Current government policies introduced to tackle fuel poverty are failing to help the millions of people living in cold homes and, in some cases, are actually making the problems worse, according to a new report by the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA).
The report, Fuel Poverty: Ending the vicious cycle of vulnerability, released today (30 January 2018), says millions of people across the UK suffer from a range of physical and psychological issues because they live in fuel poverty.
Statistics from the Office for National Statistics reveal that cold homes kill over four times as many people as road and rail accidents, and nearly four times as many people as drug misuse. Each winter there are around 28,500 excess winter deaths, most of which the EUA says can be attributed to cold homes and people’s inability to heat their homes sufficiently.
In its report, the EUA recognises a number of issues that contribute to the problem including the digital divide, off-grid households, inefficient heating systems and the inability of the fuel-poor to access initiatives intended to help them. It also offers a number of practical solutions that the EUA says could help tackle this growing problem. These include:
- Establishing a nationwide boiler scrappage scheme to replace old or inefficient boilers, and refocusing the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) towards the replacement of so-called ‘zombie’ boilers
- Make it easier to identify and support fuel-poor households by encouraging data sharing between health agencies and entities within the social care and education sectors
- Facilitate connections to the gas grid for off-grid households, who are statistically more likely to be in fuel poverty. EUA says this could save houses an average of £922 per year on their energy bills
- Introduce legislation into the private rented sector and mandate landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties
- Create a unifying body that represents vulnerable groups across all sectors impacted by fuel poverty including government, health, the heating and energy industries, as well as charities that represent children, the elderly, people with mental health issues and those with English as a second language.
Mike Foster, former Government minister and chief executive of the EUA, says: “Despite policies being introduced and mechanisms put in place, fuel poverty remains a devastating reality for around 4 million households living in the United Kingdom who find themselves struggling to heat their homes. We have heard shocking anecdotes of people self-disconnecting, facing the ‘heat or eat dilemma’ or experiencing mental health problems or severe isolation as a result of their fuel-poor status from organisations working on the ground.
“Fuel poverty is a complex issue and our report suggests a range of proposals that can combat it. There needs to be an urgency among policy makers in order to tackle endemic fuel poverty; this really is a life or death scenario.”
The EUA’s new report, Fuel Poverty: Ending the vicious cycle of vulnerability can be found online here.