In the Bleak Midwinter
By Lisa Pollitt, Project Development Coordinator, National Energy Action
October became a month of despair for thousands of low income and vulnerable households. While energy suppliers announced increasing energy prices, households were also impacted as Universal Credit uplifts were withdrawn and the cost of living rose.
For those living in fuel poverty without sufficient energy for warmth and comfort this winter this has had a detrimental impact on their quality of life. Additionally, households are having to make stark choices between heating or eating with children missing out on warm meals as well as struggling to provide hot water for bathing or laundry. Many households self-disconnect due to being unable to afford to top-up electricity or gas prepayment meters and cover the costs of both standing charges alongside their required energy use. This can result in the winter in cold, miserable homes blighted by condensation and damp with negative impacts on both physical and mental health.
NEA’s Warm and Safe Homes advice line takes hundreds of energy and income maximization referrals each month and often clients highlight both worry and the despair they feel about living in fuel poverty……..
‘I just want to feel normal, I would love to have a warm bath like other people do and just feel clean and normal’
‘I don’t have the money to top-up my meter’
‘We sit in the cold as I am scared to use the heating as it costs so much’
The advice line helps individuals to better manage their energy use and be more energy efficient, deal with bills and fuel debt as well as access a range of help and support. It also offers clients access to income maximization and claim support assistance.
We would always urge anyone who is struggling to contact their supplier or other advice agencies to check their tariff and ensure they register for additional support such as the Warm Home Discount Scheme and the Priority Service Register. As last week marked Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2021 #COAW21 we also highlight research which indicates that the factors which cause or expose households to the risk of fuel poverty can impact on the heating and servicing behaviors of households to elevate CO risk in homes.
One of the new avenues of support this winter is the local authority Household Support Fund. It was recently introduced by the government to provide small payments to eligible households to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities. Individuals can check their eligibility by contacting their local council or by looking online for further information. Despite this welcome initiative it does not go far enough to support fuel poor and vulnerable households and additional interventions are needed now in order to prevent needless cold-related deaths and illness this winter. National Energy Action is calling on the UK Government to take more action to directly reduce energy prices and for Ofgem (the gas and electricity markets regulator) to do more to protect fuel poor and vulnerable households. National Energy Action believes that everyone deserves to live in a warm and safe home.
Check that you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to here