Warning fuel poverty is ‘off the scale’ as record numbers need help
Warning fuel poverty is ‘off the scale’ as record numbers need help
Warning fuel poverty is ‘off the scale’ as record numbers need help
Warning fuel poverty is ‘off the scale’ as record numbers need help

A record number of people have needed help keeping the lights and heating on through pre-payment meters (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A record number of people have needed help keeping the lights and heating on through pre-payment meters (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A charity providing relief to people in fuel poverty across Britain has said it is giving out a record amount of up to £60,000 in emergency financial support every day.  

The energy vouchers are spread across thousands of people who are on pre-payment meters and cannot afford to keep the power switched on.

The Fuel Bank Foundation said it is on course to reach an overall figure of 750,000 people given temporary support since it began six years ago. 

Matthew Cole, who heads the charity, said many are being tipped into ‘disquiet, upset and confusion’ as they find themselves unable to heat their homes for the first time.  

Campaigners across the country are rallying behind Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, which is organised by National Energy Action.

The charity estimates that 6.7 million UK households are in fuel crisis — a number which it predicts will rise by almost two million when average annual energy bills increase in April.

Charities warn that a cost of living crisis is resulting from pressures including rising gas bills (Picture: E.M. Welch/REX/Shutterstock)
Charities warn that the cost of living crisis is resulting from pressures including rising power bills (Picture: E.M. Welch/REX/Shutterstock)

The foundation provides vouchers and advice to pay-as-you-go customers who run out of credit, currently supporting between 2,000 and 3,000 people a day through a network of 450 partners. 

Mr Cole told Metro.co.uk: ‘The need for fuel bank vouchers is off the scale, we are seeing the numbers increase by the day. There has already been a 75% year-on-year increase and this is continuing to ramp up. 

‘At the moment we are spending between £50,000 and £60,000 a day to keep people warm. It’s more than we have ever provided since the foundation launched in 2017. We are supporting more people who have never been in fuel crisis before and have never had to live without energy before. They are plunged into disquiet, upset and confusion. 

‘We are approaching a really horrible milestone of three quarters of a million people being helped, which we expect to reach on New Year’s Day.

‘We are on around 690,000 people to date who have been helped so far. So the numbers are significant.’ 

File photo dated 03/02/22 of an online energy bill, as one in three UK households could fall into fuel poverty if latest estimates that the average energy bill could reach ?3,250 a year become reality, a charity has warned. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday July 21, 2022. Experts at Cornwall Insight said bills could rise from a current record of ?1,971, to ?3,245 in October and then further to ?3,364 at the start of next year. See PA story CONSUMER Energy. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire
Energy bills are set to increase again in April, prompting warnings that an additional two million people will be pushed into fuel crisis (Picture: PA)

Soaring power bills have been a marked feature of the cost of living crisis, with the typical annual household charge due to leap from £2,500 to £3,000 with the next price cap rise in April.

In his autumn statement, the chancellor announced £26 billion in targeted support to protect the most vulnerable from the financial pressures. 

This includes additional cost of living payments of £900 for more than eight million households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioners and £150 to people on disability benefits. Jeremy Hunt also confirmed that benefits like universal credit will rise in line with inflation. 

However charities are warning that the short-term relief is not enough to outweigh the exponential rises in the cost of living.
‘We have around 450 partners in our network who validate self-reporting people for the support, so the figures are reliable,’ Mr Cole said.  

a lit ring on a gas hob, as the Government's energy price cap to shield households and businesses from the worst of the impact of soaring oil and gas prices comes into effect on Saturday. PA Photo. Issue date: Friday September 30, 2022. Under the energy price guarantee which limits the unit price paid for electricity and gas, means the annual bill for a typical household in England, Scotland and Wales will be held to around ?2,500 for the next two years. See PA story POLITICS CostofLiving.
Energy bills are soaring for millions of families with a further increase due in April 2023 (Picture: PA)

‘The government’s energy bill support scheme is helping and people had the universal credit payment in October, but they face the price cap increase in April. Over winter, the average pre-payment top-up will be about £350 a month and that’s what will cause a real issue as it starts to get colder.  

‘This is one of the real challenges on the road ahead.’ 

The Felix Project, a food redistribution charity, has documented the impact of surging power costs on people in London.

Chief executive Charlotte Hill said: ‘We know too many people are seriously struggling to pay for fuel this winter.

‘In a recent survey of Londoners earning under £20K a year, we found almost half of respondents felt concerned about being able to afford to cook food, of which 17% were very concerned. 

Heat Or Eat Choice
The cost of living crisis is being tackled with a new project to provide fridges and freezers to community groups (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘We hear from many people who say they are now using their ovens just once or twice a week and are eating just one hot meal a day.

‘Now, as the temperatures drop, it is incredibly worrying to hear families are sitting in cold houses because they cannot afford the high heating bills.’

The charity announced today that it will help to provide new community fridges and freezers in a partnership with The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. An initial £1 million, which includes a ‘substantial’ personal donation from King Charles, will enable hundreds of charities in London and across the UK to rescue and store more food.  

The scale of need was highlighted as coalition group Warm This Winter prepares to follow today’s awareness day with rallies, protests and events across the country tomorrow.

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The campaigners say the chancellor did not go far enough in providing immediate support for people in crisis and finding cheaper, renewable forms of energy supply in the long term.

Bringing forward plans to upgrade homes by making them more energy efficient and a ‘comprehensive’ windfall tax on oil and gas companies are among the measures that the umbrella group is calling for.  

The government has responded to such criticisms by pointing to the fact that it has introduced cost of living payments to more than eight million people on low incomes. 

A spokesperson said: ‘Our extensive immediate support for families also includes our Energy Price Guarantee, saving around £700 for a typical household over winter, and our Household Support Fund, worth over £1 billion to help people with essential costs, combined with longer-term changes such as altering universal credit to help people keep £1,000 more of what they earn every year.’ 

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