- Today, the chief executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA) told MPs that over a million vulnerable households missed out on vital energy crisis support last winter.
- The new analysis also reveals over £440 million that was earmarked to support vulnerable households last winter, was not given out by the energy department.
- The analysis comes as a range of consumer groups warn the impact of this winter will be just as brutal as the last, with over 6.3 million UK households in fuel poverty across the UK, many facing this winter without any government support.
Earlier today, the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee held a session on ‘Preparing for the winter’ where the chief executive of National Energy Action (NEA) told MPs that new analysis by the charity showed over a million vulnerable households missed out on vital energy crisis support last winter. Over £440 million that was earmarked to support vulnerable households was underspent due to the poor delivery of national schemes including the Energy Bills Support Scheme.
National Energy Action, Citizens Advice, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition and Fuel Bank Foundation warned MPs the impact of this winter is likely to be as brutal as the last. National Energy Action’s figures show that over 6.3 million households will be in fuel poverty across the UK from October, many facing this winter without any government support.
Speaking to the Committee, Adam Scorer, chief executive of National Energy Action, said:
“Despite the generosity of 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. People not washing clothes for their children, people not having hot showers or baths, not heating their homes, using barbecues to cook their food, borrowing from neighbours and friends which they can’t afford to repay.
“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.”
No more support this winter
Despite a modest £150 fall in energy bills for a typical household, vulnerable households will still face stubbornly high bills for the foreseeable future. They also face increases to standing charges and a mountain of energy debt as they approach this winter. Unlike last winter, there is no Energy Price Guarantee (EPG), no £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS) and no additional targeted support to directly reduce the impact of continued high energy bills. National Energy Action says that despite wider pressures on public expenditure, the UK government has the resources to offset the worst impacts of this winter and commit to deeper support next year.
Adam Scorer adds:
“Despite the huge support the government put in last winter, the crisis will be worse this winter. Whether they like it or not, government will have to come forward with a package of support to reduce energy bills for the most vulnerable this year. The level of energy debt is also so extreme now, and is destroying so many lives, we must have a ‘help to repay scheme’ that helps people accelerate their way out of energy debt. We can’t get back on an even keel in the energy market without tackling the 70% increase in energy debt from 2020 to 2023. We also need longer-term mechanisms; the government must meet its commitment to consult on a social tariff and other mechanisms to bring prices down for vulnerable households to pre- crisis levels.”
Notes to editors
- National Energy Action (NEA), is the national fuel poverty charity, working across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to improve the lives of people in fuel poverty. We directly support people with energy and income maximisation advice, and we advocate on issues such as the current energy crisis and the need to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. See: nea.org.uk/.
- The following table highlights National Energy Action’s analysis on which schemes vulnerable households missed out on last winter and the level of related underspends.
|Scheme||Underspend||Estimate of HHs missing support||Type of households missing out on support|
|Warm Home Discount
A £150 rebate given to households identified as having a low income and living in an energy inefficient home.
|£45m||300k households affected
The portion of the £400/household Energy Bills Support Scheme that would go to legacy prepayment customers in the form of fuel vouchers.
|£98m||At least 250k households affected||
The portion of the £400/household Energy Bills Support Scheme that would go to households without an electricity account, in the form of a cash payment.
|Total||£444m||At least 1 million|
- National Energy Action has also recently submitted its proposals to HM Treasury in advance of the Autumn Statement [click here]. National Energy Action’s key priorities are:
- Through existing mechanisms, provide targeted energy bill support to support low income and vulnerable households this winter.
- Build on the current Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) arrangements to further reduce standing charges for pre-payment meter customers and reduce the ongoing premium Standard Credit still face.
- Introduce a ‘help to repay’ scheme to address growing levels of debt within the energy sector.
- Restate the commitment to consult on a new mandated social tariff and fund it in a progressive way from April 2024.
- Provide additional investment into domestic energy efficiency programmes to meet the UK government’s legal duties to upgrade all fuel-poor homes to a reasonable standard of energy efficiency by the end of this decade.