Harrogate warning over 'perfect storm of fuel poverty' as referrals for help rise nearly 200%
A warning has been sounded over fears of a 'perfect storm of fuel poverty' in Harrogate due to potential benefit cuts and rising energy bills in April.
The alert issued by Warm and Well in North Yorkshire comes after a 198% increase in referrals to its services compared to this time last year combined with an announcement by Ofgem that energy bills are to rise by £96 to £1,138 a year in April for households on standard or default tariffs.
The organisation is also joining national calls on the Government to extend its £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Tax Credits beyond the planned end of March deadline it set when it first introduced the support measure during the first lockdown last year.
Run by Citizens Advice and funded by North Yorkshire County Council, Warm and Well is a partnership project bringing together organisations from the public, private and charity sector with the aim of reducing the number of cold homes, cold people and cold deaths within North Yorkshire.
At the last count in 2017 there were thought to be 5703 properties in fuel poverty across Harrogate, which is 8.2% of the population of the district.
But this is thought to be much higher now due to the devastating financial effects of the pandemic on families across the area.
The organisation has handed out hundreds of fuel vouchers recently for many vulnerable people unable to pay their energy bills.
With many children not being able to attend school and people having to work and stay in their home’s, energy costs have already risen sharply especially with the current cold weather.
Warm and Well says the rise in energy prices plus the potential cut to benefits could prove devasting to many people who are already struggling due to the effects of the pandemic with thousands of people seeing a drop in income due to being made redundant or having to close their businesses.
Julia Priestnall, project coordinator for Warm and Well in North Yorkshire told us “We have seen a huge increase in people needing our help and many families simply having to choose whether to heat their home or put food on the table.
"Citizens Advice said its research in December indicated that 2.1 million households were already behind with Energy Bills across the UK and we expect this to rise with the impending rise in energy bills and the potential loss of the £20 uplift to welfare benefits.
"We are particularly worried about vulnerable people on pre-payment meters customers whose costs will increase by £87 to £1,156 a year.
"With many families living in rural areas across the region often in older properties with poor insulation the energy cost rise and cut to universal credit and tax credits could create a perfect storm of fuel and food poverty."
"As a result of this we are joining our partners Citizens Advice across North Yorkshire in calling on the Government to keep the lifeline and extending the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Tax Credits beyond April to keep people out of fuel poverty.
"If we lost the £20 uplift research shows it’s the equivalent to almost seven days energy costs and three days of food in Harrogate.
"If you, a loved one or a family member are at risk or are already suffering from fuel poverty contact us today, our specialist energy advisers are here for you and they can save you a lot of money on your energy bills.”
If you need help with fuel poverty in North Yorkshire contact Warm and Well in North Yorkshire on 01609 767 555. You can also make a referral online at https://www.warmandwell.org.uk/Referral-Form
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