There With You This Winter: Debt doctor Rippon Ray says people must get savvy about the rising fuel costs

Finsbury Park in winter, January 2021.

Hackney debt advisor Rippon Ray is campaigning and raising awareness about the growing cost of living and fuel crisis. - Credit: Ben Romberg

With fuel suppliers going bust and many more at risk of going under, a Hackney campaigner says people will have to get creative with saving money to offset rising energy bills.

Hackney fuel poverty campaigner, Rippon Ray, who works in the debt advice sector, has spent much of his career giving advice to residents struggling with finances.

The man dubbed the debt doctor has also campaigned on issues impacting those affected by poverty but has more recently started speaking out about the growing fuel and cost of living crisis spurred on by a global rise in wholesale energy costs.

He told the Gazette: “Inevitably in Hackney we will be finding people who are suffering a great deal.”

Hackney debt doctor and campaigner Rippon Ray

Hackney debt doctor and campaigner Rippon Ray - Credit: Courtesy of Rippon Ray

Rippon recently received a letter from his fuel supplier stating from October 1 Ofgem would raise the energy price cap to 12pc resulting in higher energy prices. Another hike in the cap could occur again next year.

While Rippon says he can manage the additional cost to his fuel bill, he states that many “on the fringe of things” will struggle to afford such soaring rates.

The campaigner described going to Hackney library to give debt advice to individuals affected by the bedroom tax, benefit caps, two child policies among other issues.

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His concern is now focused on how low-income and struggling people and families will be able to cope with rising energy bills on top of the many other difficulties they face.

Rippon's advice to people would usually be to look at switching their supplier to get a better tariff.

However he added: “But the thing is, if I just say that I’ll be faking it because I know the suppliers are going bust and now the suppliers themselves are saying were not going to be giving you any offers where you get discount – so what is the point of sticking to that narrative.”

Rippon says the moment there is a transfer from one supplier to another the cost of a person’s bill will go up.

“Because the whole idea of fixed tariffs and getting energy for a cheaper rate – those days are over completely over.

“And even if you have credit with your specific supplier it's fine, you will have it with your following provider.

“But the following provider will just charge more and put you on a variable tariff regardless of what your previous situation was.”

Rippon has begun giving talks about fuel poverty to raise awareness, having just lead a public meeting on November 10 organised by Hackney and Tower Hamlet’s group Positive Money and delivered by the group Universal Credit Action Network (UCAN).

“I want members of the public to be aware of what is going on,” he said.

He hopes that people, armed with the knowledge of what avenues and support is out there, can be better prepared if their supplier goes bust.

Rippon said: “So then it’s about getting creative and imaginative."

He says there is help out there in the form of debt advice, winter fuel allowance and support from local authorities, but adds that it is “just minimising damage”.

The campaigner says landlords should think about fuel efficiency such as insulating their properties and may be able to get vouchers from central government to do so.

Forms of help for residents include Winter Fuel Allowance, Cold Weather Payments, Warm Home Discounts and the Household Support Fund distributed by local councils.

It is also possible, in some of the worst cases for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to take money from someone’s benefits to be paid directly to a fuel provider.

Rippon adds that each supplier has grant schemes that can help people struggling to write off debt or for funds to pay for white goods such as fridge freezers.

Through his campaign work with UCAN he says: “We are looking at innovative ways to help those hard hit but it can be like getting blood out of a stone.”

To listen to Rippon Ray’s lecture on the fuel industry and knowing your rights if suppliers go bust visit www.onlineucan.org/2021/11/fuel-poverty-lecturer-organised-by.html

To learn more about the support available visit www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/cost-of-living-crisis-in-hackney-and-islington-8384644

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