Children’s Commissioner warns UK Government to take more robust action with energy suppliers

Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner:  

“It is of little surprise to learn today that the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy Security has not been reassured that energy suppliers are willing to ‘make good on their failures’, regarding families who may have been unlawfully forced onto pre-payment meters.  

Last week I wrote to Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Energy and Climate, to express my concerns that energy companies cannot be allowed to breach their license conditions with apparent impunity. While I welcome the subsequent suspension of forced installation, it is hugely disappointing that many suppliers seem unwilling to remedy their own failures.  

As the Secretary of State will be aware, the UK Government has a duty to take the necessary action to prevent, investigate, punish and redress rights violations committed by private companies. Failure to do that would place Ministers in breach of their legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  

My office has been pressing energy companies and Ofgem for over six months to address the children’s rights breaches caused by forced PPM installation. Children’s right to an adequate standard of living includes having a warm home and hot nutritious food. Energy insecurity can have a direct impact on the right to life, on physical and mental health, and on education and socialisation. Disabled children who rely on electrical medical equipment are at particular risk. It is clear we can no longer trust the existing licensing and regulatory system to protect children and families.   

We cannot allow energy companies to consistently be ‘falling short on correcting their ways’ when the consequences to children being pushed into poverty are so serious and long-lasting. Those families who have had pre-payment meters forcibly installed must get a proper remedy including financial redress, and this must not be a lottery dependent on who their supplier is.  

The UK Government must consider all of the powers and levers at its disposal to address these issues for families affected, including consideration of a statutory right to protection from disconnection. A failure to do so, fails children.” 

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