Millions of households’ face fuel poverty as government support scheme ends, warns charity

'Without more support too many will continue to rack up unmanageable debts or try and survive in unheated homes causing ill health, misery, and avoidable death.'

On July 1, the government’s energy bills support scheme came to an end for over two-thirds of households in Britain.

The Energy Bills Support Scheme, which was introduced in February 2022 when Russia first invaded Ukraine, and energy costs rose sharply, paid £66 or £67 a month into the bill payers’ accounts. Prepayment customers received vouchers.

The energy regulator Ofgem is lowering its price cap, making gas and electricity cheaper across Britain. The average annual energy bill will be £2,100. However, with the support scheme ending and leaving families without help, charities have warned that it will still leave millions of households in Britain in fuel poverty.

The National Energy Action (NAE), which works to provide support to those who cannot afford to heat their home, says around 6.6 million households across Britain will be in fuel poverty. The charity warns that despite cost-of-living payments for households on mean-tested benefits, vulnerable families will not receive any government support.

The charity cautions that households who aren’t on qualifying benefits – or aren’t on benefits at all – will miss out. This may include people who are severely in debt, those on low incomes who need to spend more energy at home due their disability or the inefficiency of their homes, unpaid carers, households on low incomes who have seen a drop in their incomes due to a recent bereavement, or households that, until this year, were eligible for wider assistance from programmes like the Warm Home Discount but are now no longer able to access energy rebates. 

Adam Scorer, chief executive of the NEA, warns that despite retail prices falling from July, many of the people the charity helps are still struggling. Scorer notes how two-thirds of households across Britain will no longer benefit from any assistance to offset the impacts of the energy crisis and Ofgem’s price cap will offer ‘limited protection to these households.’

“Millions of vulnerable people miss out on cost-of-living payments as they aren’t on the right benefits or no benefits at all. These people need additional help but are being left to manage bills that are still on average over £1,000 per year more expensive compared to the start of the crisis,” said Scorer.

He added that domestic customers will again be paying for UK government programmes through their energy bills.

“Many of these programmes can help reduce bills in the longer-term and are vital for environmental or social reasons but are often being loaded onto higher standing charges, which we know impact low-income, low-usage households the hardest. 

“Treasury cannot continue to subsidise everyone’s bills, but there is an urgent case for using at least £3 billion of underspent resources from recent programmes to help these very vulnerable groups. Without more support too many will continue to rack up unmanageable debts or try and survive in unheated homes causing ill health, misery, and avoidable death,” he continued.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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