Call for social tariff as a quarter of old people live in cold homes

New research by Age UK shows that a quarter (24 per cent) of over-60s are living in homes which are colder than they would like them to be, rising to 27 per cent for older people with a disability.

The polling comes as 100 charities and non-profit organisations across the UK have joined together to call for more targeted support in the form of a social tariff for the energy market to help older and disabled households heat their homes.

A social energy tariff is a discounted, targeted tariff aimed at those in greatest need to ensure they are able to live in their homes comfortably.

The plans have been set out in a letter to the Chancellor and would support low-income households who face a double burden from the rising cost of bills and paying more for their energy due to the poverty premium.

The letter calls for targeted support to be made available to those who need it most – including those on means-tested benefits, disability benefits and Carer’s Allowance as well as those missing out on welfare support but still struggling with their bills.

In addition, National Energy Action and Energy Action Scotland have today released their latest Fuel Poverty Monitor which provides an annual analysis of how the energy crisis has impacted fuel-poor households.

The Monitor confirms that households living on the lowest incomes, in the least efficient homes and on pre-payment meters, are being hardest hit by energy price increases.

It recommends the Government urgently consults on a mandatory social tariff to begin in April 2024, or sooner if practicable, to provide affordable energy for low-income and vulnerable households; and that the focus of this should be to ensure that the targeting of such a scheme goes beyond just those households that receive means-tested benefits.

From April 2023, the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme comes to an end and the support provided by the Energy Price Guarantee will be reduced.

Demand for the charities’ services are high and they are being inundated with calls from people in dire need, for example those relying on medical equipment like dialysis machines, who are facing a daily struggle to keep their equipment turned on and stay warm and well.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

Imagine having to choose between staying warm, feeding your family, or powering essential medical equipment. This is the reality for increasing numbers of older and disabled households across the country.

Older people are struggling to get by now, and that’s before another energy price increase comes their way in a few months’ time. Many will simply not be able to cope with further price rises and we’re extremely concerned their health and wellbeing will pay the price.

There needs to be much more protection for those who have no other means of paying such extortionate energy costs. The Government must introduce a social tariff for the energy market whilst prices are so high, and ensure we never face a crisis like this again.

Fuel Poverty Monitor author Matt Copeland, head of policy and public affairs at National Energy Action, says:

We spoke to over a hundred organisations across the UK, directly with our clients and polled the general public. From this it’s clear that the energy crisis is having a profound impact on the poorest and most vulnerable households in society.

Whether households are heating just one room for just a few hours a week, or rationing the use of their medical equipment, the results are completely unacceptable in modern day society. So far, the UK Government has offered sticking plaster solutions to the crisis.

What is really needed is structural change to the energy market. We were told time and again that a social tariff is what is needed. Today we come together with hundreds of other organisations to say just that. The UK Government must urgently prioritise work to implement a social tariff as soon as possible.

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said:

Astronomical energy bills are pushing disabled people to the brink.

Our helpline has been inundated with calls from disabled people whose bills have doubled or even quadrupled in a year.

Prices will rise again this April but disabled families have nothing left to cut back on. They can’t turn off vital, life-saving equipment and budgets can’t stretch any further.

Other plans for an “Energy For All” allowance for all households to have access to a free band of energy are also being developed by End Fuel Poverty Coalition members.