Money-saving expert Martin Lewis’ charity linking depression and debt today urges energy retailers to step up support for vulnerable customers during Britain’s long energy crisis.
MPs heard yesterday that October’s second triggering of Ofgem’s home supply price cap could push as many as 40% of Britons into fuel poverty, usually defined as more than 10% of post-tax income spent on energy.
People suffering mental illness are more than four times as likely already to be behind on power bills, a survey of nearly 300 sufferers for the Institute found in January.
Four in five facing higher bills have cut back on their energy use, and over half have had to cut back on other essentials, the survey revealed.
In August Conservative leader Johnson, sacked twice for lying in his earlier career, and Britain’s single premier now found to have broken the law while in office, dodged rocketing energy prices as a ‘temporary problem’.
Palliatives since issued by his Chancellor have been limited to little more than a £200 loan available only six months hence, and a £150 rebate against council tax.
Yesterday Scottish Power’s CEO Keith Anderson forecast before MPs shadowing D-BEIS that a coming ‘horrific’ winter of 2022-23 would push as many as 40% into fuel poverty. Anderson called for government intervention to forestall foreseeable deprivation.
Rather than waiting for indebted customers to seek aid, energy companies must ‘proactively offer payment plans to people who are struggling’, the charity urges. Eligibility for support such as the Warm Homes Discount should be stressed, it says.
Rather than solely issuing letters, suppliers must adopt webchat, service agents using phones and email and with power and discretion, when seeking out likely strugglers.
Suppliers’ wealth of customer data collected from payment meters and engineer visits gives them a minable resource from which to anticipate and forestall household crises, the institute says.
Staff should be trained to recognise early signs of likely mental health sufferers, it recommends.
“The energy crisis looks set to have a devastating financial and psychological impact for millions of people, and that’s especially true for people with mental health problems”, said Helen Undy, the institute’s chief executive.
“Energy firms can play a vital role in reducing the pressure for vulnerable customers”.
“We’re urging energy firms to act now — there is no time to waste.”
The guidance is here.