Hard-up are hit by high-cost meters

The vulnerable are forced to pay the most for their heating and lighting

After getting into debt with her energy supplier, 19-year-old Laura Coyle from Preston has been told she has to have a pre-payment meter to help pay off the debt. But the move will mean she will join hundreds of thousands of others paying up to £80 a year more for her gas and electricity. According to the children's charity Barnardo's that's the extra cost of using meters compared to paying by direct debit.

The problem is that the only people forced to use the meters are those struggling with debt – the same vulnerable low-income families who need most help with paying their bills.

Laura lives with her partner, Sam, in Preston. Until now the family have been paying £60 a month on an online British Gas tariff for gas and electricity – but were shocked to be told that they actually owe the firm £600.

"There's just no way we can afford £600 on top of the monthly bills we're paying," Laura said. "We've now been told we've got to start on a pre-payment meter in November in order to pay off the debt."

The extra cost of using a meter will add to the family's financial woes. But while they are struggling, they are just about managing to stay afloat thanks to part-time work and benefits but also because of support from Barnardo's' Moving On service in Preston.

"Jackson's cot broke the other week, and Barnardo's are going to help get us a new one. We couldn't afford to replace it otherwise – we just don't have that kind of money," Laura admits.

The charity's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "Many of the families Barnardo's works with are bearing the brunt of companies' unfair tariffs because they are using pre-payment meters to pay off their debt and to pay for gas and electricity. Effectively these families are being penalised by their payment method at a time when they need the most financial help."

She said energy companies have a moral duty to behave responsibly by ensuring the poorest families are on the lowest tariffs available and prices for pre-payment meters are brought down to the same rates as online tariffs.

"Furthermore, we would urge the Government to tackle the issue of fuel poverty by the root, by bringing forward the requirement on landlords to make their properties energy-efficient for tenants," said Ms Carrie.

Laura says her family's real problem is the house they rent. "There are gaps under the windows and a big slit in the front door where the heat escapes," she said. "We're always juggling payments because of the energy bills. I've just switched supermarkets from Asda to Iceland because the food I get is ever so slightly cheaper there."

The young mum is angered by the fact that British Gas never told her that there were better deals available. "When you're struggling to get by, every penny counts, but with the energy tariffs I just don't know which one we should have been on.

"I've just had another provider get in touch saying they could have offered us a cheaper tariff. But now we're in debt I can't even change provider."

Ms Carrie said the Government must solve the problem of the poorest people being charged the most for energy. "If we're serious about tackling child poverty then we need to get serious about tackling fuel poverty, too.

"Families should never have to choose between whether to heat their homes or put food on the table for their children."

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

    SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn