What is fuel poverty?
We should all be able to stay warm at home. However rising energy costs, low incomes and energy-inefficient homes are restricting people’s options, leaving them in impossible situations like having to choose to heat their home, feed their children or pay their rent.
As a result, around four million UK households are in the grip of fuel poverty, unable to afford to heat their homes to the temperature needed to keep warm and healthy. It’s a national injustice which sees those with the least money having no choice but to live in homes that are the most difficult and expensive to heat.
Cold homes can cause or worsen a range of serious health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, bronchitis, and asthma. Each year around 10,000 people die as a result of living in a cold home. Fuel poverty can also have a significant impact on mental health and is a known risk factor for suicide.
Cold homes are also preventing our children from thriving. Without a warm, quiet place to do their homework they can fall behind at school. A lack of hot water means they might avoid personal care, leading to bullying and social isolation. With no warm space to spend time with their family they can spend hours of the day alone in bed.
The collective impact on society is significant too. £1.3bn is spent each year on health services in England on treating illness caused by cold homes; and 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from housing.
Fuel poverty is not inevitable. The same systems that created the problem can be reshaped to build a society where everyone gets to live in a warm home.
Providing financial support to help struggling households improve the heating and insulation of their properties would make their homes easier and cheaper to heat, as well as reduce carbon emissions.
Vulnerable people can be supported to navigate the complexities of the energy market, and additional protections put in place to make sure they aren’t unfairly disadvantaged by policies and practices.
And welfare systems can be redesigned to help release more people from the grip of poverty.