How to protect consumers as energy prices rise – January 22

The challenge:

The cost of living crisis has been growing in scale and impact over the last six months, with inflation reaching historic levels and yet to peak. Those on the lowest incomes are most exposed and masked within the headline inflation figures are item specific increases that are hitting low-income households the hardest. The poorest households were already spending 7.5% of their post-tax income on energy in 2019/20, before the current increases, and the latest figures show energy costs have risen by 23% in the past year.

While the crisis is already affecting households up and down the country, it is set to deepen with the further increase in the price cap due this April, with estimates putting it at up to £2,000. That increase is predicted to push an additional two million more households into fuel poverty, bringing the total to six million. We are already seeing the effects of the cost of living crisis in our data. In December 2021, the national Citizens Advice service recorded an over 100% increase in cases where people ran out of money to top up their pre-payment meter compared to the same time last year. Our national consumer service helpline dealt with more than four of these cases every hour over this period. Direct interventions are needed now to mitigate against the harm many households are already experiencing.

The government also needs a longer-term plan for addressing the soaring cost of living. Challenging as the current climate is, with further rises to the price cap over the course of the year, the winter of 2022 can be expected to be even worse, and we must ensure the right measures are in place to protect those at greatest risk.

Solutions: What the Government can do.

There are several policy tools at decisionmakers’ disposal to help lessen the impact on households. Such as:

  • A one-off payment to low-income households in April 2022
  • An increase and extension of the Warm Home Discount in Winter 2022-23 delivered through customers’ bills and funded by the government
  • Increase April benefits uprating to better reflect current inflation
  • To spread the cost of supplier of last resort (SoLR) levy over 2-3 years
  • A reduction or removal of VAT and/or environmental levies from energy bills.

For more information of these policy calls go to the national association of Citizens Advice website.

What this means to you and what you can do:

At the moment most people have been protected from these cost increases by the energy cap process. The new cap rates are expected to be announced in February and will be applied to bills for April. This is when these price increases will really start to hit.

It still makes sense to try to reduce the amount of energy you are using in your home if you can. You can find lots of helpful advice from the Energy Saving Trust at

You might qualify for some help through the Warm Homes Discount – see our earlier advice column.

You could also ask for help from the City Council’s Household Support Fund, which is a one-off programme of support, and is available until the end of March of this year. To find out more about this go to

Don’t forget that if you have been asked to work from home you are entitled to a tax rebate. You can find out more on 

If you are having difficulties meeting all your commitments and want to speak to a money adviser and live in Salford, call us on 0800 27 87 802, calls are free.

Tom Togher,

January 2022.