Bonfield Review overlooks local level fuel poverty interventions

The Each Home Counts review, or Bonfield Review, was launched in 2015 to consider issues relating to consumer advice, protection, standards and enforcement in relation to home energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in the UK.

It makes 27 recommendations on the themes below:

  • Consumer advice and protection
  • Standards framework
  • Monitoring and enforcement

We regard the Bonfield Review as an important opportunity to lay out practical measures to support energy efficiency measures, with the intention to eradicate fuel poverty as one of the key motivators. However, while the review makes some helpful proposals we are concerned that some key factors have been overlooked.

Primarily, a lack of focus on the importance of local and bespoke, personalised advice and support, as well as a poor integration between local and national government in the development and delivery of the measures proposed.

EFPC response to the Bonfield Review outlines three key recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Advice for fuel poor customers, particularly those that are vulnerable, needs to be embedded in wider local referral networks.

Recommendation 2: Ensure that provision of a local holistic fuel poverty advice service is supported by and funded by all relevant departments i.e. Department of Health, DWP and BEIS.

Recommendation 3: Advice must be provided in a variety of formats: telephone, internet and face to face, including home visits from trusted intermediaries for the most vulnerable.

You can read EFPC response to the Bonfield Review and the full review itself here.

Advisory body calls for major funding injection to meet fuel poverty targets

Substantial investment is required if the government is to meet its fuel poverty targets according to its advisory body. The first report of the Committee on Fuel Poverty makes clear that the government must find £20bn if it is serious about meeting its legally binding fuel poverty target – that the energy standards of all fuel poor homes must be at least EPC C by 2030, the standard of homes built today.

The Committee also warns that without a substantial injection of funding, the government is likely to miss its two interim milestones set out in its 2015 Fuel Poverty Strategy, that is:

  • by 2020 no fuel poor household should live in a dangerously cold home – below EPC E; and
  • by 2025, no fuel poor household should live in a cold home – below EPC

The Committee makes 15 recommendations to government. As well as more money, it recommends re-introducing the Landlord’s Energy Savings Allowance; more financial assistance for households as they wait for energy efficiency improvements; improved targeting of fuel poor households through better data sharing; and improved energy advice.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the CFP’s report and its echoing our core concerns.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition is calling for the government to:

1. Make sure £20bn is invested in improving fuel poor homes, as recommended by the Committee

2. Hold a much-delayed parliamentary debate on fuel poverty as legally required, already overdue from May

3. Put in place a detailed cross-departmental strategy and plan to show how it will meet the 2030 target and interim milestones

More information on the recommendations of the report are summarised on our website and in the full report.

Read the End Fuel Poverty Coalition’s response to the Committee on Fuel Poverty’s report here.

Committee for Fuel Poverty releases its first annual report

The government’s advisory group on fuel poverty, the Committee for Fuel Poverty, this week released its first annual report after being established at the start of the year.

Tasked with advising government on fuel poverty policy, specifically the delivery of its Fuel Poverty Strategy, the report offers detailed analysis and a series of urgent recommendations in order for impending 2020 and 2030 government fuel poverty targets to be met.

Noting the closeness of the government’s 2020 target deadline, it makes a series of urgent recommendations to increase the efficiency, impact and likelihood of averting expected shortfalls in delivery and funding. Even with ramped up and more targeted action, the committee notes that to meet the 2020 milestones there would be a back-up of activity in 2018 and 2019.

Of particular note, the report recommends;

• A stronger emphasis on improvements in the targeting of fuel poor households, right down to being able to identify individual addresses to facilitate roll out of specific services and support.

• Better Data Sharing legislation to connect up information held across government departments.

• Moving expenditure from the full suite of Government fuel poverty programmes so that it is more focused on fuel poor households, to include Winter Fuel Payments, Cold Weather Payments and the Warm Home Discount.

• The provision of a ‘targeting efficiency metric’ for each fuel poverty programme.

• Fuel poor households to be given help with fuel bills until their homes are improved.

• A greater role for councils, charities and health agencies to work alongside fuel companies to delivery energy efficiency programmes.

• Investing into energy efficiency from National Infrastructure funds.

