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Social tariff would have lifted 2.2m households out of fuel poverty – charities

02 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

An energy social tariff would have lifted 2.2 million households out of fuel poverty this winter, charities have claimed.

A coalition of charities: Age UK, Scope, Fair by Design, Mencap, MND Association and Sense, warned that the cost of living crisis was still adding “huge pressures” to household finances, with millions struggling to pay their energy bills.

Currently, about one in eight households in the UK – 12%, or the equivalent of 3.4 million households – are experiencing fuel poverty this winter, the charities said.

SNP MP Marion Fellows is due to table a 10-minute rule bill to discuss social tariffs on February 5.

Ahead of this, the coalition has called on the Government to “urgently think again” and fund a targeted energy deal, or social tariff, to “markedly” discount energy costs for those of all ages at greatest risk from the cold.

Vulnerable people

The charities have called for implementation of a discounted energy social tariff from 2024-25 to protect the UK’s most vulnerable people from fuel poverty.

They said the tariff should be directly funded through Government spending, to ensure “those missing out on it do not have to bear its costs”.

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “In January 2024 about 3.4 million over-60s reported their home was too cold for most, or all of the time. It’s not acceptable that they are being forced to live in these conditions.

“We need a permanent solution in the form of an energy social tariff to ensure they never face another winter of unmanageable bills. Energy is a basic essential and it’s time we treated it that way and ensure everyone can afford enough of it to stay fit and well, and to live decently.”


Maddy Rose, from Mencap, said: “The Government’s failure to take action leaves huge numbers of disabled people in fuel distress.

“Despite higher energy use for mobility, health and sensory needs, nearly 40% of respondents to a Mencap survey had kept the heating off despite being cold, while over a quarter reported not switching the lights on to save money.

“Without an energy social tariff, people with a learning disability will continue to have to make these desperate choices.

“(The) Government must tackle affordability issues and fulfil their promise to protect the most vulnerable in society, once and for all.”

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said: “These findings reveal the devastating, real-life consequences of the Government’s decision to break its promise to consult on a social tariff.

“Life costs more when you’re disabled. At Scope we’re hearing from disabled people who are going days without food, and relying on candles because they can’t afford to switch the lights on.

“This can’t wait – the Government must act now.”


A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “A social tariff is about protecting vulnerable people and that’s exactly what we are doing by providing significant financial support for those who need it most.

“We’ve cut National Insurance for 29 million working people, a tax cut worth £450 for the average worker and our actions have helped to more than halve inflation since last year.

“On top of this we are increasing the National Living Wage to £11.44 this year, and boosting benefit payments for around 5.5 million households by an average of £470 a year.

“This is alongside direct targeted support for those who continue to need it, including £900 in cost-of-living payments, £150 to those on eligible disability benefits, plus a further £150 Warm Home Discount. Our Energy Price Guarantee also remains in place until April 2024.”

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