What is fuel poverty?

Fuel poverty is at crisis levels and now affects 4.5 million UK households. Under the Low Income High Costs definition, a household is considered to be fuel poor if they have required fuel costs that are above average and, if they were to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line. Did you know that cold homes are currently a bigger killer across the UK then road accidents, alcohol or drug abuse? (NEA, 2015)

Fuel poverty is caused by three factors:

  • inadequate heating and insulation
  • low incomes
  • the continuing high cost of energy

Effects of Living in Fuel Poverty

Health Problems – The consequences of fuel poverty range from psychological stress, worry and social isolation, to causing or exacerbating serious illness such as respiratory and circulatory conditions. Over the next 15 years, it is predicted that over 125,000 premature deaths will occur as a result of people living in cold homes throughout the UK.

Suffering during Childhood – Statistics show that children living in inadequately heated households are more than twice as likely to suffer from conditions such as asthma and bronchitis as those living in appropriate temperatures (Friends of the Earth and Marmot, 2011). Indeed, the risk of experiencing ill health during childhood is 25% higher if the child grows up in poor housing (Harker, 2006).

The Choice between Heating and Eating – Those in fuel poverty often have to face the stark choice between spending what they need to heat their home adequately and falling into debt; or rationing their energy use and living in cold damp homes that are dangerous to their health. Others spend money on fuel and reduce their purchasing of other necessities, such as food. Statistics show that 20% of parents living in fuel poverty regularly go without food so that their children can eat (Cooper et al., 2014).

Who Does it Affect Most?

It is most prevalent among vulnerable households, including:

  • those on low incomes
  • people with children under the age of 16
  • people with disabilities or suffering from a long-term illness
  • older people

Fuel poverty can be particularly severe in rural areas where properties are often older, not suitable for cavity wall insulation, are off the gas network and have to rely on more expensive forms of heating.

Join us and Take Action!

NEA is the only national fuel poverty charity. We do not focus on one particular group of people; instead we offer services to anyone who cannot afford to heat their home. For more than 30 years we have helped thousands of households directly, and millions indirectly, to escape from fuel poverty, through our local project work and by campaigns that have influenced central and local government policies.

NEA may be small in comparison to other charities operating in the UK; but it is proven that we regularly ‘punch above our weight’ and make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people. With your support we can continue to do so into the future!

Published on 09-01-2020
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