PUT ESSENTIALS BEFORE ENERGY BILL
Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices Charity, has sent me some sensible comments on the horrendous bills we will soon be facing, saying “We have had hundreds of emails on the cost-of-living crisis, seeking advice and offering comments.
“Many members have asked for advice on what to do when they cannot afford to pay their energy bills this winter. Thousands of older people have already made all the economies they can ……
Our advice is clear, do not jeopardise your health by turning off your heating, or by failing to eat and drink a sustaining diet. If the choice is between food, warmth, or energy bills then it must be the energy bills that are dropped. We are not aligning ourselves with the ‘Don’t Pay’ movement, but the responsibility must be passed back to the energy companies and the Government to provide sufficient support for the basics of life.
If you genuinely can’t afford to pay your energy bills, then the first step should be to contact your supplier saying that you need support. Ask for a hardship grant (most suppliers have a scheme) and for a reduction in the tariff. If you can afford something towards the bill without damaging your health, then show willing and make a part-payment. Do point out that you are following Silver Voices advice, to show you are part of a wider movement.
You cannot be cut off in the short-term if you don’t pay your energy bills, or be forced to accept a pre-payment meter.
If you are a state pensioner, you can’t be cut off during the winter and if you have long-term health conditions or are disabled you can’t be cut off at any time. See the following Citizen’s Advice explanation for detailed information on cut-offs:
Although this advice is for England, similar provisions apply across the UK.
On pre-payment meters, these need to be avoided as higher rates are charged and if you run out of money, you lose your power. Suppliers cannot force people to agree to a pre-payment meter without a court order and there are many circumstances such as disability and illness which would disqualify the energy supplier from taking this action at all. Again, read the helpful Citizen’s Advice on the subject:
Our advice is the only sensible response to this crisis. NHS Leaders have warned of an impending public health emergency unless the Government takes radical action.
Our advice is intended to save lives. It would be a tragedy if thousands die from self-neglect because they don’t want to fall into debt. So, in the absence of measures to improve the basic income of state pensioners, we must put pressure on energy companies and, through them, the Government to show that the current situation is unsustainable, with unthinkable consequences.”
I came across Silver Voices when Dennis started a campaign to ‘Gum Up The Works’, when the BBC took away free TV licenses for the elderly. Silver Voices did not advocate anything extreme, but showed simple steps one could take to legitimately question the BBC, and delay paying the fee.
This was so successful at stalling matters, that I believe there are still 3/4 million who have yet to hear from the BBC about paying – and the BBC has come to an impasse!
You can apply to become a member of Silver Voices and add your voice – plus receive Dennis’s emails full of practical advice – with a bit of humour. The link is www.silvervoices.co.uk/join-us
The sub is £8 a year but anyone surviving on the state pension and benefits alone gets free membership.