• Placing onus on private landlords to fund energy efficiency up to minimum standards in their properties.

More detailed analysis of the report will be provided by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, but in the meantime information on the Committee for Fuel Poverty and its report and recommendations can be found here, as well as the government’s 2015 fuel poverty strategy ‘Cutting the cost of keeping warm’ for reference.

Health and wellbeing boards failing to sufficiently tackle fuel poverty, NEA report outlines

EFPC member, National Energy Action, this week launched ‘Get Warm Soon?’, its report investigating the impact of health and wellbeing boards in England in their approach to tackling fuel poverty.

The report assesses how many health and wellbeing boards in England are including public health indicators on fuel poverty and excess winter deaths in their needs assessments and health and wellbeing strategies. It also assesses the extent to which health and wellbeing boards are applying National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommendations to reduce ill health associated with living in a cold home.

Find out more in the full report and executive summary.

While there are some signs for optimism, NEA’s findings show serious call for concern on the role and impact of health and wellbeing boards in tackling fuel poverty.

• 40% of health and wellbeing board strategies fail to address fuel poverty or excess winter deaths.

• Only 32% of health and wellbeing boards reference actions in their joint strategic needs assessments or strategy that are in line with at least one of the 12 NICE recommendations.

• 30% have some form of health and housing referral service in place to provide tailored solutions to people vulnerable to the cold, but only one fifth of boards reference such a service in their strategies.

• Evidence of procedures that make sure hospitals and other service providers do not discharge patients into cold homes is only available for 13% of boards.

• The majority of health and wellbeing boards are not yet playing the leadership role envisaged by NICE and Public Health England to address ill health from cold homes

• More optimistically, there is an increase in the number of boards prioritising fuel poverty as a health and wellbeing issue, with more than a third of boards now doing so.

‘Get Warm Soon?’ goes on to outline a series of recommendations, focusing on;

• Incorporating the NICE guidance into joint health and wellbeing strategies
• Improving public health leadership to tackle cold homes
• Improving accountability
• Implementing the NICE recommendations
• Tailoring fuel poverty schemes to address public health priorities

For more information contact NEA and read the full report or executive summary.

Launch of the EFPC Affordable Warmth Manifesto

9th September 2014, Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament

Launch of the EFPC Affordable Warmth Manifesto

Members of Parliament joined over 80 stakeholders at the launch of our ‘Ending cold homes: Affordable warmth’ manifesto. Our manifesto calls on the current and future governments to dramatically improve action to end fuel poverty and thereby improve people’s health and quality of life, reduce the cost of living, create jobs and negate carbon emissions.

Millions of people cannot afford to heat and power their homes and millions are suffering ill-health, stress and anxiety due to unaffordable fuel bills. Members of the EFPC believe that everybody has the right to a warm, dry home that they can afford to heat and power.

The Affordable Warmth Manifesto calls for:

  1. Improvements to the homes of all low-income households to EPC C by 2025: Homes of all low-income households to meet standards close to those of homes built today (at least Energy Performance Certificate C)
  2. Energy efficiency to be an infrastructure priority: Make energy efficiency of our homes a central priority for investment in the country’s infrastructure and secure long term funding for this.
  3. A cross-departmental Fuel Poverty Strategy: Implement a strategy to end fuel poverty that sets targets for all relevant government departments and which works alongside policies on social well-being, health inequalities, housing affordability, climate change and poverty.
  4. Delivery of home improvements and a greater role for health and social workers: Use trusted agencies and organisations, such as local authorities, to improve homes and encourage health workers and social workers to refer people for home improvements to tackle cold-related ill-health.
  5. A better deal for low-income energy consumers and fuel bill rebates: A requirement placed on fuel companies to provide a better deal to those on low incomes, and rebates on fuel bills to all low-income consumers, with higher rebates for those in homes that are difficult to heat.
  6. Employment and income policies that allow people to afford essential services: Make sure employment and income policies – benefits, tax credits, state pensions, minimum wage – provide an income sufficient to meet current costs of living and reduce the proportion of household budgets required for essential goods and services, including energy.

