Demands for energy discount for millions of disabled and elderly households

This photograph taken on January 17, 2023 in Campbon, western France, shows a high voltage line in front of a windmill. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)
Disabled people are more likely to be struggling with rising energy bills, research has found. (Getty Images)

A leading charity is calling for discounted energy bills for disabled and elderly households as the cost of energy remains sky high.

Energy bills have almost doubled over the last 18 months, leaving millions of households struggling to afford soaring costs - with the average yearly bill now at £2,500.

Disability charity Scope have called on the government to intervene to help disabled people, their carers, and the elderly, who often use more energy than average due to their health needs.

"Disabled people and older people are among those worst affected by spiralling energy bills," the charity said on Tuesday.

"Support offered by the government up to now has been insufficient, and time bound. But we need long-term solutions. Not sticking plasters."

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In October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported 55% of disabled people are finding it difficult to afford their bills versus 40% of other households.

Scope, along with Age UK, National Energy Action, Energy Action Scotland, Fair by Design, and National Energy Action have said a "social tariff" is necessary to protect the vulnerable.

A social tariff would reduce energy bills for low-income and vulnerable households, protecting them from price spikes.

The cost would then be recuperated through taxation or other higher prices for other customers. Water providers use a similar process to protect their vulnerable customers.

"In our view, this kind of targeted support should be automatically made available to those who need it including: people on means tested benefits, disability benefits, and carer’s allowance alongside those still struggling with their bills but missing out on support from the welfare system," the charities said in a letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

"It also gives the opportunity to remove unfair differentials between different geographies and payment types that currently exist in the market for low income and vulnerable households."

The government has so far offered disabled people claiming benefits like personal independent payments (PIP) two £150 payments towards energy bills.

Unless a disabled person is a pensioner or on a means-tested benefit, they are not eligible for any additional government support - aside from universal support available to everyone, such as the £400 energy rebate.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt gives a television interview the morning after his autumn statement, outside the BBC studios in central London. Picture date: Friday November 18, 2022. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has previously said the government is looking into the possibility of developing a social tariff for energy (Getty Images)

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Scope's calls for a social tariff come after Hunt in November said the Treasury was considering such a scheme in the long-term to tackle the issue of high energy bills.

"What I said in my comments in the autumn statement is that, whilst we'll be using that system this year or next year, from April '24 we want to work towards a social tariff or social discount approach – whereby we reach all people equally on low incomes," he told MPs at a Treasury committee in parliament.

"That means a lot of complicated work to marry the information held by HMRC with the information held by DWP on benefits, and that's a very big operational challenge, but that's the direction of travel we want to go in."

The charity's intervention comes as households face another difficult year, with projections warning the UK is facing the steepest drop in living standards since records began in 2023.

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