One million fuel-poor families will not be able to meet basic needs this winter, study reveals

Credit: PA
  • Video report by ITV News consumer editor Chris Choi

More than one million families will not have enough money to meet basic fuel needs this winter, according to research published Friday by National Energy Action.

The NEA report follows a recent survey that revealed three in 10 Britons are too scared to put their heating on fearful of crippling fuel bills.

The charity said fuel-poor families have a shortfall of £778 per month to cover basic essentials, including energy, and warned half a million low-income households could miss out on energy rebates and the proposed new safeguard price cap.

"Our new report highlights the scale of the impossible choices over a million families will be making this winter,” said Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Research comments at the NEA.

“The report illustrates the catastrophic impact Universal Credit could have on these families who have no savings to insulate them from falling into debt, going hungry and not heating their homes over the current 6-week waiting period.

“We aren't talking about needing to cut down on a few luxuries; we're seeing people switch off the heating for the whole winter and kids only eating one meal a day. We know others are adopting unsafe behaviours in an attempt to keep warm, withdrawing entirely from society or building up bigger and bigger debt problems.”

On the proposed safeguard price cap for vulnerable customers, Smith said the NEA “supports the safeguard tariff,” but household could still miss out on up to £260 of energy bill savings.

“These households are mostly working-age, fall into the lowest income deciles and in some cases are already facing thousand pound gaps between their incomes and the essential cost of living,” he said.

A survey by Solarplicity published Thursday revealed a staggering 32% said they will struggle to heat their homes this winter and a further 43% say the cost of heating their house forces them to think twice before turning it on.

Some 16% of those surveyed said they spend more than 10% of their monthly income on fuel - the official yardstick of fuel poverty.

Meanwhile a further 32% often find themselves facing a fuel poverty "crisis" depending on how much money they have earned that month.

"Solarplicity's research shows that 40% of those surveyed said they had never spoken to a fuel poverty outreach worker to help with their heating issues but would be keen to seek help,” said Emma Bridge, Chief Executive, Community Energy England.

"It is important that vulnerable people don't feel stigmatised about asking for help and that help is readily available locally.

"Cold living conditions can promote cardiovascular illness and condensation damp related respiratory illness. In Britain in 2017, this preventable health risk to the most vulnerable in society is not acceptable."