Around 2.2 million households are languishing unnecessarily in fuel poverty this winter after the government failed to launch a ‘social tariff’ for energy to help society’s most vulnerable, a number of UK charities say .
Currently, around one in eight people, or 12 per cent, in the UK suffer from fuel poverty, the findings suggest. This equates to 3.2 million households, according to Age UK, which works alongside MND, Sense, Scope, Fair By Design and Mencap.
In the UK, around one in seven households, or 15 per cent, with someone with a disability or long-term health condition, the equivalent of 2.1 million households, suffer from fuel poverty, according to the study.
Social energy tariffs were gradually phased out and replaced by the Warm Home discount program. However, not all households benefiting from social rates are eligible for the Warm Home reduction program.
Fuel poverty: Around 2.2 million households are languishing unnecessarily in fuel poverty this winter, charities say.
Richard Kramer, chief executive of Sense, said: “People with complex disabilities and their families are skipping meals and turn off their heating in the depths of winter and, shockingly, almost one in five (18%) households told us they were reducing their use of vital equipment such as fans, feeding pumps and electric wheelchairs in a desperate attempt to save money.
If a social energy tariff had been launched this winter, offering people a 50 per cent reduction on their energy bills, charities say 1.4 million people living in a household with a disabled or disabled person would a long-term health problem would have been released from fuel poverty.
These surprising figures also indicate that one in six older people suffer from fuel poverty, which equates to 1.6 million households.
If a social energy tariff were introduced, charities estimate that 1.3 million people in this category could emerge from fuel poverty this winter.
A “social energy tariff” is a reduced price energy offer intended for people on low incomes and with specific needs or vulnerabilities.
Implementing a social tariff for particularly vulnerable households could potentially be more targeted than government measures such as paying the cost of living or paying for winter fuel.
The charities say a social energy tariff “must automatically enroll eligible households”, be mandatory for all suppliers and “complement existing consumer protections”.
Eligibility criteria should include recipients of means-tested earnings, disability benefits and carers’ allowance, the charities suggest.
Households without access to benefits or just above the poverty line should also be eligible for social energy tariffs, the study says.
Action: Age UK and other charities say a social energy tariff would reduce levels of fuel poverty.
Alex Massey, head of campaigns, policy and public affairs at the MND Association, said: “This research paints a bleak picture of the Government’s failure to support disabled people this winter.
“Since the promise of a consultation on targeted energy support, people living with MND have collectively spent £2.5 million on their electricity bills to use and maintain medical and support equipment.
“People are now taking drastic action for their own health and wellbeing: more than a quarter (28%) have reduced their use of this equipment due to the inflated cost of energy. We call on the government to urgently implement a social energy tariff to help the most vulnerable households cope with the high cost of energy.
Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity Age UK, said: “In January 2024, around 3.4 million people aged over 60 said their home was too cold most or all of the time.
“It is not acceptable that they are forced to live in these conditions.
“We need a permanent solution in the form of a social energy tariff to ensure they never face another winter of unmanageable bills. Energy is an essential element and it’s time we treat it that way and ensure that everyone can afford enough of it to stay fit, healthy and live a decent life.
Charities have used the “energy stress” definition of fuel poverty. According to the charities, this is defined as any household spending more than 10 percent of their net income on domestic energy.
They added: “Our Social Energy Tariff proposal is aimed at UK households with one or more residents in receipt of at least one of income-related benefits, disability benefits, carer’s allowance and/or living in below or just above the poverty line. to benefit from a 50 percent reduction on their energy bill.
This is Money has asked the government for comment.
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