Millions in UK face fuel poverty despite Sunak support, say experts

date_range 04-Feb-2022
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Millions of UK households are expected to be dragged into fuel poverty for the first time despite the support announced by Rishi Sunak to soften the blow from soaring energy bills.

Several charities warned that the chancellor his plan was badly targeted and offered too little support for those most in need. The scale of the shock to low-income households would drive hunger, rent arrears, and ill health, and pile extra demand on to already stretched food banks and homeless shelters, they said.

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The Resolution Foundation thinktank said cases of fuel stress – where energy bills in a household exceed 10% of disposable income – would double to 5 million in April despite the steps announced by Sunak on Thursday.

The Treasury’s intervention was designed to ease the pressure of a £700 increase in the regulated energy price cap to nearly £2,000 a year.

Without the chancellor’s plan – which offers most consumers £350 of relief on their bills – fuel stress would have trebled to more than 6 million, the thintank said. However, it criticised Sunak’s decision to favour a moderate amount of help for a large number of people, rather than deeper support for those most in need.

“The government’s package of measures might cushion the blow for some but it’s not enough to protect people who already need a food bank,” said Garry Lemon, the policy director at the Trussell Trust food bank network. He called for the planned 3.1% rise in benefits from April to be doubled to 7%.