Lockdown makes fuel poverty worse

Bec Horner

Bec Horner

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Lockdown makes fuel poverty worse

Social Vision have been working with Community First Yorkshire to help promote the Warm & Well in North Yorkshire service providing advice and support for people who are struggling to afford to heat their homes this winter. Here’s an interesting thought piece on how lockdown is making fuel poverty even worse. 

 

Lockdown Three, in the midst of this cold winter, brings with it extra money and health problems to many households in our region. 

The enforced stay indoors – kids home schooling and adults working from home – all add up to increased energy costs; the kettle on more often, the heating turned up during the day, lights on, devices in constant use. This is all at a time when through redundancies, the furlough scheme and the loss of many businesses, people can least afford it.  

ONS statistics show there was a record number of redundancies – 395,000 – in the period from September to November and nearly 10 million people were furloughed between the start of the scheme and 13 December 2019. 

The most recent unemployment rate – for September to November – was 5.0%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That is an increase of 0.6% over the previous three months, and means that 1.72 million people were unemployed.

That’s why spending extra money in order to keep warm is often a step too far for many people on low incomes. Do they want to go further in debt? Would they rather spend money on putting food on the table? 

But staying warm is not only about comfort, it is also about staying well, looking after your health, and in extreme cases, staying alive. 

Based on ONS figures released in November, last winter 8,500 people died in England and Wales due to cold homes deaths, a direct result of fuel poverty.

Government 2020 Sub Regional fuel poverty data (from 2018 data) tell us of the 2,327,694 households in North Yorkshire, 236,240 are in fuel poverty which is 10.1 % of the region. 

This can be broken down further by Local Authority as follows:

Craven – 10.6%

Hambleton – 9.5%

Harrogate – 8.3%

Richmondshire -10.4%

Ryedale – 11.7%

Scarborough – 12.1%

Selby – 8.3%

Why is it that the most disadvantaged people pay the most for their energy?

One of the hardest things to accept when you delve into fuel poverty is the fact that those people on the lowest incomes are spending the most for their energy. 

Research by Comparethemarket looked at bills in deprived and non-deprived areas of Britain; lower versus higher household incomes; and the percentage of income households spend on their energy bills. It found that poorer households spend more per unit of energy compared to those with a higher income.

Shockingly, the most financially disadvantaged households are paying £60 more for their energy each year compared to those with the highest disposable income.

The ‘energy inequality’ is because more than half of all households with an income under £12,000 are on an expensive standard variable tariff (SVT).

Four in ten (43%) of those earning between £16,000 and £19,999 are on an SVT or default tariff, compared to 37% of those with an income of between £25,000 and £34,999.By comparison, only 32% of those with a household income of between £45,000 and £59,999 are on a pricey standard tariff.

In the 10% most deprived areas of Britain (based on income, employment, health, education and crime levels), the annual cost of energy is £1,123. This is £60 per year (5.7%) more than the annual cost of energy in the 10% of most affluent areas of England, which stands at £1,063.

For those with the lowest disposable income, the comparison site revealed that energy spends make up 7.8% of total weekly expenditure – three times more than the energy outgoings of the top 10% of affluent households.

People on a prepayment meter, as many low income households are for example, pay for their energy in advance. But paying for what you have used instead of pre-paying sees them getting lower prices, and means they don’t get into the hard situation of running out of credit. 

This is unacceptable, this needs to change.  We urge people with a standard meter to switch to a competitively priced fixed tariff deal. 

Not all energy firms’ tariffs are equal

We see many people stay with the same energy company they have always been with, not understanding that a competitor might offer a much better deal or that that their tariff is increasing annually in an unfair way.  

The energy price cap, far from being an affordable or good value price to pay for energy, is in fact hundreds of pounds more expensive than the cheapest tariff currently on the market

Even if someone were to switch to a cheaper energy tariff, they often don’t know that after their initial year on a good deal, the energy company reverts them automatically to a much more expensive tariff, for the same product and service. 

Changing energy supplier can seem daunting to many people, but there are organisations, like Look After My Bills,  who are constantly monitoring the energy markets and will change your supplier easily and quickly, when a better deal is available, at no charge. 

Switching, in general saves an average of £200 off an annual bill, for some people it is much more than that.  Switching needs to be encouraged across the region. 

Older people don’t know the benefits they can apply for too 

Older people, and many people on low income, are not aware that there are grants and benefits out there directly related to them saving on their energy costs like the Warm Home Discount which gives you £140 a year off your bills.

Fuel poverty needs a Marcus Rashford 

MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis is constantly championing and advising on fuel poverty and how households can switch and save. 

What Marcus Rashford has done for food poverty – highlighting, lobbying and uniting a nation around the importance of a daily free meals for child development and wellbeing whether in term time, lockdown or during school holidays – needs also to be done for fuel poverty.

It’s not only about keeping people warm, getting out of fuel poverty saves lives.

Further information

People struggling to keep their home warm this winter can call Warm & Well in North Yorkshire on 01609 767555

Find out more at: www.warmandwell.org.uk

Check their Youtube video out on how Warm & Well have supported residents in North Yorkshire and how they can support others too: https://youtu.be/cTikLKtICfI

Media contact: Emma Keef, Senior Communications Officer at Community First Yorkshire 01904 704177 emma.keef@communityfirstyorkshire.org.uk

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