High energy use charities such as social care settings should be given targeted support, according to a raft of measures being presented to government to help the sector tackle soaring cost of heating and lighting their premises.
The call has come following a decision by the government to scale back its energy bills discount scheme for non-domestic customers, including charities, businesses, and the public sector.
While the current package of support is worth £18bn, this will be replaced with £5.5bn worth of help from April to the end of March 2024.
As part of the new measures manufacturing businesses are the only sector to be offered “a substantially higher level of support” as ministers have identified them as “being the most energy and trade intensive”.
The NCVO is calling on the government to offer targeted support to “all high-energy use charities to get enhanced support, such as hospices, refuges, social care and community leisure providers”.
Ministers also need to “bring innovators, energy leaders and the charity sector together” to look at further options for support, including social or community tariffs and energy caps for charities.
The sector body wants an urgent review into who is included in the government’s new energy discount scheme and ministers to “begin on a long-term plan that provides security for the voluntary sector and reduces future risks of unaffordable energy bills”.
“We appreciate the government cannot subsidise energy bills forever, but there is a significant risk to charities if we don’t urgently start working on a long-term plan,” said NCVO chief executive Sarah Vibert.
“To be painfully blunt – charities save lives. For every charity that stops a service, or closes its doors forever, there are people who lose that lifeline.”
Charities are already buckling under increased demand and costs. We need urgent clarity on the new energy scheme and the impact of reduced support 👉 https://t.co/wetZmbRBlA— NCVO (@NCVO) January 10, 2023
The NCVO is among several charity sector bodies to raise concerns around the scaling back of the energy bills discount scheme after the move was announced in parliament on Monday.
Adding its voice to concerns this week is community organisations body Locality.
“We are hugely concerned about the government’s failure to provide adequate energy relief for local charities and social enterprises in the Energy Bill Discount Scheme,” said Locality chief executive Tony Armstrong.
“Local community organisations are currently providing vital emergency services to people across the country such as warm hubs and food banks as well as their usual range of activities such as health and well-being services, nurseries and community facilities. To exclude these organisations from the list of priority sectors will mean services are closed and people are put at risk.”
“The government says they do not want to prop up ‘failing or unproductive firms’. This surely cannot apply to non-profit organisations and groups that have held our communities together through consecutive crises and are now keeping communities warm and fed - despite massive increases in their costs."
Bewildered that the Government’s new Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) seems to do nothing to help already struggling local community organisations. These are orgs that run community centres as warm hubs, food banks and a huge range of services to support local communities /1— Tony Armstrong (@antlondon) January 10, 2023
Locality says that under the new scheme charities face a 43% hike in their energy bills.
“Many of our members will have to restrict access to services, close their doors and turn off the heating, and in some cases close down altogether,” added Armstrong.
“Local charities and community organisations who run vital frontline services need further support. Failure to provide this will significantly worsen the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and make the path to recovery longer and harder.”