- By Tom Espiner
- Business reporter, BBC News
Vulnerable households face an “inevitable new winter crisis” with out extra help on energy payments, a gaggle of MPs has mentioned.
They known as on the federal government, regulator Ofgem, and energy suppliers to take pressing motion.
People are being squeezed by price of residing pressures and debt, the MPs on the Commons choose committee added.
Industry group Energy UK mentioned suppliers had been growing help at “a very difficult time for its customers”.
In a report, the MPs on the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee mentioned that the federal government had supplied “unprecedented levels of support” final 12 months when it stepped in to help with hovering energy payments.
But they’re now involved that no new help has been introduced for this winter.
In addition, final 12 months £440m of help meant for weak households went unallocated, and was returned to the Treasury. Households who missed out on the Energy Bills Support Scheme ought to get their fee, the MPs mentioned.
Suppliers and Ofgem ought to make certain clients get extra “time, attention and support”, they added.
Angus MacNeil, the chair of the committee, mentioned: “The nights are now drawing in and many of our most vulnerable people will be haunted by harrowing memories of the relentless sacrifices they were forced into last year, just to keep their heads above water in the face of exorbitant energy costs.”
He mentioned 1 / 4 of these folks nonetheless carry energy money owed, and an announcement of extra help from the federal government was “long overdue”.
The committee mentioned the federal government ought to prolong the Warm Home Discount scheme, which provides a £150 one-off low cost on energy payments, and it known as on Ofgem to make certain suppliers give weak clients “more time, attention and support”.
Mr MacNeil mentioned that energy corporations wanted to make “a drastic improvement in customer service and empathy” for folks dealing with powerful occasions.
He added that “unfair and regressive standing charges” ought to go. “After all you don’t pay a standing charge to buy petrol, you just pay for what you use,” he mentioned.
Nearly all client energy payments embody a standing cost, which is a set every day fee protecting the prices of provide and different levies.
Ofgem mentioned its first precedence was to defend clients, including there are guidelines in place requiring suppliers to be “proactive in identifying those who might be struggling and providing appropriate advice and support”.
Suppliers ought to deal with clients with compassion, an Ofgem spokesperson mentioned, including that it was conserving standing fees beneath assessment.
Energy UK mentioned suppliers had elevated help “during a very difficult time for its customers over the last 18 months”.
This contains “emergency credit, offers of payment holidays and altered repayment arrangements”.
Customers might also have the opportunity to get direct monetary help by suppliers’ funds, “which are often run in partnership with charities and consumer groups who can also offer specialist support and advice”, a spokesperson mentioned.
“An extended period of record bills has seen an unprecedented number of customers seeking support with call volumes quadrupling and an accompanying increase in the time taken to resolve challenging and complex cases,” the spokesperson added.
So energy corporations have expanded customer support groups and arrange specialist groups “to deal with the most challenging cases”.
“Suppliers will continue to do all they can to support customers struggling with bills but in the middle of a wider cost-of-living and affordability crisis, they alone cannot provide all the help people need,” the spokesperson mentioned.
Mark Garnier, who can be on the MP committee, mentioned that whereas the federal government “did step up to the plate last year” it now “needs to give some assurances on support to vulnerable households”.
Energy costs at current are restricted for a typical family to £1,923 a 12 months – that’s the newest Ofgem value cap.
The cap is on the value per unit of energy, so payments for particular person households can nonetheless go above that, relying on how a lot energy is used.
The energy value cap is decrease than final 12 months, however authorities help has additionally been scaled again.
Last winter, family energy payments had been restricted to £2,500 beneath the federal government’s Energy Price Guarantee Scheme.
In addition, all properties received a £400 fee to help with energy payments.
The Energy Price Guarantee is in place till the top of March, however will solely come into impact if energy costs go above £3,000 a 12 months.
In response to the Committee’s report, a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson mentioned:
“The Energy Price Guarantee will remain in place to protect people until April next year – part of nearly £40bn of support to cover around half a typical household bill.”
People most in want can get help by the Warm Home Discount, and the federal government’s £1bn Great British Insulation Scheme, the spokesperson mentioned.
In addition, “landlords must respond swiftly when dealing with damp and mould to ensure renters can live in safe and decent housing”, the spokesperson mentioned.
The authorities is to introduce a legislation to set closing dates on social landlords to make repairs, after the loss of life of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from a respiratory situation attributable to mould.