Fuel Poverty Action and Disabled
People Against Cuts have together written to Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brierley
about the gross injustice of the present standing charges, including
loading the cost of failed suppliers onto this part of people’s bills. 
"It is appalling that yet
again Ofgem is punishing low income customers for its own failed regulation
and the upside down priorities of the energy industry. …This is consistent
with the blinkered approach that has led you to give “too much benefit to companies
at the expense of consumers”, in the words of Christine Farnish, the Ofgem
director who resigned last week.
Ofgem has claimed (2) that high
standing charges are the only way to protect high users, some of whom are
people with health needs for electricity, eg for electrical medical
equipment. But the two groups suggest that Ofgem’s obligation to vulnerable
customers is being abused as an excuse for policies that impoverish and
endanger thousands of people, including many who are disabled people. They
name instead several alternative ways to protect people with high energy
needs - without impoverishing vast numbers of low income customers.
With Fuel Poverty Action’s
proposal of Energy For All (e4a) each household would be
entitled, free, to enough energy to cover basic needs, but people would pay
a higher tariff for what they use above that amount. This would offer much
needed security to all - including those who need more because of their
health, disabilities, housing conditions, or family size. It would be paid
for by the higher per-unit tariff on excess use, by windfall taxes and by
ending the millions of pounds now poured daily into fossil fuel subsidies.
Other options listed include
extensions of the Warm Home Discount, social tariffs, better disability
benefits, and good safe insulation for vulnerable customers. And they say
that companies that cannot fulfil their purpose of providing the energy
people need at a cost they can afford, could - and must - be brought back
into public hands.
Ruth London from FPA comments,
Instead of looking at real,
proportionate, workable changes to the current upside down pricing
framework, Ofgem has chosen to continue hitting low income users harder
than affluent neighbours. The standing charge means that however much they
cut down their usage many people will never be able to pay their bills.
Paula Peters of DPAC says,
I’m a low energy user because I
am terrified to switch it on and worrying about costs all the time. It’s
making me permanently anxious as it is all of us. Last winter I was in a
lot of pain with a cold house. I needed NHS intervention: a steroid
injection and a Nebuliser at A & E.