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A dark place

Unaffordable energy costs and how low-income households cope

The majority of low income households cannot afford the cost of the energy they need to live safe, warm and well. More than half (55%) of CAP clients have rationed their energy at least occasionally in the last two years, with three in ten (29%) doing so weekly. Low income, expensive energy tariffs and a lack of practical help available means people simply give up and make do without.

This report presents the scale and pattern of self-rationing and self-disconnection by 1,008 low income households. Their rationing can be classified into three categories: doing so occasionally when money is particularly tight, regularly needing to ration at the end of each pay cycle, and doing so on a daily or weekly basis because of chronic affordability issues. 

Only one in four (23%) feel confident their supplier would help them if they had trouble paying energy bills. This proportion is even lower for those who have self-disconnected or had a prepayment meter (PPM) installed because of debt.

Action is needed to:

  • Make it easier to get back on supply after short-term self-disconnection.
  • Ensure people can afford to use the energy they need to stop severe rationing and long-term self-disconnection.
  • Increase customers’ confidence and ability to ask suppliers for help.
  • Overcome barriers that stop low income consumers accessing the best deals.
  • Decrease reliance on PPMs to resolve debt issues and ensure ability to pay.

Download report

‘It’s an awful time when you can’t get electric, you can’t have the lights on. You think what’s the point of trying to struggle on? When you do get the lights back on, you’ll just be able to see all the letters about debts that you can’t pay. It’s a dark place.’

- John, CAP client

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01274 761924

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01274 761985


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