Getting Warm Homes done
Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns at NEA reflects on this weeks budget.
Like most people who have been working to tackle fuel poverty for a fair amount of time, I’m used to budget day being somewhat underwhelming. There’s always a little spark of hope, the thought that perhaps this time there might be some good news, some kind of surprise policy left-fielder. But without anything to back it up it’s a bit like buying a lottery ticket and waiting for the results to come in: you know it could technically be you, but it’s highly unlikely.
This year was different. In November we had a manifesto from the Conservative Party pledging to spend billions on improving energy efficiency, including a £2.5bn ‘Home Upgrade Grant Scheme’ to improve heating and insulation in fuel-poor households. Then we had a general election resulting in a majority Government with a Queen’s Speech reaffirming that commitment. There are never any certainties in politics but we dared to hope – that maybe this year the odds would swing in our favour.
In the end however, despite making all of the right noises, there was nothing but deafening silence as far as energy efficiency upgrades for fuel poor homes were concerned. There are other events commanding an emergency response of course, and at least some attention has been given to trying to protect the most vulnerable from a global outbreak. But it’s hard to understand how patching up potholes can be more of a priority than keeping millions of people warm and safe in their homes. It’s also hard to see how the Government will meet its own targets to end fuel poverty and tackle the climate emergency without funding heating and insulation in the homes of people who can barely afford the basics let alone undertake major home improvements.
At NEA we’re a pretty optimistic bunch, and we know there will be other opportunities in the near-term for the Government to commit to doing what it said it would. But we also know that time is running out, that each opportunity missed reduces the chances of achieving the desired outcomes, and that without adequate funding these ambitions amount to nothing more than warm words. In the meantime millions of people have no option but to live in cold, dangerous homes that are damaging their health and preventing them from thriving.
As I’m writing I’m reminded of another lottery analogy – from a beneficiary of ours who equated receiving a new heating system to being ‘like a lottery win’. Warmth shouldn’t be something we hope to win but never really expect to get. Time for the Government to Get Warm Homes Done.