The SNP have renewed pressure on the UK government to urgently support households with energy costs after new research revealed 1 in 10 people have missed an energy bill because they ran out of money since Covid restrictions began.
The call for action follows a YouGov poll for Citizens Advice Scotland that showed 15% of people who have run out of money before payday since Covid restrictions began have missed an energy payment.
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has launched its Big Energy Saving Month 2021 campaign encouraging people to save energy and get the financial support they are entitled to by seeking advice. The campaign launches as temperatures plummet across Scotland and energy costs increase as more people stay home to comply with coronavirus restrictions.
Since the pandemic began, consumer groups and the SNP have repeatedly warned that an increase in energy bills due to the coronavirus lockdown could leave more Scots at risk of fuel poverty.
The SNP has called for the UK government to assist households with meeting energy costs through a package of financial measures for the self-employed, increasing UK Statutory Sick Pay to the EU national average, increasing Child Benefit and making the Universal Credit uplift permanent, as well as extending it to legacy benefits.
Ruth Maguire, MSP for Cunninghame South said: “It’s urgent that the UK Government makes additional support available to people struggling to pay their energy bills.
“In the midst of the economic fallout of the pandemic on top of over a decade’s worth of austerity cuts and the damaging consequences of Brexit, thousands of people are feeling the impact. Utility bills will increase due to the population’s compliance with Covid guidelines with many more people working from home, adding to the financial strain faced by households.
“The UK Government must act to prevent more people throughout Scotland and the UK being pushed deeper into hardship.”
Drew Hendry MP, the SNP’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) spokesperson, has also called on the new BEIS Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, to ensure the standard energy tariff is not increased this year and work with energy companies to see what more can be done to help struggling families.
He said: “It is vital that the Tory government urgently address the fundamental failures within the UK’s social security system, which are exacerbating fuel poverty across these isles. The Chancellor must urgently bring forward a package of financial measures for the self-employed, increase UK Statutory Sick Pay to the EU national average, and strengthen welfare protections by increasing Child Benefit and making the Universal Credit uplift permanent, as well as extending it to legacy benefits.
“Beyond this, I am urging Kwasi Karteng to guarantee the standard tariff will not be increased at any point during the pandemic.”
In Scotland, the SNP Government has introduced the Child Winter Heating Assistance – a new £200 payment to help families of severely disabled children. By the end of 2021 it will have allocated over £1 billion since 2009 to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency in Scotland. This is despite not having control of 2 of the 4 drivers of fuel poverty: fuel prices and income. The Scottish Government only has power over energy efficiency levels, and household behaviour towards energy efficiency.