Yesterday we took the voices of over 18,000 Debt Justice supporters to the heart of the UK government with a demand to end energy debt.
The cost of living crisis, poor quality housing and a broken energy system have pushed households into a record £2.6 billion of energy debt. Around £1 billion of this debt weighs down households with pre-pay energy accounts – leaving them at increased risk of energy disconnection and the deadly effects of cold, dark and damp homes this winter.
As we approach Christmas, an estimated 6.4 million people are behind on their energy payments. In response we have come together with allies to call for emergency support with energy bills and debt. Kay Ballard, who was part of the group handing in the petition, said:
“Lack of government support and energy company profiteering means that this Christmas I have a choice between going into debt or living in a cold damp home. It is an impossible choice and only government action can solve the crisis.”
Debt Justice supporters have been part of some inspiring energy debt campaign actions throughout this year. We joined the Warm This Winter mass lobby of MPs in spring and have used key moments like the autumn statement to keep the pressure up on the government. We told our stories about the impact that energy debt is having on our communities and called out energy company profiteering.
Energy debt is a symptom of a broken system and this was brought home to us starkly this year as decision makers wrestled with how to tackle the unpayable debt on the books of energy retail companies.
In April, the energy regulator Ofgem proposed allowing energy companies to charge all of us more on bills so they could recoup their losses. In response, almost 2000 of us wrote to Ofgem pointing out how unfair it would be to bail out the energy retail companies. We won this battle, only for the same proposal to come back around in a different form last month. It is a stark reminder of the inertia that exists in Westminster and the need for us to build collective power to overcome corporate interests.
Next year will be a general election year. So far, politicians have said very little about how they plan to tackle the debt crisis facing many of us across the country. That’s why we have come together to build a Together Against Debt manifesto for what we want to see changed.
Together, we are speaking out and standing up for our families, friends and neighbours who have been saddled with unpayable debts, in a crisis that nobody could plan for.
It’s time politicians heard about the devastating effect debt is having in our communities and on people’s lives up and down the UK. Next year we’ll deliver our Together Against Debt manifesto to all political parties. If enough of us get involved, then we know we can’t be ignored.