Identifying Fuel Poverty
Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is coming up, on the 15th February 2019. And as the wintery weather continues, it is important that we discuss the crisis of fuel poverty in the UK – an issue that perhaps gets overlooked or depoliticised as there are currently more salient topics dominating UK politics.
Households are said to be in fuel poverty when they do not have the means or income to adequately heat their homes. Cold homes are a huge risk to mental and physical health, and a study by the University College London (UCL) found that fuel poverty led to around 9,000 deaths across the country last winter alone.
A government report from 2018 suggested that over 1 in 10 UK homes currently live in fuel poverty, and that the number is increasing. The charity Age UK estimates that fuel poverty, where people cannot afford to heat their home, costs the NHS around £1.3 billion every year.
In Brighton and Hove, there are estimated to be around 16,000 households who are unable to afford to adequately heat their home during winter, which results in approximately 135 excess winter deaths each year.
On a national scale, the number of deaths related to cold homes is higher than road accidents, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse.
Addressing Fuel Poverty
Fuel poverty is a complicated and multifaceted issue with multiple possible causes, the main ones being low income, high energy costs and inefficiency in heating homes.
This makes it a difficult issue to tackle, as the methods must include challenging wider government policy to tackle poverty, confronting the monopolisation of the energy market and raising awareness and knowledge regarding making your home energy efficient.
In partnership with the local council, BHESCo offer free home energy surveys to vulnerable and low income homes to identify where heat is being lost and how to make homes more efficient with energy. For more info on this, visit https://bhesco.co.uk/blog/shine-energy-surveys.
A Crisis of Policy?
It is crucial that we’re aware of fuel poverty so that people struggling do not go unnoticed. We should view fuel poverty not as an inevitably, but a political crisis.
The crisis has deepened in the aftermath of austerity policies which have relentlessly attacked those with the least. At the same time as confronting more general government policy, we must also work to tackle the big energy companies that distort the market.
Jeremy Corbyn has proposed that a Labour government would bring in an immediate £1,000 price cap on energy bills, whilst a better system was worked out. Although this is very much a ‘quick fix’ and gets nowhere near the core of the issue, it would at least prevent energy companies charging extortionate prices.
Current policies like the Warm Home Discount are important and further subsidies should be made available to a wider group of people.
Furthermore, people struggling with balancing time and being low on money often don’t have the time to learn about programs like this that can support them; awareness is key and it is organisations like BHESCo that can spread helpful information amongst the people that need it.
Since 2015 BHESCo have advised over 1,500 local residents about their fuel bills, and helped to bring about combined savings of £130,000.
We can help you too. Just give us a call on 0800 999 6671 for expert energy advice you can trust.