Energy plan ‘will not protect poorest and disabled people already struggling’



T

he energy plan announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss contains a “big hole” as it will not protect the poorest families and disabled people who are already struggling with their bills, charities have said.

Bills for the average household will be frozen at no more than £2,500 a year, a long-awaited announcement confirmed on Thursday, with groups saying this will bring relief to many households.

This is on top of the previously promised £400 discount on energy bills for every household over the winter.

But Ms Truss did not announce any additional support targeted towards low-income households on benefits, or disabled people who face extra costs.

Groups called the plan a “sticking plaster”, saying the lack of targeted support is a “missed opportunity” and it will feel like a “knockout blow” to millions already worrying about their finances.

Action for Children said the plan is a “big intervention with a big hole in it”.

Director of policy and campaigns Imran Hussain said the sums “still won’t add up” for families facing bills “far beyond (what) they can afford”.

He continued: “This package should’ve thrown more of a lifeline to the families who need it most.

“We desperately need more targeted help through benefits for the low paid and those who have lost their jobs or cannot work because of disability, illness or caring responsibilities.

“Even with a freeze, energy bills will still be double what they were a year ago, the price of other essentials continues to soar and the true value of benefits has been cut.”

Save the Children warned the plan will not prevent “many” families from reaching crisis point this winter.

The best way to help low-income families, who “have already hit an absolute limit”, is to increase Universal Credit, it said.

It told of how some children are going to school in dirty uniforms, or are unable to concentrate in class because they have not had enough to eat.

Head of child poverty, Becca Lyon, said: “How can it be right that multi-millionaires will get the same support as the most vulnerable families?

“If there is enough money to pay the energy bills of the rich and not ask energy giants to pay a penny more, surely there should be enough money to make sure no family has to choose between heating and eating this winter.”

Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society, added: “We are worried sick about the devastating conditions families and children will face over the coming months if they don’t get this extra support.”

Charities supporting disabled people said they experience higher costs as they need to use energy to run essential equipment such as electric wheelchairs, oxygen machines and epilepsy sensors.

Scope said freezing the cap at this level “is a sticking plaster on the financial pain disabled people are experiencing”.

James Taylor, director of strategy, said: “Life costs more if you are disabled.

“This universal approach brings some relief, but disabled people often rely on higher energy use.

“It’s important to remember that this cap does not limit what you pay. For many disabled households their bills are still skyrocketing.

“Government support needs to be better targeted at disabled people and needs to be increased.”

Sense chief executive Richard Kramer said disabled families supported by the charity are “desperate”, adding: “This freeze of the energy cap is an important step, but we need urgent targeted supported for disabled households and to uprate benefits to a level that people can live on.”

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition called the energy announcement an “expensive sticking plaster” without further investment in improving energy efficiency of homes worst affected by fuel poverty.

Coalition co-ordinator Simon Francis said: “While many households will breathe a sigh of relief, the Prime Minister offered no detail of additional support for the millions of households who will be left behind in fuel poverty this winter.

“Many of these people are struggling already and include those who are elderly, disabled or with pre-existing health conditions.

“Without more support to keep them warm this winter, the pressures on the NHS and social care system will increase.

“And without further investment in measures such as energy efficiency for those homes worst affected by fuel poverty, the plans will just be an expensive sticking plaster.”



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