We need to create a fairer energy market for disabled people
The Domestic Gas and Electricity Bill should be the start – not the end – of reforming the energy market, says Scope.
Our energy market is not working for disabled people.
Many disabled people have no choice but to consume more energy because of their impairment or condition. Along with other products like specialised equipment, clothing and insurance, disabled people face average extra costs of £570 a month.
That’s why the Government’s current Bill to cap energy prices is a welcome step to start addressing high energy costs for disabled people.
Whilst the average UK household spends £1,214 a year on energy, over a quarter of households with a disabled person – about 4.1 million households - spend more than £1,500 a year. Of these, 790,000 households spend over £2,500 a year on energy.
For instance, disabled people who are less mobile tell us they need to use more heating to keep warm, whilst other disabled people say they need to use more electricity to charge items of assistive technology or things like electric heat pads to help manage pain levels.
It is no surprise then that over half (55 per cent) of disabled people have worried about paying their energy bills. Fuel poverty is also a significant problem for disabled people – in England alone, households with a disabled person make up 38 per cent of all fuel poor households in England.
So, this Bill matters to disabled people. But it must go further.
Scope believes that Ofgem and the Secretary of State must have regard to whether effective competition exists for vulnerable and disabled consumers when reviewing the cap and whether additional protections need to be put in place once the cap has ended to make sure disabled consumers are protected long-term.
We also need more action to tackle the range of barriers disabled energy consumers face and create a fairer energy market.
The Government has also made clear that other measures will be brought forward to improve the way the energy market works for consumers. Our new report – Out in the cold – sets out the change that is needed.
This needs to include a review of the Warm Home Discount to include more disabled people who face extra costs, as well as smarter use of data to identify and support disabled energy consumers. Other things like an awareness campaign to boost take up of schemes like the Priority Services Register would also make a difference.
This will require a collaborative approach from the Government, Ofgem and energy companies working directly with disabled people to shape any future changes.
This Bill should be the start – not the end – of reforming the energy market. Making sure there is specific recognition to review how well the market works for, and then action to protect, disabled consumers is vital to improving the energy market.