Winter is coming and charities fear they cannot operate premises as normal
Energy giant SSE has unveiled a £15m support fund targeted at charities and businesses struggling with energy bills.
Around 8,000 charities will receive a £500 credit towards their bills as part of a £4m package of support made available to customers with registered charitable status.
It comes as the UK government scales down its support for businesses as criticism mounts there has been no tailored assistance for charities specifically.
The existing Energy Bill Relief Scheme ran until 31 March 2023, which provides a discount on wholesale prices for businesses and charities.
It was replaced with a new Energy Bill Discount Scheme for which will run until 31 March 2024.
However despite energy prices dropping, they still remain at least double of what they were before the cost-of-living crisis hit.
While some organisations continue to receive government bill support through the scheme, the level of aid that most charities receive this winter will likely be lower than last winter.
SSE, which sold its GB household energy business to OVO Energy in 2020, is making the money available as part of a larger £15m fund for a range of business customers supplied by its non-domestic energy provider, SSE Energy Solutions.
Any organisation that signed up for energy deals between 1 August and 31 December 2022 on longer-term fixed contracts will also be eligible for the support, reflecting the fact that wholesale energy prices hit record highs during the second half of 2022 and have since fallen.
Nikki Flanders, managing director of SSE’s customer businesses (GB&IRL), said: “With government energy support winding down, we believe this is the right time to step up our customer support by providing a dedicated fund.
“Despite the fact that wholesale energy prices have fallen considerably from last year’s highs, they still remain double the historic norm, which we understand is challenging for many businesses and charities.
“Combined with the existing support for our customers, this represents the most comprehensive package of financial assistance to help businesses with their energy bills anywhere in the GB non-domestic market.”
Last January Neil Heslop, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) said he was disappointed that the EBDS did not include targeted support for the charity sector.
“Charities are caring for those who are hit the hardest by the cost-of-living crisis, whether by providing warm places, food packages, mental health services, or support for the homeless. Continued energy support is therefore critical, but it is disappointing that the government has not announced targeted support for charities in the new discount scheme,” he said.
“More and more people are relying on charity services, but they are stretched beyond measure with inflation increasing their costs and donations falling. Their finances are on a knife-edge even with the existing scheme, so organisations are relying on their reserves to cover core costs or cutting back on services.
“Many charities are running out of options to continue to provide for the vulnerable in our communities.”