Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson has written to Ofgem to question its decision to raise the energy price cap without properly considering the impact on children in Scotland, warning more families will be pushed into poverty this winter.
In his letter to the energy regulator’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Brearley, the Commissioner expresses his grave concerns about the impact of this decision on children in Scotland, and his particular concern for families with disabled children, some of whom rely on life-saving electrical equipment.
Commissioner Bruce Adamson writes: “Experiencing poverty can severely affect a child’s development and have a negative impact on their human rights to mental and physical health, education, family relationships, standard of living, aspirations and life chances – both in childhood and adult life.”
He continues: “Children have told us that they feel poverty robs them of their childhood, but this is not inevitable. 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.”
The Commissioner is asking Ofgem – in line with its regulatory duties – to demonstrate how it has considered the impact that raising the price cap will have, particularly on vulnerable groups of children and young people.
Ofgem has previously failed to produce this evidence when asked by others and has recently been put on notice of court action by legal campaigners at the Good Law Project, should it not comply with its legal duties to protect vulnerable consumers.
When making decisions about the energy price cap and its other regulatory functions Ofgem has a duty to conduct impact assessments and consider the needs of vulnerable groups, particularly disabled or chronically sick people, those on low incomes, people living in rural areas, and pensioners.
In his letter Mr Adamson states: “It is clear that many children and young people in Scotland will fall directly within the first three of those categories and that a significant number of individuals in all four categories will have child dependents.”
The Commissioner also points out that Scotland has a disproportionate number of households without access to mains gas, particularly in rural and island areas, whose costs are not fully protected by the price cap. In some cases, the increased costs they face are well in excess of the price cap, particularly those on all electric heating systems.
The Commissioner asks Ofgem to explain how it intends to use its powers to protect children and young people from the impact of a rise in the price cap. He warns more children will experience poverty, and more will face severe poverty, as a result of the regulator’s price cap decision.
Mr Adamson writes: “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.”
Notes to Editors
- A recent report from Contact showed families with disabled children reliant on life-saving electrical equipment were paying £600 a year more for their energy even before the April price cap increase. From April 2022, families with disabled children expect their annual energy bills to be more than £3,000 per year – almost double that of an average UK household. During last winter, 42% families went without heating and 10% went without vital electric-powered disability equipment because they were unaffordable to run.
- Research by the University of York and the Child Poverty Action Group predicts that in Scotland 72.8% of households will fall into fuel poverty in January 2023. while Scottish Government data confirms that children are more likely to experience poverty across all measures than adults.