Low income families in London struggling to pay energy bills

Research from uSwitch shows the harsh reality of fuel poverty as millions of households in the UK will be forced to choose between heating and eating this winter.

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day took place on Friday 29th of December, which aims to raise awareness of the support available for those in fuel poverty. With temperatures expected to fall again this week, fuel poverty data shows some harrowing truths about families in London and beyond.

  • 3.4 million UK households are in fuel poverty, unable to afford to live in a warm, dry home.
  • 1.6m households say they will be forced to choose between heating and eating this winter.
  • Over a third (36%) are worried about paying their energy bills this winter.
  • An estimated 4.6 million households (17%) won’t turn the heating on even if it’s cold.
  • 2.3 million owed their energy supplier a total of £267 million before winter even started.

But help is available from multiple sources. uSwitch has put together the following advice for households who are struggling with their bills:

  • Investigate grants you might be eligible for to help pay your energy bills or insulate your property, including the £140 Warm Home DiscountWinter Fuel Allowance and Cold Weather Payment. You can check whether you may be eligible for help with bills using this energy help tool.
  • Energy suppliers also run specific programmes for their own customers, so contact your energy company to check what extra support they offer. If you’re in debt to your supplier, ask them to set you up on a repayment plan and to switch you to one of their cheaper tariffs. Households with prepayment meters who are in debt can even switch supplier provided the amount they owe is less than £500.
  • Sign up to the Priority Services Register (PSR), a free service provided by suppliers and network operators for people with additional needs, offering benefits such as advance notice of planned power cuts, priority support in an emergency, or help with communication about bills.
  • See if you could pay less by comparing energy deals –  you could save up to £321 on your annual energy bills.

Richard Neudegg, Head of Regulation at uSwitch.com, said:

“It is a terrifying prospect to have to choose between putting your heating on this winter or feeding yourself and your family.

“Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is crucially important in the fight to help those who can’t afford to keep their homes warm enough. Help is available and people shouldn’t feel like they need to suffer in silence.

“The first thing many energy customers should do is check whether they’re eligible for help with their bills, and contact their supplier to make sure they’re on the cheapest plan – and if they’re in any debt to the company, to ask them to arrange a repayment plan.

“In the meantime, we want to see the industry required to provide more support, targeted specifically to help vulnerable households, with anyone who is eligible for help being enrolled automatically.”

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