NEA calls for Government to prepare now for impact of COVID-19 in a cold winter

Released: 30 April 2020
Contact: Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns / 07884371913


  • Latest fuel poverty figures for England show that 2.4 million households are in fuel poverty, representing 10.3% of all households in England
  • Major fuel poverty policy decisions on hold due to coronavirus response
  • Charity warns of impact of Covid 19 during a cold winter
  • Immediate steps to protect fuel poor households during Covid crisis

Today [30 April 2020] the UK government has released the latest statistical trends and analysis on fuel poverty in England, based on data from 2018. The report shows that the number of households in fuel poverty in England is estimated at 2.40 million, representing approximately 10.3 per cent of all English households. This is a reduction from 2.53 households last year.

The figures are based on 2018 data, with the Government stating that it does not yet have enough information to develop assumptions about the impact of Covid-19 on the numbers of households in fuel poverty. However, the huge increase in the number of people applying for Universal Credit, along with increases in average domestic energy consumption, implies that many more may be struggling with their energy costs.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action comments:

“Every year around 10,000 people die directly as a result of a cold home. Many thousands more who cannot afford to keep their homes warm are hospitalised, suffer from a severe respiratory condition or just shiver in damp, cold homes.

“Over the last decade more than 100,000 people in the UK have lost their lives to a cold home. It is chronicled each year in official excess winter death statistics. Unless the numbers are exceptional, that annual figure seems to be regarded as not ‘excessive’ at all, but within the bounds of some perverse statistical acceptability.

“The impact of Covid-19 is truly horrific. But we have been fortunate that, so far, the virus has struck hard during warmer weather.  The possible coincidence of a further wave in a cold winter should make us think long and hard about the steps we need to take to avoid the deadly collision between Covid-19 and fuel poverty related mortality.

“Among the many policy decisions delayed due to the coronavirus response are new Fuel Poverty Strategies, decisions on the main fuel poverty programmes and the centrality of domestic energy efficiency within an infrastructure strategy. The delay is understandable, and if used to make the hard connection between cold homes, ill health and vulnerability to early death, that delay could be beneficial.

“Cold homes create underlying medical conditions. They take thousands of lives. Deaths and suffering from fuel poverty are not novel, unimaginable or unprecedented. It is an annual catalogue of failure, as society and successive governments to protect the most vulnerable. We know the cause, the scale and the consequence. We know the solutions. At this precise moment we should be more alert to these issues than ever before.”

The charity is calling for five immediate actions to protect and support fuel poor households during the crisis:

  • The energy industry response to vulnerable energy consumers should be comprehensive and consistent
  • Government and the energy industry need to agree a support package for fuel poor households in energy debt and Ofgem should follow through with plans to ensure suppliers monitor and help address risk of self-disconnection before a possible second wave of the coronavirus this winter.
  • Government should immediately signal an extension to the warm homes discount programme for another year while it consults on the next phase of the programme
  • Government needs to ensure charities providing support to fuel poor households are in good shape to continue to do this over the winter
  • Government, local authorities, Public Health England and others should prepare a coordinated cold homes awareness campaign for next winter


 Notes for editors

  1. National Energy Action (NEA) is the national fuel poverty charity, working across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone can live in a warm home.
  2. The annual fuel poverty statistics report for 2020 (with 2018 data) is available at
  3. Excess winter deaths compare the number of deaths that occurred during the winter period with the average number of deaths occurring in the preceding August to November, and the following April to July. EWD due to cold homes are calculated as 30% of the overall figure (World Health Organisation, 2011).
  Eng & Wal Scotland N. Ireland UK Cold Homes related
2009/2010 25,660 2,760 940 29,360 8808
2010/2011 25,960 2,450 740 29,150 8745
2011/2012 24,040 1,420 500 25,960 7788
2012/2013 31,150 2,000 560 33,710 10113
2013/2014 17,280 1,600 590 19,470 5841
2014/2015 43,720 4,060 870 48,650 14595
2015/2016 24,500 2,850 640 27,990 8397
2016/2017 34,410 2,720 960 38,090 11427
2017/2018 49,410 4,810 1,500 55,720 16716
2018/2019 23,200 2,060 25,260 7578
Total 299,330 26,730 7,300 333,360 100008

England and Wales
2018 to 2019 (provisional) and 2017 to 2018 (final)
Figure 1

Winter Mortality in Scotland 2018/19
Table 1

Northern Ireland
Tables for Excess Winter Mortality 2017/18
Table 5

  1. ‘Nearly a million Universal Credit claims in two weeks’ (BBC News)
  2. ‘Energy usage patterns during social distancing’ (Octopus Energy)
  3. Within the new statistics release, the Government says in light of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, that it has taken the decision to temporarily delay publication of the Government response to the fuel poverty strategy 2019 consultation. They now plan to publish the Government response to consultation, the updated Fuel Poverty Strategy for England and related documents later this year

For more information and enquiries please contact Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns, NEA – / 07884371913

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