Fuel voucher scheme meets record demand as energy bills soar

A fuel voucher scheme is experiencing record levels of demand as power bills continue to rocket amid the cost of living crisis (Picture: PA / Getty)

A charity giving out fuel vouchers to people struggling to pay bills has registered six successive months of record increases in demand.

The Fuel Bank Foundation is providing support for between 1,400 and 1,500 people a day as the rocketing cost of living hits vulnerable households.

The Chancellor used his mini-budget this week to announce measures aimed at alleviating record levels of pressure on family purse strings.

However, The Fuel Bank, which provides vouchers through foodbanks and other organizations, warned that the worst is yet to come with further astronomical hikes this year.

Households are experiencing the biggest hit on living standards since records began in 1956, according to The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). A typical energy bill will rise to nearly £ 2,000 from April and this could further increase by almost £ 1,000 in October.

Fuel Bank spokesperson Matthew Cole said: ‘Every month since October has been a record month in terms of demand.

‘We are seeing more people than ever before access our services, about 1,400 to 1,500 people a day. It’s a huge number and it really scares me.

‘At the moment, we are seeing large numbers of people who cannot heat their homes, even though we are in spring and the weather is getting warmer. In a few months ‘time, when it gets colder, their consumption is going to increase again and their situation is only going to get worse.’

Rishi Sunak’s measures include cuts to income tax and fuel duty and doubling the Household Support Fund to £ 1billion in order to help the most vulnerable families with bills.

However Mr Cole told Metro.co.uk that the sternest test lay head, with the OBR forecasting the energy price cap will rise by another 42% in October – a record hike of £ 830.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by ANDY RAIN / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock (12787205c) A view of a smart meter electronic device at a home in London, Britain, 03 February 2022. Britain's energy regulator Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) is set to announce the energy price cap on 03 February, with energy bills expected to rise by fifty percent.  The UK Treasury is expected to announce a government-backed loan scheme to help ease soaring energy bills for millions of households.  Millions of households in Britain to face energy price cap hike, London, United Kingdom - 03 Feb 2022

Charities warn that a cost of living crisis is resulting from pressures including rising energy bills (Picture: Andy Rain / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)

‘A real concern is that unless the government adequately supports people we are going to end up in a period of real turmoil on top of what we have already seen in the last 12 months,’ he said.

‘Along with the support promised in the mini-budget, the government needs to address the fact that household incomes and supplies of adequately insulated housing stock are not great, while energy costs are high on the global market.

‘The government needs to spend the next two or three months coming up with a battleplan to support around three million households who it said needed help when bills were around an average of £ 1,200 a year.

‘The number of people struggling will only rise with the huge increases in charges and it is now about getting these people through the winter.


Rishi Sunak announced measures to alleviate fuel poverty in his Spring Statement ahead of expected record price rises in energy bills (Picture: Getty)

‘Those experiencing fuel poverty are affected in many different ways, from not being able to make cups of tea or run a bath to the health impacts on kids who fall ill and take time off school because their homes are too cold.

‘It’s about so much more than homes being slightly chilly and that’s what we really need to grasp as a country.’

Carrie Leigh McLachlan told Metro.co.uk that the relief measures would make little difference as she faces astronomical price rises while trying to look after her eight-year-old daughter, Freya, who has cerebral palsy.

The single mum, 49, also has sons Oliver, 13, and William, 16, and daughter Jessica, 20, at her home in Wirral, Merseyside. She is a registered full-time carer for Freya, with parental duties preventing her from working as a nurse.

‘As a parent with a disabled child, my bills were already very high as Freya’s bedroom needs to be a constant temperature to protect her health,’ Carrie said. ‘A few hundred pounds a year is going to amount to nothing when we have the record increases next month and in October. My gas and electricity bill is already £ 273 a month and we are struggling as it is.

‘I don’t know what we are going to do. I can’t see why the government doesn’t impose a windfall tax on companies who are raking in billions of pounds in profits while I struggle to heat my kids ‘rooms.’

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The sharp rise in the cost of living is further reflected in official figures showing inflation hit a 30-year high in February.

Fuel prices have also shot up to record highs due to global gas prices and a rise in demand and lower production in the wake of the pandemic.

Mr Sunak’s attempts to mitigate the toll on household budgets have included pledging to cut the basic rate of income tax from 20% to 19% before the end of the current parliament in 2024.

He also used the Spring Statement on Wednesday to announce a cut of 5p per liter to fuel duty until March next year.

Turning to ‘our most vulnerable households’, Mr Sunak said he would double the ‘targeted’ support fund.

In a further move to alleviate energy costs, the Chancellor said that ‘thanks to Brexit’ he will remove VAT on materials such as solar panels, heat pumps and insulation, as well as on wind and water turbines.

According to Mr Sunak, a family installing a solar panel will save £ 1,000 in tax followed by £ 300 on their energy bill per year.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Xinhua / REX / Shutterstock (12764805b) Photo taken on Jan. 17, 2022 shows a gas bill and some money in London, Britian.  Soaring gas prices have sent shock waves through the British economy over the past months, putting up inflation and causing a cost-of-living crisis.  As changes in the wholesale prices are forced upon consumers, households and low-income ones in particular are feeling the budget crunch for something as crucial as energy.  While prices are expected to fall back after the winter, with its impact moderating then, pressure is mounting for the government to seek solutions as soon as possible and bail out poor families.  Britain Energy Prices Hikes - 17 Jan 2022

Energy bills are soaring for millions of families with a further increase expected in April (Picture: Xinhua / REX / Shutterstock)

The steps follow his pledge last month to make £ 350 available to most households this year, including a £ 150 council tax rebate and a one-off £ 200 discount on energy bills from October, to be repaid in instalments.

Environmental and poverty campaigners have largely welcomed the latest moves but have said far more needs to be done to reduce bills and pollution. Labor has called for a windfall tax on energy firms’ profits, which it has said will reduce the average household energy bill by £ 200 a year.

A government spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘We recognize the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a £ 21billion package of support.

‘This includes a £ 150 council tax rebate from April and a further £ 200 energy bill discount in October to cut energy bills quickly for the majority of households, while the energy price cap continues to insulate millions of customers from volatile global gas prices.

‘We will set out an energy supply strategy which will supercharge our renewable energy and nuclear capacity to bolster our domestic supply and help drive down energy costs.’

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