A new survey commissioned by the national charity Turn2us has found that, in the face of rising energy costs, a staggering 81% of people on low incomes* are worried about paying their energy bills this winter. The impact this is having on people’s lives is severe, with people experiencing stress and ill health as they struggle with the growing gap between the costs of their bills and what they can afford to pay.
The survey, released to coincide with Turn2us’ fuel poverty campaign, has found that over twothirds (68%) of people on low incomes who have struggled with their energy bills have experienced stress as a result, a 24% increase on the previous year. Meanwhile, just over a fifth (22%) have experienced ill health due to cold homes, compared to 14% the previous year. The impact of rising energy costs on people vulnerable to fuel poverty is severe, with almost half of people with disabilities (47%) forced to cut back on food or skip meals.
With the average annual shortfall between energy bills and what people can afford to pay increasing by almost £200 to £438** over the last ten years, people are resorting to extreme measures to pay their bills. While over a third (36%) of people on low incomes have already relied on the financial support of family and friends, 11% of all employed people have been forced to use payday loans. Meanwhile, just under half (46%) of people on low incomes would risk endangering their health and wellbeing by not using heating in their homes.
The research found that people on low incomes are cutting back on food and turning off their heating rather than checking what support is available to help manage their energy bills. Despite the grants and schemes offered by many energy companies, almost three-fifths (57%) of people on low incomes are not aware that this help exists. In addition, a huge 73% would not consider checking their entitlement to welfare benefits, while nearly nine in ten (87%) would not contemplate checking their eligibility for financial support in the form of charitable grants.
In response to these ongoing problems, Turn2us’ third annual fuel poverty campaign is focusing on the growing gap between household incomes and the cost of energy bills, and highlighting the support available to those struggling with their energy bills. The campaign, ‘Mind the Gap’, features six steps, using Turn2us’ free tools and information to help people increase their household income and manage their energy costs. These include checking welfare benefits entitlement, searching for grants and schemes to help with bills, getting help to improve energy efficiency and checking energy tariffs. A dedicated ‘Mind the Gap’ section of the Turn2us website has been created at www.turn2us.org.uk/fuelpoverty.
Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us said: “Today Turn2us launches its winter fuel poverty campaign with the news that more people are worried about finding the money to pay for their energy bills. With the cost of living steadily increasing, people feel like they have no option but to borrow money and cut back on essentials to cover costs. Our research shows that more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the financial support and help available to manage energy bills.
“With our ‘Mind the Gap’ campaign we have brought together a number of free Turn2us tools and information all in one place to help people in financial need maximise their income and manage their energy costs."
Turn2us is working in partnership with charities and organisations across the UK for its ‘Mind the Gap’ fuel poverty campaign to increase awareness of the support available to those struggling in fuel poverty.
For more information about the campaign, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk/fuelpoverty or www.turn2us.org.uk.
For further information and interviews with Turn2us case studies or spokespeople, please contact: Emma Lamberton, Communications Officer, Turn2us Email: Emma.Lamberton@turn2us.org.uk Telephone: 0208 834 9259
Notes to Editors
• *Adults with annual incomes of £25,000 and less before tax and deductions
• *** Source: DECC Fuel Poverty Report – August 2013
• All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Research Now. Total sample size was 1091 adults with annual household incomes under £40,000 before tax and deductions
• For the campaign, Turn2us is working in partnership with organisations including: The Association of Charitable Officers, Bank Workers Charity, Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association, Citizens Advice Direct, Energy Action Scotland, Family Fund, Family Lives, Friends of the Elderly, Gingerbread, Independent Age, National Association of Student Money Advisers, National Energy Action, Retail Trust, The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and Zacchaeus 2000 Trust About Turn2us
• Turn2us helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help – online, by phone and face to face through our partner organisations
• The Turn2us free, accessible website - www.turn2us.org.uk is designed to help people access the money available to them – through welfare benefits, charitable grants and other help
• Turn2us is part of Elizabeth Finn Care