Citizens Advice responds to Professor Hills’ Fuel Poverty Review
15 March 2012
Includes advice information and fact file on people's fuel bill worries.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at national charity Citizens Advice said
"It is frightening that in this day and age people in this country could be dying each winter simply because they can't afford to heat their homes. Professor John Hills' report warns that the number of individuals in fuel poverty could increase to 8.5 million people by 2016. The government must now pull out all the stops to wipe out fuel poverty as soon as possible, and make sure people are getting all the help that is available now.
"Energy companies must do all they can to push prices down so that having a warm home does not become a luxury only the well-off can afford."
Citizens Advice wants the Government to:
- target the new energy company obligation in the Green Deal much more significantly at people in fuel poverty
- check that people are getting all of the benefits and help they are entitled to as part of any government energy efficiency programmes
- and bring forward, to 2016, the introduction of the minimum energy efficiency standard for privately rented homes so that private tenants are not trapped in coldest homes with no way of improving them to reduce their bills.
Advice tips on the help available and how to cut your fuel bills
1. Make sure you are getting all of the financial help and grants you are eligible for:
- If you are getting certain benefits you may be able to get a ·Cold weather payment of £25 when the weather reaches a certain temperature. You may be eligible if you are an older person receiving pension credit; a family with a child under five and receiving certain benefits; and someone with higher rate disability premiums.
- Warm Front is a grant of up to £3,500 to help the poorest households in England make their homes warmer and cut their energy bills. You may be able to apply for up to £6,000 if you're installing oil-fired central heating. Anyone who is eligible for Cold Weather Payments and people on certain income-related benefits and living in homes that are poorly insulated or do not have a working central heating system may qualify for the grant. Your property will be surveyed to assess its thermal efficiency. The deadline for applications is 31 March 2012. Call 0800 408 0688 to apply today or visit for more information.
- If you are aged 60 or over, or live with someone aged 60 or over, you may be able to get a ·Winter Fuel Payment to help with fuel costs over the winter.
- The Warm Home Discount Scheme will give you an automatic rebate on your electricity bill if you qualify under the Scheme. You will qualify for the rebate if you only get the guarantee credit of Pension Credit on the qualifying date. Details of the qualifying date for winter 2012/13 will be available on adviceguide.org.uk once it has been announced. You will not qualify if you get the savings credit of Pension Credit.
- Some electricity customers who don't get the guarantee part of Pension Credit may also get the Warm Home Discount, but it will be up to your supplier to decide who qualifies. This group of people is likely to be customers who are getting other benefits.
2. Check you are not missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could up your income; your local Citizens Advice Bureaux can help you with this.
3. There are simple things you can do to cut your energy bills
- Insulate the walls and the loft of your home and you could save on average around £120 per year. All major gas and electricity suppliers are giving away free or discounted insulation. You may not even need to be a supplier's customer to qualify.. Ask if you're eligible so you don't miss out. That goes for heating oil customers too.
- Contact your supplier to check you are you are on the best tariff and payment method for your needs. Monthly direct debit can be on average £100 cheaper per year than paying by cash or cheque.
- You may be able to save up to £200 off your annual bill by shopping around for a different supplier, particularly if you have never changed energy firm. Visit an ·accredited switching website to see if you could get your energy cheaper elsewhere.
- Using less energy could save you money, just by doing simple things like turning off lights and switching appliances off at the wall. Turning your thermostat down 1°C alone could cut your heating bill by £60 on average.
- If you use heating oil or liquid petroleum gas to heat your home, you could also save money by buying in bulk with your neighbours; check if there is an oil club you can join or start one up. You could also save money by shopping around and comparing prices from different oil suppliers.
4. Get help early if you are worried you wont be able to pay your gas or electricity bills
- If you are unable to pay your bills you should contact your energy supplier immediately. They have to help you manage your bills in a way that you can afford.
For full details of the help that is available, tips on how to save money on your bills and details of benefits and tax credits can be found at www.adviceguide.org.uk
Facts and stats on fuel bill worries
- 43% of people are worried they can't afford their next fuel bill.
- More people in the West Midlands fear they won't be able to pay their next bill compared to anywhere else in the country (52%).
- 46% of 35-44 year olds are worried they can't pay their next bill - that's more than any other age group.
- One in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year.
- Of those who said their bills would put a strain on their finances this year - 71% said they were worried they won't be able to pay their next energy bill.
- Over half of 45-54 year olds said fuel bills will put pressure on the purse strings this year.
- Parents with children under 15 living at home are most worried about energy bills putting a strain on their finances (56%).
- In a bid to cut bills 64% of people who said their energy bills are putting a strain on their finances don't have the heating on as much and are using less electricity.
- One in three people don't know that help is available to insulate their home, rising to 46% in London.
(The above comes from TNS OnLineBus which interviewed 2069 GB adults aged 16-64 between 20th and 28th December 2011.)
- Last November eight times as many people came to Citizens Advice for online advice on cutting their fuel bills compared to the previous November.
- In 2011 we helped clients with over 96,000 fuel debt problems.
Notes to editors
- Citizens Advice responded to the interim report on Professor Hills' fuel poverty review. You can find our response here: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/hills_fuel_poverty.htm
- In January 2012, Citizens Advice ran Big Energy Week - a national campaign to help people save money on their energy bills. More information on Big Energy Week, including advice on how to cut your bills can be found at www.bigenergyweek.org.uk
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see citizensadvice.org.uk
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality. For online advice and information see adviceguide.org.uk
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 7.1 million problems from April 2010 to March 2011. For full 2010/2011 service statistics see: citizensadvice.org.uk/press_statistics
- Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective / cost effective, reputable and accountable. (nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010).
- Most Citizens Advice service staff are trained volunteers, working at around 3,300 service outlets across England and Wales.