Charity calls on UK Government to urgently introduce more assistance to help the poorest households living in the most expensive to heat homes
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24th February – for immediate release
- The UK Government has today released new fuel poverty statistics for England
- Charity National Energy Action (NEA) has already warned the data is two years out of date
- Despite this two-year lag, and despite the data showing a modest overall reduction in fuel poverty levels, now NEA warns it shows it would take over 60 years to meet the UK Government’s statutory commitments
- NEA estimates that the number of households in fuel poverty across the UK will increase to 6.5 million households in total in April, an increase of more than 50% in just over six months
- The charity says that after months of indecision the UK Government must now set out how they will protect fuel poor households from unprecedented increases in energy bills
Peter Smith, Director of Policy and Advocacy at National Energy Action (NEA), says:
“These statistics do not capture the recently announced huge hikes in energy bills. National Energy Action (NEA) estimates that the true number of households in fuel poverty across the UK will increase to 6.5 million households in total in April, an increase of more than 50% in just over six months.
“Despite a long lag in the Government data for England; these new statistics do shine a light on a hugely alarming lack of progress to meet the UK Government’s statutory fuel poverty commitments. By 2030 there should be no fuel poor households living in energy inefficient homes. But, based on current progress, instead of eight years, it will take over 60 years for that to happen. The Government also had a clear goal to improve the least efficient homes by 2020, but over 180,000 of the poorest households in England are languishing in the most expensive to heat homes.”
NEA has recently criticised the UK Government’s response to the current energy crisis, saying it is ‘woefully inadequate’. As well as addressing the worrying lack of sufficient emergency support for the energy crisis, in 2019 the Conservative party manifesto made a welcome commitment to help lower energy bills by investing £9.2bn in the energy efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals in England, including £2.5bn for the Home Upgrade Grant Scheme (HUG). HUG is vital as it targets low-income households in the least efficient, private tenure homes which are the most expensive to heat. But to date less than half of the Government’s 2019 manifesto pledge has been committed.
The UK Government also consulted last summer on welcome plans to extend and expand the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), Warm Home Discount (WHD) and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). NEA says these proposals were warmly welcomed by key stakeholders, but there has now been a long delay to implement these policies and further hiatus will continue to badly damage the health, wealth and well-being of the poorest households.
Peter Smith continues:
“Energy bills could soon reach up to £2,000 per year for the ‘average household’ but for those living in the least efficient homes the hikes will be much higher, possibility up to £3000, if they were to heat their homes to a healthy or reasonable level. The energy crisis should be a wake-up call to do far more to protect these households, but key programmes are missing in action. Fully honouring the manifesto commitments and delivering on their previous proposals would immediately help us get back on track. These statistics highlight why we haven’t got any time to waste.”
If this goes online please link to https://www.nea.org.uk/energy-crisis/fuel-poverty-statistics-explainer.
Notes to editors
- National Energy Action works across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to live in a warm, safe home. For more information visit www.nea.org.uk
- For further details of this release please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The new Government statistics are available here. In 2020, there were an estimated 13.2% of households (3.16 million) in fuel poverty in England under the Low Income Low Energy Efficiency (LILEE) metric, down from 13.4% in 2019 (3.18 million). The aggregate fuel poverty gap for England in 2020 was £705 million under the LILEE metric down by 2.8% since 2019 (£726 million) in real terms. The average fuel poverty gap for England in 2020 (the reduction in fuel costs needed for a household to not be in fuel poverty) was estimated at £223, down by 2.3% since 2019 (£229).
- These statistics show a small reduction in fuel poverty levels in England and indicate a divergence from our own current fuel poverty estimates. There are two main reasons why our projections diverge from the official fuel poverty statistics that will be published. 1)The official fuel poverty statistics published by BEIS lag two years behind and will relate to the number of fuel poor households in 2020 – at least two years before the current increases in energy prices. 2) The way in which fuel poverty is measured is different between the official statistics and NEA’s own measurement. This is explained more fully in our briefing https://www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Fuel-Poverty-explainer.pdf.
- The UK Government has a statutory target for all fuel poor households to reach Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2030 and a non-statutory milestone to reach EPC D by 2025.
- The updated fuel poverty strategy in England prompted key positive policy developments on programmes that can support these targets in England (and also across the rest of Great Britain), including an expanded GB – wide Energy Company Obligation, with 50% more funding than its predecessor that will help fuel poor households to reduce their energy demand, an expanded GB-wide Warm Home Discount, with 33% more funding and an extension to current minimum energy efficiency standards in the Private rented Sector (PRS). ECO and WHD were consulted upon last summer but the UK Government has not released its response to the consultation, despite the new schemes taking effect from April. The extension to MEES in the PRS was first committed to over five years ago and the consultations took place over a year ago but is still outstanding.
- NEA’s 6.5 million estimate does not take account of the UK Government’s planned £150 Council Tax relief in April, nor the impact of this October’s £200 ‘heat now pay later’ rebate. This is because many low-income households are already exempt from paying Council Tax but still struggle with the cost of essentials, including energy. In addition, there is a long lag until October’s £200 ‘heat now pay later’ rebate kicks in, which will also need to be repaid. For these reasons, assuming a £350 deduction in average costs would currently be a very generous assumption, however, if this support was enhanced and could then be factored in, NEA estimates the number would reduce from 6.5 million households in fuel poverty across the UK, to 5.5 million.
- Last winter Public Health England (PHE) warned there is a damaging overlap between the health impacts of living in a cold home and Covid-19. Pre-existing chronic medical conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and heart disease are particularly badly affected by a cold home.