Despite a slight fall in the number of fuel poor older households in England in 2012, the Government’s annual fuel poverty report, released today, projects that levels of fuel poverty are once again set to rise.
Age UK has responded to these figures by publishing a new report. Reducing fuel poverty – a scourge for older people (PDF 580 KB) calls on the Government to urgently tackle the nation’s problem of fuel poverty by driving forward a massive energy efficiency programme.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS THE SOLUTION
The report argues that the only long term solution to ending the fuel poverty crisis is to make people’s homes as energy efficient as possible so that households can keep adequately warm at an affordable cost.
It’s very worrying that the Government’s progress in reducing the numbers of older people living in fuel poverty has been painfully slow in recent years. New schemes such as ECO and the Green Deal have been widely criticised and, above all, they are insufficiently ambitious to tackle the fuel poverty crisis we face. The Government is yet to publish its national fuel poverty strategy (for England), promised in the Energy Act, though it is expected soon.
In the report, we set out the criteria by which we will judge the Government’s and any other fuel poverty strategies that are issued over the next year, and we explain how we believe the scourge of fuel poverty should be tackled.
AGE UK’S CALL TO ACTION
Age UK is calling for the Government’s anticipated fuel poverty strategy to include:
- Targets to make all homes ‘fuel poverty proof’ – improving homes to a modern standard of energy efficiency, making them affordable to keep adequately warm
- Whole-house improvements – not just offering the single most energy efficient measure but doing more if this is needed to make a house affordable to heat
- Area-based, locally driven programmes – these are more cost effective to deliver than ‘scatter-gun approaches’
- Serious involvement from the NHS, recognising fuel poverty as a driver of ill health
- Steps to tackle fuel poverty in rural areas as well as urban ones – fuel poverty is particularly prevalent in rural areas due to the high number of stone-built, solid wall properties and households who are off-mains gas.
In the report, we also emphasise the importance of health outcomes to be at the heart of any new fuel poverty strategy and programme. The health implications of living in cold homes are well established, ranging from cardiovascular and respiratory disease to depression, at an estimated cost to the NHS of £1.36 billion a year.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can make real progress on fuel poverty and eventually we can end it, but only with renewed vision and ambition. We hope we will see this over the next year.