UK faces ‘humanitarian crisis' from rising energy prices

NHS Confederation says climbing energy costs could widen health inequalities
08 September 2022 , By Steve Smethurst

Citizens Advice has seen a ‘record-breaking’ year for referring people to crisis support such as food banks

Britain's public health leaders have called on the government to tackle soaring energy prices to prevent people falling sick or dying this winter.

In a letter sent to government officials, the NHS Confederation – the membership organisation for the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – said surging costs mean many people will have to choose between food and heat.

The news that Ofgem is set to increase the price cap to £3,549 from October 2022 – an 80% increase on February’s price cap – is another blow for those facing fuel poverty.

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation said: “The country is facing a humanitarian crisis. Many people could face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in cold, damp and very unpleasant conditions.

“This, in turn, could lead to outbreaks of sickness and widen health inequalities, worsen children’s life chances and leave an indelible scar on local communities.”

Katie Schmuecker, Principal Policy Advisor at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that the rising price of essential goods was a threat to health. She said: “It's morally indefensible that already people in some parts of the UK die years earlier than they should, and we cannot allow this injustice to be made worse.”

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said that the charity had seen a ‘record-breaking’ year for referring people to crisis support – such as food banks and charitable grants. More than 120,000 people have been referred for this type of help.

She said: “‘Without more support, the soundtrack to winter will be the beeping of emergency prepayment meter credit running out and the click of lights and appliances being turned off. There must be a financial lifeline for those who need it most.”

“Not only are we are calling for the amount of financial support provided to households to be doubled but urging them to introduce a raft of energy efficiency measures.”

CIEH echoed the calls for the government to intervene. Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns said: “While we welcomed the Energy Bills Support Scheme, it is apparent that £400 spread over six months is simply not going to be enough to tackle the spiralling cost of the energy crisis.

“Not only are we are calling for the amount of financial support provided to households to be doubled but urging them to introduce a raft of energy efficiency measures that will also play a key role in fighting climate change and reducing carbon emissions.”

Jonathan Brearley, CEO of Ofgem agreed that the government would need to act. He said: “The price of energy has reached record levels driven by an aggressive economic act by the Russian state. We know the massive impact this price cap increase will have on households across Britain.

“The government support package is delivering help right now, but it’s clear the new Prime Minister [Liz Truss] will need to act further. The response will need to match the scale of the crisis we have before us.”

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

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