Researchers warn that approximately 1.7 million households experiencing severe fuel poverty will miss out on additional assistance because they are not registered to receive certain benefits. The energy regulator, Ofgem, will call for better protection of vulnerable households through a new universal priority services register on Monday.
A report by the Child Poverty Action Group revealed that the UK government’s latest plans to offer targeted assistance for the most vulnerable households will fall short of 688,000 fuel-poor homes with children who are not enrolled for benefits.
The latest scheme by the government offering targeted assistance to the most vulnerable households would replace the previous scheme that offered a £400 discount to help all households cover their winter energy bills. As per the new scheme, there is a £900 payment for those on means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioners, and an extra £150 for disabled people. As of April 1, the government will provide one-time payments to homes that receive specific benefits as well as a ceiling on the unit cost of energy, which will be set at an average of £2,500 annually for a typical household.
However, many fuel-poor homes would be left without it, according to the University of York researchers. These households are primarily located in London, the northeast, and the northwest.
From the University of York’s social policy research unit, Prof. Jonathan Bradshaw said that the study shows “the limits of using the receipt of social security benefits to mitigate fuel poverty.”
The coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Simon Francis, said that, if anything, the findings of the study “underestimate the problem as the definition of fuel poverty used for these calculations is one of the most targeted available.”
He further added: “Millions of people will be worse off in 2023–24 as energy bills remain high but support from the government has fallen in real terms.”
According to a study made public by the energy regulator Ofgem, it is currently meeting with representatives from the government, the utility industries, consumer advocacy organizations, and trade associations to discuss ideas for a national priority services register of vulnerable households that might one day provide more specialized assistance.
Ofgem’s chief executive, Jonathan Brearley, is anticipated to say: “We should all consider building towards a joint register, not just between water and energy but including local and national government.”
“Ideally, this register would be based around a ‘tell us once’ principle—where families who have vulnerabilities tell one agency about this and, with permission, this is shared across the others with a single, reliable source of data to anticipate, identify, and respond to the needs of those customers.”
As per the story published by the Guardian last month on activists’ worries that priority service registries were insufficient and that few people were aware of them, a list of the most vulnerable people in the UK is seen as essential for the implementation of social tariffs, which are frequently provided to low-income or vulnerable families at a discounted rate to make sure they are affordable. Regional water providers provide them, but up until now, a social energy tariff has been deemed too challenging to manage.
The chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said the government’s one-off cost of living payment was appreciated, but the study showed “it doesn’t go far enough.”
She further added: “Flat-rate payments leave families with children, who have higher living costs, shortchanged. Increasing child benefit, which lost a quarter of its value in the last decade and goes to lower and middle-income households, is the first step to making sure struggling families have enough money to heat their homes.”
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson stated: “We know this is a difficult time for families, which is why the government covered around half of the typical household’s energy bill over winter.”
The spokesman said that until the end of June, the government’s energy price guarantee program will keep offering assistance to “the vast majority of households” at the same level and that additional assistance will be provided to the neediest.
- Published By Team Timeswire