NEA: Worst among Equals: UK Governments categorically fail those in fuel poverty

An annual report that monitors fuel poverty across the UK has today been published, highlighting the fact that the relentless increase in the scale of fuel poverty across all four nations of the UK continues despite the efforts of the Westminster Government and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Fuel Poverty Monitor, written by experts from the UK’s leading fuel poverty charities National Energy Action and Energy Action Scotland with support from not-for-profit energy company Ebico, is unique in presenting an overview of the different problems and potential solutions experienced in the individual nations.

Whilst all four countries are experiencing high levels of fuel poverty the Monitor identifies a number of particular difficulties being faced by vulnerable households in the individual countries calling on the need for Government to provide a more concise and effective plan to tackle the problem.

Unprecedented energy price rises mean that more than 1 in 5 of all UK households currently lives in fuel poverty and at a time when the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy is in crisis, Government funding for key programmes is being reduced.

Ron Campbell, Chief Policy and Research Analyst for National Energy Action said:“The original UK Fuel Poverty Strategy was described as ‘representing the start of the road to the end of fuel poverty in the United Kingdom’, there is a consensus that in order to make meaningful progress in the right direction we are in urgent need of a ‘road map’. The map should set out milestones for progress and describe in some detail how these are to be reached and what actions are required, and by whom, to make these attainable.”

Elizabeth Gore, Deputy Director at Energy Action Scotland said: “What the Fuel Poverty Monitor shows is that fuel poverty policy is in crisis across the UK. With almost 6.5 million UK households in fuel poverty and energy prices continuing to rise, we need to ensure that policies prioritise the needs of low-income and vulnerable households to ensure that they are not left behind in the UK’s progression towards a low-carbon future.’”

Phil Levermore, MD of Ebico Ltd, the social enterprise energy company supporting the research agreed, commenting, “UK Government energy policy is supposed to address decarbonisation, energy security and affordability. This edition of the Fuel Poverty Monitor makes it clear that the needs of the fuel poor are lagging well behind in this priority list.”

ENDS

Editor’s notes.

1. National Energy Action and Energy Action Scotland are the UK’s leading fuel poverty charities campaigning for affordable warmth in the homes of vulnerable people. For further details visit http://www.nea.org.uk or www.eas.org.uk

2. Fuel poverty is defined as the need to spend over 10% of household income on fuel costs to maintain adequate warmth for health and comfort.

3. (Table) Number of fuel poor households nationally 2011.  

Countries of the United Kingdom

Number of fuel poor households in 2010

% of households in fuel poverty in 2010

Number of fuel poor households in 2011*

% of households in fuel poverty in 2011*

All households***

England^

4,021,000

17.80%

5,130,000

22.8%

22,530,000

Scotland

810,000

34.6%

810,000

34.6%

2,344,000

Wales

330,000

26%

330,000

26%

1,268,000

N. Ireland*

300,000

43.4%

300,000

43.4%

691,460

UK^^

5,465,310

20.3%

6,570,000

24.4%

26,833,460

GB^

5,163,000

19.7%

6,270,000

24%

26,142,000

^England projection based on notion that all six main suppliers increase their domestic fuel prices by a similar rate by September 2011.
^^The surveys employed to assess trends in fuel poverty nationally are not consistent nor is data collection well synchronised. Consequently it is difficult to be fully confident about the reliability of UK data at any given time.
Sources: ECHS 2001 + 2009; SHCS 2009/EAS 2010; BRE/LiW 2008; and NIHCS 2009
* updated October 2010 – source DSD based on NI House Condition Survey 2009
**updated August 2011 – source Cosumer Focus/CSE ‘Now cast for fuel poverty’ 2010
***ONS Social Trends 38 Regional Household Populations (2011)

All households***

4. The table below shows the latest official statistics relating to fuel poverty in England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland; however, it should be emphasized that there is a time lapse between collection and publication of this data. Consequently, the official figures fail to reflect the current position following a number of additional increases in the cost of domestic energy. NEA estimates that fuel poverty in the UK currently affects 6.5 million households.

Fuel poverty by nation – numbers and % of households

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

3,964,000 (18.4%)

770,000 (32.7%)

332,000 (26.0%)

302,000 (43.7%)

5. Whilst all four countries are experiencing high levels of fuel poverty the Monitor identifies a number of particular difficulties being faced by vulnerable households in the individual countries.

  1. In England, funding for the ‘flagship’ Warm Front programme, which provides heating and insulation grants for vulnerable private sector households, has been cut by 70% and will terminate completely in 2013. England will be uniquely disadvantaged in that, for the first time in more than thirty years, there will be no Government-funded grant scheme to fund heating and insulation measures.

  2. In Scotland, the longer heating season and consequent higher energy costs exacerbate the scale of fuel poverty and emphasise the need for additional support for households in Scotland in terms of both energy efficiency funding and support with fuel costs.

  3. The rural nature of much of the Welsh housing stock means not only that many of the properties are hard to treat but also that they are excluded from programmes aimed at disadvantaged communities because poverty tends to be dispersed in rural communities.

  4. Northern Ireland experiences the highest incidence of fuel poverty in the UK with 44% of all households being fuel poor. A major factor in this high incidence of fuel poverty is lack of access to mains gas and dependence on more expensive oil as a heating fuel.