Winter is coming and we all know that means fuel bills will increase!
Staff recently attended a sobering training session on fuel poverty and the impacts that being in fuel poverty can have on individuals and families. This free training was facilitated by National Energy Action Cymru (www.nea.org.uk).
The definition of fuel poverty is a household that needs to spend more than 10% of household income to achieve a satisfactory heating regime (21C in living room and 18 c in other occupied rooms). Fuel poverty affects the life chances of households and impacts on the social and economic well-being of communities. Fuel poor households will struggle to keep warm in the cold weather, often choosing to ‘heat or eat’.
In 2016, the projected level of fuel poverty across Wales was 23%. That’s nearly a quarter of people living in Wales being in fuel poverty! Breaking this down by local authority, Cardiff had 33,060 households in fuel poverty which equates to 23.81% of fuel poor households as a whole. This number has increased now due to the numbers of people coming to reside in Cardiff since that time.
There are a number of factors why people may find themselves in fuel debt. They may be working but on a low income, inadequate insulation in the home, the boiler may not be working efficiently, lack of budgeting skills, change in circumstances e.g. illness, relationship breakdown, bereavement or redundancy to name but a few.
If you are in fuel poverty or you know someone who is in fuel poverty takes these few steps to see if a solution can be found.
- Check benefits entitlements – you may be working but are still entitled to some support. There are organisations that can help you with this.
- Switch to a cheaper supplier. Even though this may sound complicated it really isn’t! Comparing tariffs is easy to do online and the savings can be considerable. If you go via a cashback website you will, in essence, have money paid back to you as well. You can also call the different suppliers directly but this is not as easy as going online. If you don’t have access to the internet, visit your local library or hyb.
- If you don’t want to change suppliers, speak to them to see if you’re on their cheapest tariff.
- If you’re in debt with your currently supplier, you may still be able to move suppliers providing you’re on a pre-payment meter and your debt is less than £500 for gas and electricity.
- Check that you’ve not received an estimated bill. Sometimes estimated bills are higher than they should be. Ensure that you send regular meter readings. By doing this your bills will be up to date and there will no nasty surprises.
- Check that you’re not paying for someone else’s debt. There may be debts on the meter from the previous tenant.
- Check that you’re reading the correct meter, especially if you live in a block of flats.
- Check that the meter serial number corresponds to the utility bill that you have received. The supplier may not have recorded that the meter had been exchanged so the present readings won’t follow on from the older ones.
- See if you’re entitled to the Warm Home Discount Scheme which entitles you to £140 credit on your energy bill. The scheme is funded by energy suppliers and provides financial support to vulnerable energy consumers until the winter of 2020-21. Each supplier has their own criteria so it’s well worth contacting them to see if you’re eligible.
- Some suppliers also offer a range of grants for their most vulnerable customers.
We’ve included some contacts that could assist you if you find yourself in fuel poverty and require assistance.
- Turn2us provides a benefit calculator and also carry out grant searches – www.turn2us.org.uk or 08088022000
- The Money Advice Service – free impartial advice is available online, over the phone and by web-chat and face to face through a UK wide network of Money Advisers – www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or 0800138 7777
- Citizens Advice provides free, independent , confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities. Debt and money advice is a key element to the service – citizensadvice.org.uk – 03444 111 444