Fuel Poverty Awareness Day
Friday 17th February is Fuel Poverty Awareness day, a nationally recognised day of action designed to raise awareness of the heating and insulation problems faced by low-income households across the British Isles.
The day comes at the end of almost three months of arduous campaigning (and the rest) by the charity National Energy Action (NEA) to highlight the issue of fuel poverty and its debilitating effects on the health of the poorest people in the country.
The charity aims to throw the importance of warm and comfortable homes into the spotlight and illustrate how putting an end to fuel poverty will improve the life chances of everybody – and for the entire weekend we’re getting involved here at Best Heating, so we thought we’d take a closer look at what fuel poverty is and how you can help.
What Is Fuel Poverty?
Fuel poverty exists when the members of a household cannot afford to heat their home to an acceptable level.
A household that is ‘fuel poor’ can be defined as one that ‘needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use, just to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth’ – Energy-UK.
The ‘standard of warmth’ in England is defined as 21°C in the living room and 18°C in any other occupied room in the home.
The definition is driven by three key factors: The household income, the cost of energy and the efficiency of the home itself.
Since the turn of the century (2001), the UK Government has been required by law to set out policies that will – ‘as far as is possible (whatever that means) – cut out fuel poverty’.
A number of different schemes and measures have been steadily introduced to contend with the problem but, to date, the number of households assessed to be in fuel poverty has not fallen in line with respective Government targets – something the NEA is working tirelessly to achieve.
A Cold Homes Crisis
It’s the vision of the NEA that ‘no one is living in fuel poverty’, yet when they launched their Warm Homes Campaign in November last year it came with a warning that – at current levels of delivery and funding – success won’t be achieved any time soon.
The Warm Homes Campaign shone some light on the fact that there are some four million UK households unable to access equal life chances because they live in a cold, damp home.
A child born into one of these four million properties is more than twice as likely to suffer from a variety of breathing problems – including bronchitis and asthma – and a whopping three times as likely to suffer from wheezing and respiratory illnesses.
The damp and cold environment also means that a child’s chances of developing a mental illness are much higher too, and – later in life – that same child will be at a greater risk of accidents, injuries and falls in the home.
With statistics such as these, it’s clear to see that cold homes are dramatically reducing the life chances of vulnerable people and, with treatments needed for a string of health-related conditions, is also placing a shocking strain on the public purse.
£3.6 Million A Day!
The NEA estimates that every local Health and Wellbeing Board in England is spending an average of over £27,000 every single day (about £10 million a year) on the treatment of patients with health conditions caused (or made worse) by living in cold, damp and harsh conditions.
Cold homes in the UK cost our health services £3.6 million A DAY and – in the last four years or so – over £5 BILLION has been spent (or wasted dependent upon your point of view) on trying to make a difference, while 117,000 people have died needlessly due to the cold.
The coalition of cross-party MPs – the Fuel Poverty & Energy Efficiency Group (FPEEG) – even has a graphic on their website that will tell you the fuel poverty figures in the individual constituencies that make up the British Isles.
Just type in your town or constituency name and you’ll get a results page for where you live that shows the percentage of fuel poverty households, the cost for the poorest houses to maintain a warm home, and even the number of deaths that have occurred due to fuel poverty.
As we’re based in Burnley, we felt it only right to look at the results for our own town and this is what we found –
Fuel Poverty by the Numbers
If there are 4 million homes affected by fuel poverty in Britain – as estimated by the NEA – that means that roughly 15% of all UK households are fuel poor – and that is one damning indictment of the current state of affairs in this country.
In England, where fuel poverty affects 2.39 million households, this figure is worked out by using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator – whereby the household’s fuel costs are above average and, if they were to spend that amount, the money they had left over would leave them well below the poverty line.
The devolved nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) still use the more traditional ten percent definition, so it’s hard to be sure just how many households there could really be, but based on the above metrics, it doesn’t make for good reading.
(Source: DECC, Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics, 2016. National Statistics)
As Theresa May likes to constantly re-assure us; “The UK is the fifth biggest economy in the world” – and that’s all well and good for the more affluent amongst us, but if we’re such a successful nation, why do we have 4 MILLION homes unable to afford to heat their homes?
Like I said above, the way they calculate these things makes it hard to accurately isolate the main reason for such high numbers, but common sense can help us to get to the root of the problem.
- Many households close to the fuel poverty line have seen a lower than average (UK) increase in disposable income – meaning they’re even more skint! – so they have slipped into fuel poverty.
