With the launch of a £4 million fuel voucher initiative by Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt, some of Wales’ most vulnerable households will receive further assistance with skyrocketing energy bills.
People with pre-payment meters and families without access to mains gas will receive the extra support.
It comes as findings show that pre-payment meter users in North Wales have been stung the hardest by increased standing charges in the UK, with costs soaring by 102 percent.
Standing charges for consumers using pre-payment metres have increased by 94 percent in South Wales, making it the fourth highest in the UK.
The £4 million in new financing will allow the Fuel Bank Foundation to launch a national voucher scheme that will provide direct assistance to qualified prepayment metre homes and those who are not connected to the mains gas network.
Nearly 120,000 households with prepayment metres will be eligible for 49,000 certificates to help them get through the economic downturn.
Households will receive up to three certificates over a six-month period, with vouchers ranging from £30 in the summer to £49 in the winter.
The £4 million will also include a Heat Fund, which will provide direct assistance to qualifying off-grid households that rely on heating oil and liquefied gas. This will benefit around 2,000 households in Wales.
Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said: “The cost-of-living crisis is having a devastating impact on people in Wales.
“Today, nearly half of all households in Wales are at risk of falling into fuel poverty. This is deeply shocking.
“We are investing an extra £4m in the Fuel Bank Foundation to roll-out a national scheme that covers the whole of Wales and supports people most in need.
“This extra help is for people on pre-payment meters and for those who are not on mains gas or electricity – both ignored by the Chancellor in his latest package.”
The new cash and specific support comes as households across Wales struggle to afford increasing energy bills, which have been worsened by the April increase in the home energy cap.
Prepayment meter users are the most vulnerable to escalating expenses and higher standing charges.
The average household energy bill has increased by £693 per year for those on default tariffs paying by direct debit, while those on prepayment metres have witnessed rises of £708 per year.
Families not connected to the mains gas network are also affected by growing fuel costs and are being forced into fuel poverty, with one in ten households in Wales relying on heating oil.
The cost of heating oil has more than doubled in the last two months, according to many people. A delivery of 500 gallons, which used to cost around £340, can now cost up to £750 in some areas.
Matthew Cole, head of Fuel Bank Foundation, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support from the Welsh Government, particularly at a time when people are really struggling to cope financially with the cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy bills.
“The funding will enable the Fuel Bank Foundation to continue providing vital services to the most vulnerable in society, to ensure they don’t go cold or hungry this winter, when they can’t afford to top up their prepayment gas and/or electricity meter.
“This support will also extend to households who live off the gas grid and rely on solid fuels such as oil, wood or coal to heat and power their homes.
“Furthermore, it will enable us to expand our operations and capabilities across Wales, with a Fuel Bank centre in every local authority, which will be up and running in time for autumn, when the weather starts to turn colder.”