Stress, hunger, and debt: living in a cold home hurts overall wellbeing
CEO of Turn2us, Simon Hopkins, calls upon the Government and energy sector to get the economically vulnerable better access to practical help with their fuel bills.
With many thousands of people seeking our help each year, Turn2us is keenly aware that this is often the hardest time of the year for those who are struggling financially. Not only does Christmas put a huge pressure on people’s finances, the cost of keeping warm can push many to breaking point.
We recently undertook a survey of those who come to us for support to understand better the challenge of fuel poverty. The results were genuinely worrying, with almost half cutting back on heating their home because of the cost. Our research shows that those over the age of 55, and people living with a disability, were more likely to have cut back on heating because they were struggling financially.
Exacerbating the impact of energy costs and living in a cold home on overall wellbeing, the research also found that it was causing stress and worry, and many were cutting back on food, as well as resorting to using credit cards and payday loans to pay their energy bills.
One of the most worrying findings from the research was that over half were not aware that many energy suppliers offer support towards Winter energy bills to certain customers, such as those on low incomes. Moreover, a large proportion of those we spoke to were not aware that some energy suppliers have charitable trusts to help certain customers who are struggling with their energy bills.
Improving awareness of this practical help is an important step in tackling fuel poverty. So we have launched the No Cold Homes campaign to raise awareness of the different types of support that are available.
It is clear that energy providers have a key role to play in ensuring that vulnerable customers get access to the support that they are eligible for. That is why Turn2us launched this campaign with a meeting between representatives from a number of energy companies, including the ‘big six’, as well consumer organisations, in Parliament yesterday.
We discussed how economically vulnerable people can get better access to practical help with their fuel bills, which is significant because it is the first time that the sector has come together to say that they need to do more to get help to those who are most vulnerable.
The energy sector has made huge progress in recent years, but what is clear is that without us bringing the support together in a clear way that people can access, the impact that we can have on those who most need help will be limited. The commitment from the sector to work with us to do that is an important first step, and we hope only the start of something much bigger.
You can find out more about the No Cold Homes campaign at www.turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes
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