Hosted by the Chair of the Coalition Jenny Holland, a panel of Coalition members; Ed Matthew from Energy Bill Revolution, Sophie Neuburg from Friends of the Earth, Mervyn Kohler from AgeUK and Peter Smith from National Energy Action, set out our 6 pledges to end the misery of cold homes. Sophie Neuburg welcomed the strong targets set out in the manifesto and Ed Matthew said that the economic return from investing in energy efficient infrastructure is equal to anything else the Government could invest in. Peter Smith highlighted the need for a cross-departmental fuel poverty strategy and Mervyn Kohler argued for giving resources to local authority and health workers to take action to address the health implications of cold homes.

In response to the 6 pledges in the manifesto, a cross-party panel; Jonathan Reynolds MP, the Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change; Stephen Lloyd MP, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey; and David Amess MP who introduced the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act in 2000 – gave us their support. Jonathan Reynolds promised to make fuel poverty a prominent feature of the Labour manifesto and committed to a major overhaul of ECO. Stephen Lloyd promised to make sure the six asks are reflected in the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto. David Amess promised to take the manifesto to Number 10 and called on everybody to make fuel poverty a major issue during The General Election campaign.

We very much hope that the political parties will support our manifesto and work together to tackle fuel poverty. We are keen for new members to join the coalition.  Please support the EFPC in our campaign to end cold homes.  If you want to pledge your support please sign up on our website or email efpc@connectpa.co.uk for more information.

Launch of the EFPC Affordable Warmth Manifesto
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition manifesto was launched in Parliament on 9 September 2014. Hosted by Chris Williamson MP.

Please click here to view our manifesto.

Report on energy efficiency for HMOs

The Future Climate and the Centre for Urban Research and Energy at the University of Manchester has published this significant report on energy efficiency for Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) and how to implement a specific policy for tackling fuel poverty.

The report finds that there is a strong case for additional regulatory protection from the cold for HMO residents. It recommends including HMOs within the Government’s minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector. Please click here to read more!

First triennial review report

The Governement has today published First triennial review report: Fuel Poverty Advisory Group for England

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition welcomes the government’s recognition that improving homes to high energy standards is central to ending fuel poverty in the long term. But its strategy is riddled with escape clauses. The government says it will only improve homes ‘where reasonably practicable’. It was these words that rendered the last fuel poverty target virtually meaningless. The target must be met for all low income households with exemptions only given in exceptional circumstances. And it must meet the target by 2025, not 2030 as the government proposes. Without these guarantees the proposed target leaves too much wriggle room for the government.

Please also find further responses from members of the coalition below (please click on links below):

AGE UK Report: Reducing Fuel Poverty – A Scourge for Older People

EFPC supporter Age UK has this week published a new report which calls on the Government to urgently tackle the nation’s problem of fuel poverty by driving forward a massive energy efficiency programme. The report argues that the only long term solution to ending the fuel poverty crisis is to make people’s homes as energy efficient as possible so that households can keep adequately warm at an affordable cost.

Age UK is calling for the Government’s anticipated fuel poverty strategy to include:

  • Targets to make all homes ‘fuel poverty proof’ – improving homes to a modern standard of energy efficiency, making them affordable to keep adequately warm
  • Whole-house improvements – not just offering the single most energy efficient measure but doing more if this is needed to make a house affordable to heat
  • Area-based, locally driven programmes – these are more cost effective to deliver than ‘scatter-gun approaches’
  • Serious involvement from the NHS, recognising fuel poverty as a driver of ill health
  • Steps to tackle fuel poverty in rural areas as well as urban ones – fuel poverty is particularly prevalent in rural areas due to the high number of stone-built, solid wall properties and households who are off-mains gas.

Download the full report here

Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report

DECC has now published its Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics for 2014. The full statistical release can be found here.

Headline figures include:

  • More families are in “fuel poverty” than at any time for a decade;
  • The total number of all households in fuel poverty fell slightly in 2012, to 2.28 million – 10 per cent of all households – but is projected to have risen again by this year, to an estimated 2.33 million;
  • The so-called ‘fuel poverty gap’ – the amount of extra money a household would need in order to heat its home adequately and remain above the poverty line – is also estimated to have increased, from £443 in 2012 to £480 to 2014.