Posted: 11 April 2019

Care leavers' energy bills are a challenge to independent living

Over the years, we have worked to secure a fairer start for care leavers, and have successfully campaigned for a number of local authorities to exempt care leavers from paying council tax until the age of 25.

Our latest research looks at the difficulties care leavers face in managing their energy bills and what more energy companies can do to support this vulnerable group of young people.

Moving to independent living

With so many providers offering different deals and rates, energy bills are a challenge for anyone setting up a new home. 

For young people leaving the care system and making the move into independent adulthood for the first time at 18, setting up energy bills can be even more daunting and overwhelming.

'If I had known how much it would cost I would have stayed with my dad instead of moving out on my own [after leaving care]'

Managing bills and avoiding debt

Our previous research shows how debt can be particularly concerning for care leavers.

Many care leavers have had difficult childhoods and adjusting to independent living is not easy. The pressure of managing energy bills and balancing other household finances, especially for people on a low income, can often lead to debt.

Debt can be triggered by life events such as relationship breakdowns or due to unexpected salary cuts and rent increases. Further complications of topping-up energy meters, confusing bills and limited information on different payment options such as direct debits and quarterly billing means many care leavers stick with a prepaid meter to gain control over their energy bills, even though it might not be the best option.

'it talks about the rates - what really used to confuse me is that the amount I paid wasn't on the bill they sent out to me'.

Care leavers worry that changing their payment arrangements could jeopardise their careful budgeting, and potentially lead to energy debts.  

Energy companies have a responsibility to help prevent debt

To help with energy costs, care leavers spoke to us about switching providers, and were aware of the money saving advantages that can be gained from doing so. However, they often try to save money by wrapping up in a duvet or putting on an extra jumper, instead of putting on the heating.

Energy companies can help by providing clear and tailored information to care leavers on how to save more on their bills, avoid debt and most importantly, keep warm. 



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