How you can help families struggling with energy bills

15 Dec 2015 By Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us

In today’s post the Financial Health Exchange is delighted to welcome Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2Us, a national charity that helps people in financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help.  In this post Simon tells us about new research from Turn2Us about rising energy costs and why they’ve launched their new campaign, No Cold Homes.

“You are constantly aware of lights being left on, questioning whether you need to put the heating on or not, worrying if your toddler is warm enough, cooking in batches so the oven isn’t on any longer than it has to be. You don’t just relax and do what you feel like, you are constantly aware of usage.”

As a charity fighting UK poverty, we hear stories like these every day. Millions of people are struggling to pay their energy bills and keep their homes warm, and as a result often go without food and other essentials.

Our latest research has revealed that half of low income households are struggling with energy bills, despite being in work. We found that people with disabilities are hardest hit – with 67% reporting their struggles – and families, with 65% of working parents unable to meet these costs.

The knock-on effects are startling. A third of those struggling have been forced to skip meals and nearly two-fifths are behind on other essential household bills. In addition, one in ten parents admit their energy supply has been disconnected due to unpaid bills, whilst a third of people with disabilities say they’re worried that the stress of trying to make ends meet may exacerbate their health condition this winter.

It’s clear that more needs to be urgently done to tackle these serious problems. One way that charities and other organisations can help right now is by raising awareness. Nearly half of those households struggling with energy bills have done so for more than a year, yet only 12% have told their energy supplier and only 5% have turned to an advice organisation for help. A lot of help is available – we want to make sure it gets to where it’s needed.

That’s why we’re running our No Cold Homes campaign this winter, so that we can help more people struggling to heat their homes to find the practical support they desperately need. And we’ve been working in partnership with other charities and organisations to spread the word amongst their networks. Alongside working households, we know many other groups will suffer this winter too, and we want to reach as many people as we can.

To raise awareness further, we’ve also joined forces with a host of famous faces including Dame Helen Mirren, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Chris Hoy who have generously donated items for our celebrity clothes auction. This is not just about raising vital funds; we hope it will create even more noise around fuel poverty issues and the help available.

If you’d like to find out more about our campaign, please go to www.turn2us.org.uk/NoColdHomes. Anyone who is worried about their energy costs this winter can use our free Benefits Calculator to check if they are entitled to any welfare benefits and tax credits, our Grants Search to see if they could be eligible for support from over 3,000 charitable funds, and find information on further sources of help including charitable trusts from energy companies, the Warm Home Discount and the Winter Fuel Payment.

We hope that through our campaign, more people can find out about help that could make all the difference this winter.

Read here about the government’s plan to reduce household bills.

Search our research library for more about energy and fuel poverty.