The continuing squeeze on household budgets – due to soaring energy prices, increases to the energy price cap, the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, inflation, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic – has pushed many people to financial breaking point and exacerbated the fuel poverty crisis.
Fuel Bank Foundation, which provides emergency fuel vouchers to people who can’t afford to top up their prepayment gas and/or electricity meters, said the number of people it had helped at its Fuel Bank centres across Britain increased from 53,422 in 2020 to 93,434 in 2021.
New research by the charity highlights the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having and the harsh reality for families living in fuel poverty. A survey of people helped by Fuel Bank Foundation in the past 12 months found that almost half (49 per cent) face living without heat, light and power every week because they don’t have the money to top up their prepayment meter.
Prioritising household budgets and rationing gas and electricity is also a regular occurrence, with 45 per cent of people surveyed having to ration hot water daily – up from 41 per cent in 2020 – and 14 per cent sacrificing a hot meal to save energy, compared to one per cent in 2020.
Almost all (96 per cent) said they have had to make the choice between topping up their prepayment meter and buying food for their family.
In addition to energy costs, 74 per cent were struggling with other essential household bills, including food, water and council tax.
With the cost-of-living looking set to rise further in coming months, following planned increases to National Insurance and the energy price cap, 87 per cent of households with children and 67 per cent of households without said they are seriously concerned about running out of money to pay for energy.
Ofgem today (Thursday 3rd February) announced that the price cap will rise by up to 54 per cent on 1st April, meaning households on a standard variable rate will see their bills increase from £1,277 to £1,971 per annum and those who pay for gas and electricity on a prepayment meter will see their bills rise to £2,017 per year, up from £1,309.