'Worrying' rise in people seeking fuel bank help as cost of living bites

22 April 2022, 17:02

Fuel Bank boss warns of 'worrying' rise in people seeking help

By Sophie Barnett

A record number of people are being plunged into extreme fuel poverty and are turning to fuel banks for support, it has been warned, as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

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National fuel poverty charity, Fuel Bank Foundation, says in March it saw a 73% increase in the number of people it helped, compared to February.

This was before the energy price cap was introduced at the start of April, with Brits now forced to pay at least £700 more a year on energy.

Matthew Cole, chair of the trustees of the Fuel Bank Foundation, said they are seeing record numbers of people who can't afford to top up their prepayment gas and/or electricity meter accessing its services.

He told LBC's Eddie Mair people "are in real crisis" and said "it's only going to get worse".

In just one month the charity provided fuel vouchers to more than 41,000 people – helping to keep their lights and heating on.

"Households have never been so stretch," he warned.

Read more: Families face an extra £800 energy bill rise in October, former NPower boss warns

Read more: 'The need is getting greater and greater': Fuel bank chief warns of desperation hitting families

“The people we help, who are often, but not always, the most vulnerable in society and living with a range of issues, are really struggling.

"In the last six months we have seen record demand from people needing financial support at our Fuel Bank Centres. We are currently providing help to between 1,400 and 1,500 people a day, and this is before people really start to feel the impact of the April 1st energy price cap increase.“

It's now feared the price cap is forecast to rise by a further 42% in October, with the former CEO of NPower warning bills could soar by an additional £800.

This would take annual energy costs to more than £3,000.

Mr Cole said it's inevitable that more households will be forced to live in extreme fuel poverty, without heat, hot water or a hot meal.

Those living "off grid" without access to the gas network also face spiralling costs.

“For customers on prepayment meters and those who rely on solid fuels, these are really worrying times," Mr Cole said.

He called for the Government to provide financial support to those who need it the most.

"If costs rise as they are forecast to, they are going to need all the help they can get," he said.

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