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

A pensioner adjusting the temperature controls on his combi boiler (Stuart Boulton/Alamy/PA)

A pensioner adjusting the temperature controls on his combi boiler (Stuart Boulton/Alamy/PA)

The energy plan announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss contains a “big hole” as it will fail to 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 it will bring relief to many households.

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

However, Ms Truss did not announce any additional support for low-income households on welfare or disabled people who incur additional costs.

Groups have called the plan a “sticky patch” and said the lack of targeted support is a “missed opportunity” and it will feel like a “knockout” for millions who are already worried about their finances.

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

Policy and Campaigns Director Imran Hussain said the sums “still don’t add up” for families facing bills “far beyond (what) they can afford”.

He continued: “This package should have thrown more lifeline to the families who need it most.

“We urgently need more targeted help through benefits for low earners and those who have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to disability, illness or caring responsibilities.

“Even with a freeze, energy bills will still be double what they were a year ago, prices for other essentials continue to rise and the true value of benefits has been reduced.”

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

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

It told about how some children go to school in dirty uniforms or can’t concentrate in class because they don’t have enough to eat.

Child poverty leader Becca Lyon said: “How can it be right that multi-millionaires get the same support as the most vulnerable families?

“If there’s enough money to pay the energy bills of the rich and not ask energy giants to pay a dime more, there should certainly be enough money to ensure no family has to choose between heating and eating this winter.”

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society added: “We are deeply concerned by the devastating conditions families and children will face in the coming months if they do not receive this additional support.”

Charities that support people with disabilities said they incur higher costs because they have to use energy to run essential equipment like electric wheelchairs, oxygen equipment and epilepsy sensors.

Scope said freezing the cap at that level would “stick a band-aid to the financial pain experienced by people with disabilities”.

James Taylor, Director of Strategy said: “Life costs more when you are disabled.

“There is some relief from this universal approach, but people with disabilities are often dependent on higher energy consumption.

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

“Government support needs to be more targeted and expanded towards people with disabilities.”

Sense chief executive Richard Kramer said the disabled families supported by the charity were “distressed”, adding: “This energy cap freeze is an important step, but we urgently need targeted support for disabled households and to raise benefits to levels that people can achieve keep living.”

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition called the energy announcement an “expensive band-aid” without further investment in improving energy efficiency in homes hardest hit by fuel poverty.

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

“Many of these people already have problems, including the elderly, the disabled or those with pre-existing health conditions.

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

“And without further investment in measures such as energy efficiency for the homes most affected by energy poverty, the plans will only be an expensive band-aid.”

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