Fuel poverty is the condition by which a household is unable to afford to heat their home to an adequate temperature.
It is caused by low income, high fuel prices, poor energy efficiency, unaffordable housing prices and poor quality private rental housing.
In England, the ‘Low Income, Low Energy Efficiency’ indictor is used to determine fuel poverty. Under this, a household is considered fuel poor if;
- They are living in a property with a fuel poverty energy efficiency rating of band D or below
- When they spend the required amount to heat their home, they are left with a residual income below the official poverty line
The depth of fuel poverty is measured by the fuel poverty gap, which is a measure of the additional fuel costs a fuel poor household faces in order to be determined non-fuel poor.
The cold facts
- 3.66 million – The number of households in fuel poverty according to the latest definition
- 488,000 – The number of households due to come into fuel poverty due to the latest price cap rise from 1 October 2021
- c.11,400 – Winter deaths caused by cold homes (NEA).
- Nearly half of low-income households are still living in energy-leaking homes, with campaigners warning the rate of improvements is well below what is needed to lift people out of fuel poverty by a target date of 2030.
Links with Covid-19
- Fuel poverty puts households more at risk from the worst effects of Covid-19.
- Public Health England (PHE) have declared that there is “clear evidence on the links between cold temperatures and respiratory problems. Resistance to respiratory infections is lowered by cool temperatures and can increase the risk of respiratory illness.”
- Damp and mould are associated with a 30-50 per cent increase in respiratory problems (Ruse & Garlick, 2018)
- Meanwhile, warm homes enable immune systems to better fight off viruses, improve the likelihood of people with viruses only suffering ‘mild’ symptoms and help improve the recovery process.
- Reducing preventable ill health arising from cold homes will be vital in protecting NHS and care services.
Ill health and death (pre-Covid pandemic figures)
- Respiratory, cardiovascular and circulatory disease, accidental injury and poorer mental health – The impacts cold homes can have on our health (PHE)
- £3.6 million – How much fuel poverty costs the health service every day
- 32,000 – The average number of excess deaths experienced in the UK each year between December and March. More people die from cold homes than they do alcohol, Parkinson’s Disease or traffic accidents
- 3,200 – The number of UK excess winter deaths directly linked to the experience of fuel poverty
- 142,280 – The number of excess winter deaths experienced in England since 2011
Harm to children and workers
- In children, it can lead to developmental problems and poor performance at school (NCB)
- It can lead to people taking days off work (IPPR)
- 96% – The percentage of fuel poor homes that are poorly insulated
- 61 – The number of years the Government will miss its target of upgrading all fuel poor homes in England to a EPC Band C
- £1.2 billion – How much it will cost per year to meet the Government’s target of upgrading all fuel poor homes in England to an EPC rating of Band C by 2030
- £640 million – The amount Government has committed each year to make the coldest homes more energy efficient
- 2030 – The date which the government has set to improve energy efficiency in our homes to help avoid dangerous climate change
- £8.7 billion – The economic return from insulating the UK’s housing stock
- 26% – The reduction in gas imports that could be achieved if all homes were made energy efficient (at least Band C)