Westminster challenged over power-meter disconnections

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir has challenged the UK government to take action to prevent those on pre-payment meters from self-disconnecting when they are unable to pay for energy.
 
Mr Weir had asked Department of Energy and Climate Change, Charles Hendry what action his department were taking to monitor self-disconnection amongst those considered ‘fuel-poor’?

Responding the Minister said: “We understand that about 20% of those who are fuel-poor are on prepayment meters, and we will clearly look at any reasons why anybody is disconnected.

“If they are required to be disconnected by the supplier, the evidence has to be reported to us and those figures have fallen very sharply in recent years, but if people are self-disconnecting we need to understand the reasons behind that.”

Mr Weir said the Minister’s response was completely inadequate and claimed that it was possible there are a large number of self-disconnections that go unrecorded.

Mr Weir said:

“The vast majority of those on pre-payment meters are fuel poor and it is possible that there are a large number of self-disconnections of which we are simply unaware.

“The minister’s response that more research is needed into why people self-disconnect is completely inadequate.  The reason is blindingly obvious, they do so because they cannot afford to pay the prices that are being charged.

“When customers on ordinary tariffs are disconnected there is a record of what is happening but if someone simply cannot afford to top up their meter then there appears to be no record of this, or more importantly who they are and how often  this is happening.

“It is vital that the UK government take action to address this potentially disastrous situation.”

Self-disconnect occurs when a meter is not topped up after all the credit, including emergency credit, runs out and the supply is cut off.
 
A recent report revealed that 22% of households on incomes of £13,500 or lower self-disconnect, whilst the figures is only 13% for households above that income.  Similarly households in receipt of disability allowance were also more likely to self-disconnect than those not in receipt of benefits.

Households whose main source of heating is electricity are almost twice as likely to self-disconnect as those on gas, 26% to 14%.