For immediate release: 13/04/22
New statistics highlight up to 45% of households in Wales now in fuel poverty
Charity warns more support needed to offset catastrophic impact for those in severe fuel poverty who are hardest hit by the energy crisis
New official Welsh Government fuel poverty estimates say up to 45% of households in Wales are now likely to be struggling to keep warm and safe at home, trapped in fuel poverty.
- 115,000 households (8%) are now living in severe fuel poverty, having to spend more than 20% of their income just to keep warm.
- Charity says the Welsh and UK governments need to boost assistance to prevent the energy crisis causing a ‘fuel poverty epidemic’ which could cause a ‘public health emergency’ this coming winter
Ben Saltmarsh, Head of Wales (NEA) says:
“These statistics are worse than feared. The energy crisis is having a catastrophic impact on households across Wales, with almost half of all households estimated to be in fuel poverty. Over 217,000 are living on the lowest incomes, struggling to keep warm and safe at home.
Worryingly, up to 115,000 households are in ‘severe fuel poverty’, having to spend more than 20% of their income just to keep warm. These people can do very little, if anything at all, to improve their own situation. Those on the lowest incomes, living in the leakiest homes, are simply being priced out of having essential warmth and power. With no slack in their budgets and nothing left to ration, their quality of life is plummeting. When the cold weather strikes this coming winter, it will have a grave impact on health and well-being.”
NEA says it and advice organisations across the country will try to do all that they can for those in greatest need, but they are at the limit of support they can provide. Further targeted support from the Welsh and UK governments will be needed to address the fuel poverty crisis.
“A crisis of this magnitude requires further, targeted intervention for those in the deepest fuel poverty from the Welsh Government, the UK Government and energy regulator if we are to avoid a fuel poverty epidemic. This could cause a public health emergency this winter leading to many needless deaths.”
NEA is urging the Welsh Government to continue its efforts to support those most in need, especially targeting help at those in severe fuel poverty who are likely to be on the lowest incomes, living in the least efficient homes. It is calling on the Welsh Government to:
- Ensure its Cold Weather Resilience Plan results in co-ordinated efforts across government, health, housing and third sectors to urgently prepare for winter, ready and able to jointly tackle fuel poverty before the cold weather sets in
- Ramp up its ‘claim what’s yours’ benefits take-up campaign to help maximise household incomes and raise awareness of available support
- Ensure the Warm Homes Programme is sufficiently equipped to lift households most in need out of fuel poverty, helping to insulate and make their homes sustainably warm.
Ben Saltmarsh adds:
“So far, the Welsh Government has been proactive in responding to this challenge. Action will include another welcome ‘Winter Fuel Support Scheme’ payment later this year, widened to reach more low-income households in need, including pensioners eligible for Pension Credit. It is key this is paid to as many eligible households as possible ahead of October, to help prevent people from going without heat and power in the coldest months.
However, much more urgent support is also needed from the UK Government. It has the resources to stand by the poorest households, but the measures it has announced to-date will do very little to shield those most in need from severe harm. The regulator Ofgem has also got to honour its obligations to better support vulnerable consumers to protect them from the worst of cold homes and overwhelming debt.”
NEA continues to call on the UK Government and Ofgem to:
- Exempt vulnerable households, in particular prepayment energy users, from paying the £40/year levy that is currently planned to re-pay the ‘heat now, pay later’ £200 energy bill rebate
- Provide additional support for low-income households ahead of next winter, for example through a bigger Warm Home Discount that directly supports more people, or by expanding the Winter Fuel Payment beyond pensioners
- Develop a social tariff that is additional to current energy market protections, providing a below-cost energy price to low-income households
- Help to clear utility debts through starting a payment matching scheme, matching every pound that a household makes towards their utility debt repayments.
Notes to editors
- For further details please contact email@example.com or 07884 371913.
- National Energy Action (NEA) 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/energy-crisis.
- As defined in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, in Wales a household is considered to be living “in fuel poverty” if a member of a household is living on a “lower income” in a home which cannot be kept “warm” at “reasonable cost”. As per the Welsh Government’s Tackling Fuel Poverty Plan 2021–2035, “Households needing to pay more than 10% of their full household income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime” are measured to be in fuel poverty. “Households needing to pay more than 20% of their full household income to maintain a satisfactory heating regime” are measured to be in severe fuel poverty. See gov.wales/tackling-fuel-poverty-2021-2035.
- The Welsh Government’s new fuel poverty estimates can be found here: https://gov.wales/fuel-poverty-modelled-estimates-wales-headline-results-october-2021-html. Please note that the figures given in the release are for the estimates for April 2022 and further statistics are available within the statistics report for October 2021.
- NEA has previously called on the Welsh Government to retain the ‘10%’ definition of fuel poverty but apply an income cap on those considered to be in fuel poverty. This would be based on 60% of the median income, as used in England and Scotland, and help focus efforts on those on the lowest incomes and most in need.
- In 2018, it was estimated that there were 155,000 households (12%) in fuel poverty in Wales, 32,000 of which were in severe fuel poverty (i.e. 2% of all households). There are now almost as many households in severe fuel poverty in Wales today, as there were in fuel poverty in 2018. See gov.wales/fuel-poverty-estimates-wales-2018.
- Under its Tackling Fuel Poverty Plan 2021–2035, the Welsh Government has set three targets, namely that by 2035: No households are estimated to be living in severe or persistent fuel poverty as far as reasonably practicable; Not more than 5% of households are estimated to be living in fuel poverty at any one time as far as reasonably practicable; and The number of all households ‘at risk’ of falling into fuel poverty will be more than halved based on the 2018 estimate. See gov.wales/tackling-fuel-poverty-2021-2035.
- The impact of fuel poverty on people’s health is acute. Sadly, hundreds of people die in Wales every year as a result of living in a cold home. The resulting impact of poor-quality housing on health services is estimated to cost the NHS in Wales approximately £95m every year. Conversely, Public Health Wales estimate that every £1 spent on improving warmth in vulnerable households results in £4 of health benefits. There could be close to 40% fewer hospital admissions for some cold-related illnesses in those with upgraded homes. See www.phw.nhs.wales/files/housing-and-health-reports/a-case-for-investment-report.
- The Warm Homes Programme is the Welsh Government’s key delivery mechanism to tackle fuel poverty. It has been widely acknowledged – including by Welsh Government – that the investment and scale of the Programme has not been sufficient to meet need or targets. Even by 2018 estimates of fuel poverty in Wales, the former Minister for Energy, Environment and Rural Affairs stated funding would need to be “more than doubled” in order to eradicate fuel poverty. See Fuel Poverty in Wales, Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee (2020) at https://senedd.wales/laid%20documents/cr-ld13147/cr-ld13147-e.pdf
- Regarding the UK Government, our briefing highlights the options to reduce costs for vulnerable consumers and the possible benefits they would have for different low-income households. See www.nea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/NEA-policy-briefing-supporting-vulnerable-energy-customers-this-winter-updated-260122.pdf