Leading charities say government needs ‘rapid progress’ on three key measures to tackle energy bills crisis, and has regressed on one measure
An estimated 5,000 excess winter deaths were caused by living in cold homes in England, Scotland and Wales, according to End Fuel Poverty Coalition figures presented to the House of Commons Energy Security and Net Zero Committee.
Furthermore, National Energy Action (NEA) research revealed over a million vulnerable households missed out on energy crisis support last winter, and over £440 million earmarked to support vulnerable households was underspent.
Experts from NEA, Citizens Advice, End Fuel Poverty Coalition and Fuel Bank Foundation are warning that the upcoming winter is expected to be equally as harsh as last year. NEA figures predict over 6.3 million UK households will be in fuel poverty from October, and many will have to face winter without any government support.
“What we saw [last winter] at National Energy Action was impossible levels of energy debt, dangerous coping mechanisms and an explosion of mental health problems,” said Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, NEA. “A million households who were due for support from the different bill mechanisms didn’t get it and £440 million went back to the Treasury that should have gone into people’s pockets. As a minimum, that money should be reinvested into directly reducing energy bills for vulnerable people this winter.”
Despite a £150 decrease in average energy bills, vulnerable households will still face high bills, increased standing charges and energy debt this winter. Of the 28 million households in Britain, fewer than five million could be classed as unaffected by the current energy bills crisis, adding to the evidence of a new class system emerging based on access to energy.
“Energy is now barely affordable for a majority of households in the UK, and millions of people are saddled with energy debt…”
Citizens Advice research revealed almost eight million people borrowed money to pay energy bills in the first half of 2023, and that record numbers of people are in debt before winter has even begun, with disabled people, single parents and low-income households likely hardest hit.
“Energy is now barely affordable for a majority of households in the UK, and millions of people are saddled with energy debt or have had to disconnect because they are simply priced out of today’s energy market,” said Tessa Khan, Executive Director of Uplift, part of the Warm This Winter campaign launched by a coalition of over 40 UK charities. “While it helped pay our bills last year, this government has done nothing to fix Britain’s broken energy system.”
A Warm This Winter report on the government’s progress against eight key measures to tackle the energy bills crisis revealed rapid progress is needed on three measures, while the government has taken steps backwards on one measure, which will deepen the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
An End Fuel Poverty Coalition spokesperson said: “The public see tackling the energy bills crisis as the main way the government can help ease the cost-of-living crisis, but sadly ministers have been making slow or no progress on the policies needed to keep people warm this winter and the next…Fuel poverty is a public health crisis, but it can only be addressed by economic and engineering solutions.”
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