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April price rise to plunge millions into fuel misery

‘Worst time ever’ for market madness in energy sector, warns We Own It

GOVERNMENT support for profits over the public interest will mean intensifying pain for millions of elderly people from next month, campaigners have warned.

New research reveals that almost a quarter of older households in England will be in fuel stress once energy prices rise.

A survey by Age UK released today has suggested that 24 per cent of older households will struggle to afford to heat their homes when energy prices increase from April 1, up from 12 per cent now.

The charity said this figure could rise to 35 per cent from October when prices are expected to rise even higher.

Fuel stress means paying more than 10 per cent of your after-tax income to say warm, leaving less for food and other necessities.

The poll also revealed that 51 per cent of the poorest 10 per cent of older households are already living in fuel stress, with this expected to soar to 91 per cent from next month without any intervention.

Age UK predicted that this number would rise to 82 per cent in April even if the proposed £150 council tax rebate reached all those who needed it, and 91 per cent in October even with the extra £200 discount promised this autumn.

The charity said it was “deeply concerned” that the support package announced by the government last month fell “way short” of what was needed to protect older people on low and modest incomes from unaffordable energy bills.

It is calling for a targeted package of support that mitigates the whole price cap rise this April for lower-income households and direct payments of up to £500 to those eligible for the Cold Weather Payment.

National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Jan Shortt warned that pensioner poverty has already increased, adding: “With inflation raging, and huge hikes in fuel bills, we believe the numbers who are struggling will continue to rise quite rapidly over the next few months.

“The majority of pensioners are on the [pre-2016] basic state pension and have always had to juggle their finances to pay bills.

“There are also those whose income is just above the pension credit threshold who are most at risk of falling into poverty. 

“Even those on the new state pension scheme have their pension set at just above pension credit level and therefore do not have the cushion of extra financial support.”

Ms Shortt said that the government’s decision over the triple lock, care, energy and inflation “conspire to make an already inadequate state pension a lot worse.”

We Own It director Cat Hobbs said: “It is disgraceful that when almost a quarter of older households are expected to struggle to heat their homes from April, the government is still prioritising private profit rather than building an energy system that works for all of us.

“As energy bills soar, there’s only one long-term solution for the energy sector: bringing it into public ownership.

“While public ownership isn't a silver bullet, we can’t solve this energy crisis without it.”

Ms Hobbs said that the government “wants to ignore the role of ownership, but we can’t afford to.”

“There has never been a worse time to run our energy system with the purpose of filling shareholders’ pockets,” she said.

“It’s time to build an energy system that works for people, not profit.”

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