Cat Smith, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said she wanted to see the criteria governing eligibility for the help, such as the Warm Homes Discount - currently a £140 cut in energy bills for pensioners on a low income - extended to include families with children.
She is supporting a campaign by The Children’s Society, calling for government guidance to Ofgem and energy companies to be changed.
This national child poverty charity has produced figures showing that around 1,300 families in Lancaster and Fleetwood are behind on their energy bills - affecting 2,300 children. You can read their report here.
Their research found that 30% of families have a prepayment meter in their home. "In England, there are now over four million customers on a [prepayment] meter for electricity and over three million for gas; that is around 16% of electricity accounts and 15% of gas accounts."
It goes on to report that nearly half of the customers in energy debt now end up on a pre-payment meter with their energy use charged at an even higher tariff, in addition to their repayment schedule, creating a debt trap.
It also discusses the damaging physical, mental, and developmental effects on children living in cold homes, under the constant stress of debt.
Ms Smith, who has written to secretary of state Ed Davey (see letter here) to call for help to be extended to families with children, said: “No family should ever have to choose between heating and eating but that is exactly what is happening here in Lancaster - as well as in communities all over the country.
“Vulnerable families have been hit hard by the Conservative-led government which has failed to tackle the Cost of Living crisis while at the same time implementing unfair policies like the Bedroom Tax and giving tax cuts to millionaires.
“Debts can lead to desperate measures including people turning to food banks and even loan sharks, not to mention causing problems with anxiety and depression.
“This can only make it more difficult for families to give their children the best possible start in life and we owe it to our future generations to provide help where it is needed most.”
Research by The Children’s Society in its recent Show Some Warmth report showed that there are more than 800,000 children living in families in energy debt across the UK.
But currently, only those families with disabled children and children under the age of five qualify for the discount.
See link to The Children’s Society report 'Show Some Warmth' here