Fuel poverty leaves millions of homes cut-off from basic energy supply

28 May, 2015

Millions of people are regularly being cut-off from their basic gas and electricity supplies because they can’t afford to top-up pre-paid meters, according to research* from the debt advisory centre.

A quarter of people questioned were reliant on pre-pay meters in their homes because they have experienced problems paying their bills or need help to manage their energy spend.

The research found that 4 million people often can’t afford to top-up their gas meters. Of those people, 18% say they are cut-off from their gas meter every few months, while as many as 7% lose their gas supply at least once a week because they can’t afford to top-up the energy key.

Residents in the East Midlands are struggling the most, according to the research, with 63% regularly unable to top-up their gas meters. Residents in the West Midlands and East Midlands had the highest rate of fuel poverty, according to the Government’s Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report 2014.

The picture is the same for electricity supplies, the study shows, with 4.7 million people saying they are regularly cut-off. Of those people, about 15% admit to having their energy supply cut-off every few months, and 6% are cut-off at least once a week.

Many households are forced to rely on pre-paid meters because they have fallen into arrears on their utility bills. Some 10% of those questioned were up to three months behind with their gas, electricity or water payments, the research shows.

A spokesman said “It’s alarming to see how many families are struggling with fuel poverty. As customers on pre-paid meters typically pay more each year for their energy, this means that often, the poorest and most vulnerable people are paying the highest prices.

“We are concerned that energy bills will continue to rise in the future, plunging more people into fuel poverty.

We would like to see more help given to these people so they can switch on to better deals and climb out of fuel poverty.”

Households that spend more than 10% of their income on fuel to keep their home in a satisfactory condition are considered to be in fuel poverty.

If you are struggling to pay energy bills or want advice on heating your home more efficiently, call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 or visit the website at www.homeheathelpline.org.uk.