Riverside asks Government to provide support for energy bills

Riverside has joined 33 of the UK’s leading housing associations to call on Government to provide targeted support for low-income households to avoid energy hardship this winter.

In a letter sent to Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability and Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, Riverside has highlighted the need for more support to help hundreds of thousands of low-income households who are expected to struggle to heat their homes again this winter.

The letter has been signed by the Chief Executives of some the UK’s largest housing associations including Riverside, Clarion, Places for People, L&Q, Peabody, all members of the G15 housing association group and members of the Homes for the North, Greater Manchester Housing Providers and Liverpool City Region Housing Associations groups.

Collectively the housing associations which have signed the letter provide homes for more than 1.5m households.

Last year Riverside commissioned an independent survey of their customers’ experiences during the cost-of-living crisis.

Researchers found that almost two-third of Riverside customers were struggling to pay their energy bills.

In total, 63% of customers said they struggled to pay their electricity bill and 60% had difficulty paying their gas bill.

And crucially, 31% of customers said they were relying on the £400 Government support through EBSS to cope with rising energy costs.

Researchers polled 3,419 Riverside customers living in social housing, retirement living and shared ownership homes across England.

Research by Citizens Advice found that 3.2m people were left without heat and light after running out of credit on their prepayment meter last year because they couldn’t afford to top it up.

In 2022 Citizens Advice spoke to 27,521 people who could not afford to top up their prepayment meter – more people than they have spoken to in the whole of the last 10 years combined.

Now 34 housing associations have united to write a joint letter to Government Ministers calling for further support to help stop a repeat of the hardship felt by low-income households last winter.

We’re asking for three changes to protect those most in need this winter:

  1. Provide more targeted support through the Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Bills Discount Scheme for winter 2023-2024 for those on low incomes and the 1.7m households living in fuel poverty and are not registered for benefits.
  2. Expand eligibility for the Warm Homes Discount to include households on heat networks and without a direct relationship with an electricity supplier this winter.
  3. Extend the application deadline for Energy Bill Support Scheme Alternative Funding from 31st May until 31st December 2023.

Carol Matthews CBE, Group Chief Executive of Riverside, said: “Last winter was a winter of hardship for millions of households on lower incomes who struggled to pay their energy bills. Analysis by organisations like Citizens Advice shows that many households ran out of money for their pre-payment meters and were left sitting in the cold and dark. 

“The cost of the average energy bill is still expected to be 170% higher than the average energy bill for a British household in 2021. However, households could be saddled with even higher bills this year if we have a cold winter. 

“To avert a similar financial crisis for households this year myself and fellow housing association chief executives are calling on government to work with OFGEM and energy suppliers to protect those who need it most this winter. 

“We look forward to a response from Ministers and a discussion on how the Government can provide more targeted support to families who really need it.” 

Read the full letter here.