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KAREN ANDERSON: Impossible choices over out-of-control energy costs make urgent action a must in any society claiming to be civilised

By Karen Anderson

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The rise in energy bills has left many on the brink of despair.
The rise in energy bills has left many on the brink of despair.

I am becoming increasingly concerned about unpaid carers just now. Of course, everyone is seeing increased bills, but for people caring for a loved one, there are often additional costs and the need to power equipment or to heat the home to a warmer than standard temperature.

Both myself and my husband can work full-time, but as I work from home, our boy is attached to his computer most of the day, we can’t go out much so our main source of entertainment is the telly, my hubby has a daily change of uniform and our boy will only wear anything once meaning at least ten loads of washing a week, our energy needs are a bit higher than average.

I was lucky to have a two-year fixed energy deal which has insulated us, but I have just received notification that at the end of June we will be moving onto the standard variable tariff and our annual dual fuel costs will rise from £1794 to £3217, or if I would like another two-year fixed deal, £3975! This means our monthly direct debit rising from £136 to £268 or £332. It’s like being press ganged into a casino and having absolute proof that the odds are double stacked against you but having no alternative but to play their game.

I am still lucky though as after three years of careful budgeting, we have just paid off our car loan this month and so instead of breathing a sigh of relief and perhaps having a little to save towards replacing the car in a couple of years, I can channel that money into the coffers of the energy company, but that really sticks in my craw.

If the providers are surprised about the billions of profits they are making daily, why are the prices still going up? I always thought that businesses set the price of their product at cost plus a respectable margin in order to gain new customers and keep the ones they already have. However, the model seems broken on the consumer side now as the prices are still rising and neither the regulator nor the Government seem to be able or willing to influence things.

I heard today about a carer who asked how she could save energy? Should she stop charging the hoist that enables her to transport her partner out of bed and the one that is used in the bathroom? Should she switch off the powered hospital bed designed to stop them getting sores? Should she stop using the shower as that is electric? Should she stop charging the powered wheelchair that enables them to get out occasionally without her having to be the pushing power?

She said she was in debt to the electric company to the tune of £900 and owed £700 for gas. This despite paying over £250 to each of them every month. She has now stopped opening post from them as there is nothing she can do to either reduce consumption or pay more out of the benefits they live on.

How can anyone in any energy company or the Government morally justify this level of despair? In my mind they can’t, and something must be done urgently to claw money out of the excess profits and ensure it goes directly to those in deepest hardship – not a handout to everyone or a loan on our utility bills that has to be repaid. Or what kind of society have we become?

Karen is Mum to an autistic teenager and campaigns for the rights of unpaid carers to be supported in their caring role and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the people they care for. You can find her on Twitter @Karen4Carers.

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