- Fuel prices have increased more than the efficiency of our homes, so it’s costing more to heat homes that remain inadequately insulated – there’s a chocolate teapot analogy in there somewhere.
In short, people are not being paid enough to cover their fuel expenses and the homes that we currently reside in are so woefully inefficient, that the money we are spending on fuel is effectively being wasted because most of the heat escapes through the roof, the windows and elsewhere.
It really is a Catch 22 when you look at it like that.
There are also a number of other factors to consider that can contribute to the levels of fuel poverty.
These are just a few of the key points made in the 2016 Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, in relation to the types of dwellings that are being affected –
- Buildings with solid walls are more likely to house a family living in fuel poverty than those with cavity walls
- The older and larger a building, the higher the likelihood of fuel poverty when compared to smaller, newer dwellings.
- Homes with NO boiler or a non-condensing boiler have higher levels of fuel poverty than those homes with condensing boilers.
- The level of fuel poverty and the depth of the problem is exacerbated even further for those households that aren’t connected to the gas grid.
So it would appear that the energy rating of your home has a lot to do with whether or not you are likely to slip into fuel poverty.
1-in-5 (21%) households living in properties with an energy rating of E, F or G are fuel poor and it’s these homes that make up nearly half (44%) of all of the fuel poor households in the UK.
When you compare that to homes at the higher end of the energy rating scale – the A, B or C category homes, you’ll find that only 2% of households that live in this type of property are fuel poor – making up just 6% of the overall total.
Perhaps surprisingly, only 20% of all rental homes fall into the fuel poor category, making up just 36% of all fuel poor households in the UK.
The most damning fact about fuel poverty, though (in my humble opinion), is that more than three quarters (78%) of the households affected are classed as vulnerable – those housing children, the elderly or somebody with a long-term illness or disability.
That’s just unacceptable in the world’s fifth biggest economy!
So What Are We Going To Do About It?
It’s clear from the figures that the UK is lagging way behind the rest of the world on energy efficiency measures – particularly when it comes to insulating homes – and sadly, that looks to be an ongoing theme for some time to come.
In June of 2016, the Committee on Climate Change said that the UK “has no action plan” to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes, while the National Audit Office – that’s the people responsible for overseeing Government spending – has lamented the lack of investment for some time now.
The truth is, what we really need to end fuel poverty is lofty ambitions and a groundswell of goodwill to all men.
National and local government must begin to take a forward-thinking approach to ending the unnecessary cost and suffering caused by fuel poverty.
They have to look at ways of reducing bills and putting an end to the monopoly the BIG SIX energy companies currently hold over the industry.
As the average fuel poverty gap increased over the last decade, the biggest energy suppliers have come under increased pressure to do something about their prices.
In January 2016, it was estimated that an astonishing 70% of customers on standard tariffs were overpaying for their fuel to the tune of £300 a year!
This is all of TWO YEARS after Ofgem had referred the energy industry to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to be investigated – a move seen at the time as a stark admission that the industry needed to be overhauled and radically reformed.
Sadly, up to January 2017, not much has been reported upon because – as the CMA have claimed – the market is very complex and they ‘need to get it right’.
Help Us To Help The NEA
Now you know a little bit more about fuel poverty, perhaps you’re asking yourself ‘what can I do to help end fuel poverty?’.
Well, for the weekend of Friday 17th February, we’re offering 5% OFF every single order that you make – which is obviously great news for you, but even better news for NEA.
Because the 5% we knock off the cost of your new radiator, heated towel rail or accessory will go into a big pot (not literally) and, at the close of business on Monday 21st February, whatever’s in there will be donated to National Energy Action to help them in their fight to end fuel poverty.
So what are you waiting for?
We have loads of new products this year, so you’re sure to find something that can help you make a difference to your home heating and contribute to ending the suffering felt by millions of people in the UK suffering from fuel poverty.
Visit our store for all the latest deals and help us to make a difference!
Stay Safe & Happy Heating.
National Energy Action (NEA) is an independent registered national charity (Registration No.290511) seeking to end fuel poverty. Registered in England No. 1853927
For more information and to discover ways in which you can get involved and help NEA to raise money and awareness about fuel poverty, click here.
John loves reading design blogs and bringing those ideas to the Advice Centre in his own inimitable style. When he isn’t writing copy, you’ll find him reaching out to industry experts to get the latest on all the heating news.