More than two million households are living in fuel poverty despite Government targets set in 2000 to end it by this year, according to an investigation by BBC’s Panorama programme. This includes 1 in 10 pensioners who still can’t afford heat to heat their homes adequately.
Our research last year found that one in two low income households are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work. Worryingly, of those households struggling with energy costs, nearly half (48%) had done so for more than a year. The knock-on effect is severe, with a third (33%) forced to skip meals and over a fifth (21%) experiencing stress and other mental health problems. Furthermore, nearly two-fifths (39%) are struggling with other essential bills.
Last year the Office of National Statistics reported that there were 44,000 excess winter deaths - the highest since 1999 with cold snaps partly blamed for those deaths.
The investigation revealed that the number of households living in fuel poverty might be even higher if the government had not changed its measure of fuel poverty in 2013. Prior to this a household was fuel poor if it spent more than 10 percent of its income to heat the home to an acceptable level of warmth.
In order to be classified as fuel poor now, a household has to have fuel costs more than the average and be left with an income below the poverty line. This means that under new measures there are 2.3 million people living in fuel poverty as opposed to 3.2 million under the old measures.
‘Existing government programmes remain inadequate’
In a statement, National Energy Action (NEA) said the BBC was right to highlight that in the 21st century people are becoming needlessly ill and dying because they live in cold homes. According to NEA there at least 4.5 million UK households unable to adequately heat their homes and making difficult choices about how to keep themselves or families warm, pay fuel debt, whether to heat just one room in their homes or even going without heating or power all winter.
The charity said: “It is clear that we also need the government to significantly increase investment in national programmes to help vulnerable and sick individuals improve insulation or fix their heating. Refocusing current resources on low income households will help but ultimately existing national programmes remain inadequate to fulfil current government targets in England or support other UK nations to eradicate fuel poverty.
If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, find out about the various schemes and grants that may be available to help towards the cost of energy from the ‘Energy Schemes’ section of our website.
If you are struggling financially, you can also use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal circumstances and needs.
The Your Situation section on our website contains information resources on benefits and grants and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find face-to-face advice in your local area.
BBC Panorama – Too poor to stay warm
BBC - Cold homes caused 9,000 deaths last winter, study suggests
National Energy Action press release