Stop the poverty premium

Today saw the release of a new brief by Save the Children called the UK Poverty Rip Off, showing how the poverty premium levied at the poorest households has gone up from £1,000 and now stands at nearly £1,300.
Lack of access to the best online prices, bank accounts and managing their budget via cash all adds together to give the poorest families the worst deals around. The result is a poverty premium that costs the poorest families more for the same energy, cookers and household items, credit and insurance than their wealthier peers.

One of the biggest increases has been the cost of energy. Poorer families pay hundreds of pounds extra to heat their homes with an annual average cost for gas and electricity of £1,135 compared with £880 for other families.

For most people it’s a struggle when the first bills arrive just after Christmas, but for the poorest families this is going to be an even tougher time. We’ve seen freezing temperatures, much snowfall and, according to the Met Office, December 2010 was one of the coldest months in a hundred years. To levy a poverty premium on top because you’re poor just isn’t fair.

Families who can’t afford to heat their homes properly could be putting their children’s health at risk. Evidence provided in this report shows that cold living conditions increase children’s susceptibility to illness, compromise healthy weight gain and respiratory problems. It can even impact on how well children do at school as children need a warm, peaceful space to do homework.

A voluntary scheme introduced by the last government asked energy companies to do more for vulnerable people, including poorer families, with the cost of heating. But only one of the big six companies introduced a social tariff that included low-income families. Now the coalition government wants to remove the social tariff and introduce a rebate scheme to help vulnerable groups, again under a voluntary scheme with the energy companies. But this means that, once again, the poorest families could be left out in the cold.

We want Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to make it law that all vulnerable groups — including the poorest families — are included in the rebate scheme. There has to be a fairer system that doesn’t penalise the poorest families and impact on the lives of their children. One way of making it better would be for the poorest families to be guaranteed the Warm Home Discount rebate.

Find out more about the UK poverty rip-off

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  • Tina Gay

    We have learnt nothing. in the winter of 1964 my younger sister lay dying of a blood desease in a local authority house with no electricty or running water, vines growing up the inside of the walls, oil lamps were the only lighting we had and coal fires. despite pleading with the powers to be she died in hospital after having spent most of her illness in a hell hole. yes I remember it all too well. now I have a daughter with three small children, the youngest of which is waiting for a kidney op two weeks ago she rang me in tears and told me that they had not paid her any child tax credit. she rang them and they said “oh not to worry, we will make it up as from next week at £10.00 extra a week” wow. what was she supposed to do? the next thing was the working tax credit that both her and her partner are entitled to which is paid monthly she was told “you are not getting it this month you only have 3 months left”. anyway that left them £550 short in their months money no recorse no one to turn to only me and her dad. we are only carers ourselves, but if we had not helped they would have had no electricty no gas no nappies no food. They too have card and key meters that cost so much more than other ways of payment. this and previous governments have learned nothing. they always think we are trying to catch them on something or get something we are not entitled to and it can only get worse. Im afraid for the future. the powers that be have no heart and certainly no eyes and ears.