All of this goes to show you how hard it is for those on low incomes to enjoy the full fruits of citizenhood. In rural areas those afflicted by this situation are the most challenged of all when it comes to fuel poverty. This story tells us:

The gas and electricity costs faced by the poorest households are to be investigated by the energy watchdog following warnings that some struggling families cannot afford to warm up food.

Ofgem’s move comes after MPs said the worst-off – particularly those using prepayment meters – often had to choose between feeding the gas meter and putting food on the table.

The regulator is to examine whether low-income families are forced to pay more for light and heat because prepayment customers are offered a narrow range of tariffs and why they can be charged more than £200 just to switch to lower price rates.

Its moves were welcomed by Frank Field, the former minister who led the Feeding Britain inquiry into growing levels of hunger across the country, as a step toward a “fairer deal for the poor”.

Ofgem is to review the charges faced by households – up to £60 plus a “security deposit” of about £150 – which want to switch from a prepayment meter to a lower rate.

In a letter to the inquiry, Ofgem’s chief executive, Dermot Nolan, said these charges “can act as a barrier to accessing cheaper payment methods for those that cannot afford to pay them” and disclosed it was “reviewing supplier practices in this area”.

Households with prepayment meters are typically offered a selection of five fixed tariffs, compared with more than 30 offered to better-off families who pay their bills by standing order.

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