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Latest 24 August 2022

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner challenges Ofgem to protect children from fuel poverty

Bruce Adamson, Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, has today written to Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, challenging its decision to raise the energy price cap and expressing his deep concern about the dire consequences that soaring rates of fuel poverty will have on children.

The Commissioner has echoed our ask of Ofgem, that it must, in line with its regulatory duties, demonstrate that it has considered the impact that raising the price cap will have, particularly on vulnerable groups of children and young people, before setting it. 

Ofgem has so far failed to produce evidence of this assessment each time we’ve asked. We believe Ofgem has the power to mitigate this by creating a separate, lower ‘social tariff’ price cap for the most at-risk groups. We’ve put it on notice of formal court proceedings should it fail to comply with its legal duties.

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In his letter, Commissioner Adamson asks Ofgem to explain how it will use its powers to protect children from deepening poverty, and the physical and mental damage it can cause. He warns that a growing number of children are already living in poverty, and more will face severe poverty if the regulator chooses not to act:

“It is beyond dispute that unfettered and unmitigated energy price rises risk pushing more children into poverty, and those children already in poverty into destitution. The short and long-term consequences to individuals and to society will be devastating.”

As we approach Ofgem’s price cap announcement on Friday 26 August, many people across the UK fear a hike that could increase the average annual household bill by as much as £2,000.

That is why Good Law Project, along with Fuel Poverty Action and Dion Alexander, the Chair of the Highlands & Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Group, have written to Ofgem demanding it does more to protect vulnerable people and off-grid communities.

With each new price cap rise pushing more people into poverty, our hope is that Ofgem will accept that it can and should introduce a lower, social tariff for vulnerable households, without us having to move forward with our legal action.

We have made it clear that, unless their statement on Friday shows real action is being taken to cushion the blow of the price cap increase, we will sue.

As Commissioner Adamson says, “Poverty is a political choice; a consequence of decisions made by the UK and Scottish Governments. Regulators and others who hold economic levers can choose to either mitigate or contribute to poverty.”

You can read Commissioner Adamson’s letter to Ofgem here.

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