Soaring energy bills will hit single parents, pensioners and disabled people hardest

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 3, 2021, following his earlier Budget. - Britain on Wednesday sharply cut the growth forecast of its coronavirus-ravaged economy, warning the pandemic was still causing
New analysis suggests that single parents are set to be hit hardest by soaring energy bills. (Getty Images)

Soaring energy bills are set to hit some Brits significantly harder than others, with single parents worst affected, according to new analysis.

Energy costs are set to increase by up to 50% in April when the energy price cap rises, supercharging the growing cost-of-living crisis.

This comes on top of higher prices for everyday items, with inflation reaching its highest rate for 30 years after rising to 5.4% in the 12 months to December.

It is estimated that some three million households were already behind on their energy bills before prices began to rise in October, according to energy ombudsman Ofgem.

Household bills are set to soar later this year as the default price cap increases, exacerbating the cost of living crisis. (Yahoo News UK/Ofgem/Cornwall Insights/Flourish)
Household bills are set to soar later this year as the default price cap increases, exacerbating the cost of living crisis. (Yahoo News UK/Ofgem/Cornwall Insights/Flourish)

The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a think-tank for social and economic justice, warns that the price cap increase will affect poorer families more severely as they spend a higher proportion of their income on energy.

Single parents will see the proportion of their disposable income spent on energy increase by 2.2%.

This is 56% higher than the average family, who will see the proportion of their disposable income spent on energy increase by 1.4%.

The proportion spent by pensioners on energy will increase by 2%, and for families with a disabled member it will increase by 1.7%.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: 'My family now uses food banks every week'

NEF also highlighted that those on lower incomes are more likely to have poorly insulated housing, which can push up the cost of heating a home.

Earlier this month, the low and middle income think-tank the Resolution Foundation warned that 2022 could be "catastrophic" for millions of Brits as rising energy bills, National Insurance hikes, and inflation make it "the year of the squeeze".

Some experts warn 2022 could be worse than the 2008/09 financial crisis for millions of Brits as inflation and planned tax rises begin to bite.

Watch: Cost of living crisis: Tory minister confronted over man 'so hungry he has to eat toothpaste'

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted on Friday that the government is “trying to work out the best way to deal with what is a really, really serious problem” following reports the Treasury is considering £500 one-off payment for those most in need.

“Lots and lots of things have been discussed, and I’m sure that’s one of the things that we’ve been talking about,” he said.

“My officials in the department speak to Treasury officials, and ministers speak to each other all the time.”

The government has repeatedly cited pre-existing support available to Brits when asked about the cost-of-living crisis, citing increases to minimum wage, the Warm Homes Discount, and the Winter Fuel Allowance.

However, the NEF say government plans to increase minimum wage are not enough to tackle the issue.

The argue that Labour's proposals to cut VAT on energy bills would not go far enough either.

Read more: Rishi Sunak’s tax grab from workers is ‘absolutely unnecessary’, senior Tory says

"Even after a VAT exemption, the poorest 10% of families would still see disposable income fall by nearly 2% this April," they said.

File photo dated 31/07/18 of a smart meter next to an energy bill. Three quarters of Britons expect their utilities bills will increase this year and more than a third say they are putting cost cutting before environmental concerns, according to a survey. Issue date: Wednesday January 26, 2022.
Labour has proposed cutting VAT on energy bills. (PA)

Assistant researcher at the think-tank, Dominic Caddick, urged the government to increase benefit payments in the short term to insulate hard-up families from the crisis.

“Everyone deserves to live in a warm, comfortable home," he said. "But soaring gas prices are hitting households unequally. Single parents, pensioners and disabled people will be the hardest hit, making them the most likely to be pushed into fuel poverty by the government’s lack of support.

"The government needs to respond quickly by boosting benefits in the short term.

"Then they should plan for longer term measures like upgrading the nation’s homes to make them more energy efficient, and reforming our social security system so families are able to weather economic shocks like these in the years to come."

Watch: Cost of living: Households facing 'fuel stress' set to triple as energy bills surge, think-tank warns