Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2017: 17 February

Author: Richard Vale 13/02/2017

The National Energy Foundation, along with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Affordable Warmth Networks, is supporting the 2017 Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, which takes place on Friday 17 February. The day is part of a national campaign to highlight the struggle faced by millions of people in the UK, as well as drawing attention to the fantastic work being carried out to address this increasingly common issue.

According to Government statistics, 2.38 million households, representing over 10% of all households in England, are in fuel poverty, and the figure is growing. Rising fuel prices, the increasing cost of food and rent, stagnating wages and low levels of household energy efficiency are some of the key causes behind this emergent epidemic.

Since the issue has multiple causes, a holistic approach is required. Both assisting those in fuel poverty and preventing households from becoming fuel poor are key objectives of the National Energy Foundation. We do this by undertaking research into domestic energy use, working alongside local councils and our partner organisations to help householders save energy and money, and by providing impartial advice and guidance to residents at outreach events and through our Affordable Warmth Helpline.   

Gabby Mallett, Director of Household and Communities at the National Energy Foundation is convinced that many people could be lifted out of fuel poverty if a combination of support and measures were provided:

“Many people in fuel poverty don’t know how to get the support they need. Our Affordable Warmth Networks can provide advice on reducing energy use, help to switch supplier or tariff, signpost to income maximisation services and give practical help to access additional funding to install insulation and heating measures. A combination of all of these things can make a real difference and we are delighted to be offering this service.”

Fuel poverty is directly responsible for several thousand deaths per year, and costs the NHS an estimated £1.36 billion annually. Over the last year, we managed the Better Housing, Better Health project, which saw over 100 residents with cardiovascular or respiratory health conditions receive grants for a range of energy efficiency and heating measures. These included replacement boilers, insulation and improved ventilation.

The project took a multipronged approach. In addition to the installation of measures, income maximisation services were provided by Citizens Advice which saw £53,840 of fuel debt written off and for every £1 spent, £12 has been gained in additional benefits income for the most vulnerable residents.

Alex Steeland, the Senior Project Officer who managed the project, commented:

“Some people are more at risk of fuel poverty than others. Particularly at risk groups include the elderly, the disabled and those with long-term health conditions. This is because they tend to spend a large proportion of their time at home, so have to heat their properties for longer. They are also generally on lower incomes and their health conditions make them more susceptible to the cold. Better Housing, Better Health aimed to support individuals falling into these at risk groups to prevent and alleviate fuel poverty, and to reduce pressures on local medical and social services.”

The average amount needed to get out of fuel poverty, known as the ‘fuel poverty gap’ is estimated at £371 per year or around £1 per day. We therefore truly believe that a combination of small behavioural changes - for example, making sure your energy supplier and tariff are right for you, and ensuring your property is sufficiently insulated - can make a dramatic difference.

Our latest project, Keeping Kids Cosy, aims to provide energy efficiency and switching guidance to families with young children and couples this with a small grant scheme for measures such as loft insulation, draught-proofing and heating controls.

What’s more, so far, we've provided over 50 vulnerable families with ‘House-Warming’ Hampers, which are full of energy efficiency items including an energy monitor, LED lightbulbs, radiator reflector foil and power down plugs.

Find out more about the practical projects we've managed that have targeted fuel poverty and have had a positive impact on residents’ health and wellbeing.

We at the National Energy Foundation believe everyone can be more efficient and can cut their energy use and fuel bills. For an easy starting guide, please see our recent blog on New Year’s resolutions for saving energy at home or our web page featuring over 50 ways to save heat and fuel at home