Government isolated as organisations line up to back energy tariff reform

Over 140 charities, organisations and MPs have taken joint action to call on the government to support vulnerable households with their energy bills.

In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister [pdf], the groups highlight how the government is yet to announce any winter financial support, despite households facing even higher costs of living and with energy bills still at relative highs.

According to new polling carried out for National Energy Action by YouGov, a third of British adults are expecting to struggle to afford their heating bills this winter if the government doesn’t offer financial help with energy bills.

The government has previously committed to consult on future approaches to consumer protections including a social tariff. This was promised on repeated occasions, as the End Fuel Poverty Coalition has highlighted to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

But with the next winter looming and no consultation launched, the signatories to the letter are urging the government to make good on its commitment to consult on a social tariff.

Adam Scorer, CEO at National Energy Action, said:

“With a third of households expecting to struggle to heat their homes this winter, the cost of energy will remain simply unaffordable for millions.

“We have to face reality. Even without a price rise, which now looks likely in January, the crisis is deepening, and it demands a proper response from government now.

“That means urgent targeted financial support this winter and for government to get moving on its commitments to consult on and deliver a longer-term social tariff for energy.”

Caroline Abrahams CBE, Charity Director of Age UK, said:

“We believe the introduction of a comprehensive, targeted energy social tariff is the best way to deliver support to those who need it. That’s why we are calling on the government to keep their promise and launch a consultation. Older people struggling to heat their homes have waited patiently only to learn that in fact there would be no social tariff consultation before the autumn.

“With estimates showing that high energy prices are here to stay, at least for the next two winters, this targeted support package cannot come soon enough for our older population.”

Louise Rubin, Head of Policy at disability equality charity Scope, said:

“Life costs a lot more for disabled people. When you rely on energy for equipment to help you breathe or get out of bed, cutting back on energy is not an option.

“Last winter pushed disabled people and their families to the brink. Now disabled people who’ve cut back everything they can are facing the terrifying prospect of even higher energy bills.

“We’re hearing from people who have been forced to go without food for days. One person told us they’d been surviving on food donations from a neighbour.

“We need emergency support now, and a social energy tariff to end sky-high bills for disabled people. The government must keep its promise.”

Frazer Scott, CEO of Energy Action Scotland, said that a social tariff is essential for health and wellbeing:

“That we are still having to argue a case for a social tariff as we approach autumn is a disgrace. People need to know that essential and basic levels of heat and power are within reach.

“The UK government must work with regulators and energy suppliers to create a long-term, fair and affordable social tariff. Millions of households are approaching this winter with significant amounts of debt. This means that while gas and electricity prices remain at historically high levels, energy bills are simply unaffordable for those on the lowest incomes, those with essential medical needs, the disabled and older people. It is exacerbated by poor-quality housing, that is cold and damp. This is fast becoming a humanitarian crisis unfolding in plain sight of our politicians and policymakers.”

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson told Press Association that the Government “continues to keep all options under review for those most in need.”

But a spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition responded:

“MPs on the Energy Select Committee back reform to energy tariffs, MPs on All Party Parliamentary Groups back reform, charities and campaigners back reform, the public backs reform. Even energy firms support reform.

“The only people left who do not support making our energy system fairer are Rishi Sunak and his Cabinet. They need to wake up to the strength of feeling on this issue and take action now to keep people warm this winter – and every winter.”