Majority of most vulnerable ‘blighted’ by fuel poverty

Most single pensioners and lone-parent families are affected by fuel poverty, a report has claimed.

Almost one in five UK households now pay more than ten per cent of their income on fuel costs, according to figures from a coalition of Age Concern, Child Poverty Action Group, and National Energy Action released ahead of an Ofgem summit tomorrow.

Some 600,000 households have fallen into fuel poverty in the last year alone – but only 100,000 homes will be assisted by new social tariff spending from energy firms outlined in this year’s Budget.

For someone aged 65 to 74 the average annual fuel bill now stands at £1,010 or 15 per cent of their income and ten per cent of a couple entitled to benefits income.

Loan parent families receiving state benefits now spend over 11 per cent of their income on electricity and gas.

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: “The government must really switch-on to ending fuel poverty. The figures show that it is failing miserably to help the poorest and most vulnerable pensioners and families affected.

“The action taken so far is nowhere near enough to help those pushed into fuel poverty this year, let alone in the future. The government’s fuel poverty strategy is in disarray.”

Paul Dornan, head of policy for Child Poverty Action Group, added: “The poorest families are already struggling to stay out of debt and are often forced to pay much higher than average rates for fuel through pre-payment meters.

“We need swift government action to protect poor children from fuel poverty, or families will be plunged into debt and left with unacceptable spending choices, like whether their child has a warm coat, a warm home, or a hot dinner.”

Ofgem’s summit on fuel poverty will be a round table event with environment secretary Hilary Benn and energy minister Malcolm Wicks attending alongside representatives from energy firms and charities.

The regulator hopes solid proposals will be borne from the summit.