lmost 100 charities and organisations are collectively calling for a social energy tariff to help low-income and vulnerable older and disabled households heat their homes.
In an open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the group including Age UK, Fair By Design, National Energy Action (NEA) and Scope warn that many older and disabled people, their carers and low-income households, are facing an uncertain future as they grapple with unaffordable energy bills.
A survey for Age UK suggests that 24% of over-60s are living in homes which are colder than they would like them to be, rising to 27% for older people with a disability.
The letter calls for targeted support for 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.
It describes “deep concern” that the withdrawal of universal energy support from April “will leave many older and disabled people in a increasingly desperate situation”.
Charities said they were being inundated with calls from people in “dire need”, including those relying on medical equipment like dialysis machines and who were facing a daily struggle to keep their equipment turned on and stay warm and well.
NEA estimates that the energy crisis has pushed more than 6.7 million UK households into fuel poverty, up from 4.5 million in October 2021.
It predicts that the figure will jump to 8.4 million households when the Government’s energy bills support scheme comes to an end.
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.”
Martin Coppack, director of Fair By Design, said: “We need to make sure vulnerable households are protected from future hikes in energy prices.
“This is why Fair By Design has been calling on the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to introduce an energy social tariff.
“This would benefit those in greatest need, who would no longer be faced with the impossible decision of going without essentials such as food just to be able to heat their homes.
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
“The number of signatories to our joint letter to the Chancellor shows there is broad consensus on what the solution is.
“We urge the Government to make good on its commitment to work with organisations like ours to consider the best approach for those struggling with their bills.”
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.
“The Government must introduce a social tariff, a discounted energy rate, for disabled people before it’s too late.”