LETTER to the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, 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.

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (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.

From April 2023, the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme comes to an end and the support provided by the Energy Price Guarantee will be reduced. Without continued financial support, it is predicted that the numbers of fuel poor households of all ages will jump to 8.4 million across the UK.

Collectively, the charities are calling for targeted support to be made available to those on means-tested benefits, disability benefits and Carer’s Allowance, as well as 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 a increasingly desperate situation.

The charities say they are being inundated with calls from people in dire need – for example those relying on medical equipment such as dialysis machines, who are facing a daily struggle to keep their equipment turned on.

NEA and Energy Action Scotland have also 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. They also call on the government to ensure that the targeting of such a scheme goes beyond just those householdswhich receive means-tested benefits.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: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 their way in a few months’ time. Many will simply not be able to cope with further price rises and we’re extremely concerned their health and wellbeing will pay the price. There needs to be much more protection for those who have 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.”

Martin Coppack, Director of Fair By Design, said: “We need to make sure 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 be able to heat their homes. The number of signatories to our joint letter to the Chancellor shows there is broad consensus on what the solution is. 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.”

Report author Matt Copeland, head of policy and public affairs at National Energy Action, says: “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 having a profound impact on the poorest and most vulnerable households in society.

“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 sticking plaster solutions to the crisis.

“What is really needed is 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.”

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at the disability equality charity Scope, said: “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.”

Age UK and disability charity Scope are also calling on the public to help protect older and disabled people from unaffordable energy bills by signing a letter to the Government here.

* Read the open letter to the Chancellor here.

* More information on fuel poverty, by parliamentary constituency, from National Energy Action here.

* Source: Age UK