- One in three working families – the equivalent of almost four million households – struggle to pay their energy bills
- Half of working families are planning to cut their energy use this winter so they can afford to pay their bills
- A third (29%) of families don’t put their heating on even when their house is cold
- Two thirds (66%) are worried cutting their energy use over winter will have a negative effect on their family’s health
- Nearly two thirds (61%) say their children don’t focus as well on their homework when their house is cold
- 37% of families are unaware of schemes which offer support to those in financial difficulty
- uSwitch.com urges the Government to implement recent CMA remedies and give them a chance to work, as well as extend the Warm Home Discount scheme.
One in three working families (32%) are struggling to pay their energy bills, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the independent price comparison and switching site. A staggering four million homes are already feeling financial pressure ahead of a season which could see major energy suppliers raising their prices for the first time in almost three years.
The research reveals that half of working families (49%) are planning to cut their energy use this winter, just so that they can afford to pay their bills and, alarmingly, a third (29%) don’t put their heating on even when their house is too cold.
This is despite two thirds (66%) being worried about the negative effect that rationing energy may have on their family’s health. Over half of these families (54%) are also concerned that cutting their energy use will negatively affect their child’s performance at school and nearly two thirds (61%) say their children don’t focus as well on their homework when their house is cold.
The health implications for children living in cold homes are well documented, more than doubling their chances of suffering respiratory problems like asthma, affecting their emotional well-being and putting them at risk of developing multiple mental health problems in the long-term.
Unsurprisingly, single parent families are feeling the pinch most significantly – 43% say their house is too cold for their families but they can’t afford to put the heating on.
Faced with the pressure of rising costs, many families are resorting to drastic measures to keep warm. One in ten (10%) have lived in one room in their house, a fifth (19%) have left the oven door open to heat their home, and over 1.5 million families (13%) have gone without household essentials to pay for their bills.
To help families access the most competitive tariffs and force suppliers to offer lower prices, remedies from the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) energy market investigation must be implemented quickly, according to uSwitch.com. The CMA’s final package, published only this June, must be given a proper chance to work – with key success criteria put in place to evaluate whether they are helping consumers move away from expensive standard variable tariffs, to drive down bills and improve competition.
In addition, the Government should consider extending the Warm Home Discount scheme, which offers vital financial support to many vulnerable consumers, but is only available through larger energy providers.
Claire Osborne, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “It’s appalling that even families in work are struggling to pay their energy bills – and we haven’t even seen any major price hikes for nearly three years. The biggest worry is that, with signs that prices are on the up, many more families could feel forced to keep the heating down in what’s set to be a very cold winter. When you consider that millions of households are already in debt to their energy supplier, it’s a stark warning that consumers feel they have no other option than to ration their energy.
“The CMA spent two years closely examining the energy market and so it’s vital that the Government gives the final package, only published in June, the proper chance to work. The CMA remedies should help more customers move away from expensive standard variable tariffs, lower bills and improve competition in the market. Suppliers must play their part by doing all they can to help their customers move to their best deal.
“In addition, the Warm Home Discount scheme should be extended to cover all energy suppliers to help more vulnerable customers reduce their bills.
“Anyone who is concerned about how they’ll pay their energy bill should talk to their supplier now and find out what help is available. Switching providers can also help reduce bills by an average of £403 a year, so shopping around for a better deal should be one of the first things that families try.”