Big Issue Foundation

An Open Letter to the Chancellor for Social Tariffs

We’re asking Government for discounted energy bills for low-income households.

In an open letter sent to the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP, 95 Charities and non-profit organisations across the UK (including Big Issue Foundation) have joined together to call for more targeted support in the form of a social tariff for the energy market to help low-income households heat their homes.  

It is estimated by National Energy Action that the energy crisis has pushed over 6.7 million UK households into fuel poverty. This is an increase from the 4.5 million in October 2021. A social tariff would support low-income households facing a double burden from the rising cost of bills and paying more for their energy due to the poverty premium. 

This winter, Big Issue Foundation has already seen seven times more Big Issue vendors needing critical fuel and food support. As a result, we’ve been scaling up our energy advice nationally in order to prevent a fuel crisis and increased poverty. We are working to ensure everyone supported by us has access to advice and guidance on managing household energy and can access crisis support and grants if they need them. 

Since we know first-hand how many people have been struggling with bills, we’ve joined the letter to ask Government to provide discounted energy bills for those with higher use. 

Read the letter below. 

Sign the petition calling for discounted energy bills for low-income households

Open Letter: Social Tariff

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP  
Chancellor of the Exchequer   
HM Treasury   
1 Horse Guards Road   
London   
SW1A 2HQ 

CC: The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP 

Dear Chancellor,  

We write to you regarding the future of price protection in the energy market after the welcome commitment to consider options for protecting vulnerable energy consumers from April 2024 onwards. The Government has committed to working with organisations to consider the best approach to consumer protection post 2024. We welcome this commitment and urge your department to consider introducing targeted support in the form of a social tariff for the energy market, and to ensure the consultation process for implementing such protections is carried out swiftly.  

During this extraordinary time of volatile wholesale gas prices, we know that people’s personal finances are under intense pressure because of the costs of energy. While the government was able to offer unprecedented protection for households and businesses from high energy prices, many people in poverty and with higher energy needs (e.g. those relying on medical equipment like dialysis) have still struggled with affording to adequately heat and power their homes.  

Even with support, energy prices have had a devastating impact on households across the country. In April 2022, the price cap rose by 54% to nearly £2,000. This resulted in a sharp increase in numbers falling into fuel poverty. Estimates show that the energy crisis had pushed over 6.7 million UK households into fuel poverty, up from 4 million in October 2021. In April 2023, as the Energy Price Guarantee rises to £3,000/year for the typical household and the Energy Bills Support Scheme drops away, this will rise to 8.4m fuel poor households across the UK.   

In light of this, we urge your department to consider, as part of your work to protect consumers post April 2024, a targeted support mechanism in the form of a social tariff for the energy market – a discounted, targeted tariff aimed at those in greatest need to ensure they are able to live in their homes comfortably. We urge you to consider a progressive funding mechanism which ensures those missing out on the social tariff do not have to bear its costs.  

In our view, this kind of targeted support should be automatically made available to those who need it including: people on means tested benefits, disability benefits, and Carer’s Allowance alongside those still struggling with their bills but missing out on support from the welfare system. It also gives the opportunity to remove unfair differentials between different geographies and payment types that currently exist in the market for low income and vulnerable households.   

Implementing such a change to the energy market may well require some legislative changes. We therefore urge you and your department to ensure that options for consumer protection post April 2024 are consulted on as soon as possible to ensure that the required work can take place in parliament in order to put a social tariff in place as soon as possible.   

We are looking forward to working closely with you on these developments and are committed to ensuring the views of the stakeholders we represent are reflected in this work. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you.  

Yours sincerely, 

National Energy Action, Age UK, Scope, Fair by Design, and Energy Action Scotland 

This letter is supported by the following organisations:

  • Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) 
  • RNID 
  • Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity 
  • Rochdale Boroughwide Housing 
  • Royal College of Occupational Therapists  
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations 
  • Sebastian’s Action Trust  
  • SeeAbility 
  • Sense  
  • Shine 
  • Single Parents Support and Advice Services  
  • SNAP 
  • Southway Housing Trust  
  • St Giles Trust 
  • StepChange 
  • Stroke Association 
  • The Big Issue Foundation  
  • The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health 
  • The Children’s Hyperinsulinism Charity 
  • The Children’s Trust 
  • The Maypole Project 
  • The Welcome Centre 
  • Together for Short Lives 
  • Toynbee Hall 
  • Tree of Hope 
  • Turn2Us 
  • UK Mental Healthcare CIC  
  • Versus Arthritis 
  • Warm Wale 
  • s WellChild 
  • West Northumberland Food Bank 
  • Whizz-Kidz 
  • York Energy Advice  
  • Yorkshire Housing 
  • Advice for Renters  
  • Alex, The Leukodystrophy Charity 
  • Amaze  
  • Ambitious About Autism 
  • Bourneville Village Trust 
  • Brainwave 
  • Brighton & Hove Energy Services Coop  
  • British Academy of Childhood Disability 
  • Care & Repair Cymru  
  • Carers UK 
  • Centre for Energy Equality Centre for Sustainable Energy 
  • Chailey Heritage Foundation 
  • Chartered Institute of Housing 
  • Child Poverty Action Group  
  • Children England 
  • Christians Against Poverty  
  • Citizens Advice Scotland 
  • Clarion Housing Group  
  • Coastline Housing 
  • Community Housing Cymru Community Law Service (Northampton and 
  • Country) 
  • Contact CPotential 
  • Croydon Community Energy 
  • Datblygiadau Egni Gwledig (DEG) 
  • Disability Rights UK 
  • Disabled Children’s Partnership 
  • End Fuel Poverty Coalition  
  • Exeter Community Energy 
  • Family Fund  
  • Friends of the Earth 
  • Fuel Bank Foundation 
  • Gene People 
  • Groundwork Independent Age 
  • International Longevity Centre 
  • Jigsaw Homes 
  • KEEN London  
  • KIDS 
  • Leonard Cheshire 
  • Licensed Trade Charity 
  • Mencap  
  • Metabolic Support UK 
  • Money Advice Scotland 
  • Money Advice Trust 
  • NAC  
  • National Autistic Society 
  • National Housing Federation 
  • Northamptonshire Partnership Homes 
  • Nottingham Energy Partnership  
  • Personal Finance Research Centre 
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome Association UK  
  • Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity 
  • Rethink Mental Illness  
  • Rett UK 

If you agree that low-income households should get cheaper energy bills, sign the petition. Put your signature on the letter here.

Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

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