Support for households must be accompanied by rapid action to increase the capacity and improve the coordination of energy advice services, making it easier for people to access help and make their budgets go further.
Groundwork has been helping households experiencing fuel poverty for the past 15 years through its Green Doctor service, which provides free independent advice on how to cut bills and access additional support. The increase in energy prices is leading to spiraling demand – and without extra support, services will not be able to keep up with demand over the winter.
So far this year, Groundwork’s Green Doctors in Yorkshire have given out almost twice as many emergency fuel vouchers as in the whole of 2021/22. They have seen a 25% increase in fuel debt support requests and a 46% increase in people having mental health issues associated with stress from money issues. Funding for some programmes has almost all been allocated, with four months left of the year. This is all before the cold weather begins and people start relying on their heating to stay warm and well.
Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s UK Chief Executive, said:
As a charity that supports people living in fuel poverty, we are alarmed at the volume of requests for help that are coming through. With more price rises due over the winter, we are deeply concerned that those most vulnerable won’t have access to help they desperately need.
This latest announcement makes it clear that urgent action is needed to help people cope with this worsening crisis which will lead to unprecedented hardship.
Energy companies, charities and independent experts all agree that the measures in place are not enough. As well as more emergency financial support and a long-term commitment to improving the energy efficiency of our homes we also need more – and better coordinated – advice. Groundwork’s Green Doctor service is one of many trying to help people through practical advice and emotional support, but these services are too often reliant on short-term funding with complex rules.
What we need is simpler, more stable funding models so that we can help those worst off to make best use of the help they’re getting and preserve as much warmth as they can this winter, but also help those who are being pitched into fuel poverty for the first time to make the practical and behavioural changes needed to minimise their bills.
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