Government £14bn short on measures to tackle fuel poverty

Around seven million homes in the UK will experience dire fuel poverty without a further £14bn package of emergency support, according to campaigners. [1]

Despite the Energy Price Guarantee, the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme and other support already announced, more help will be needed to prevent the severe health impacts of living in cold, damp homes crippling the NHS and causing excess winter deaths.

Even including the Energy Price Guarantee, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition calculates that the unit cost of gas has increased by between 153% and 165% since winter 2021, while the unit cost of electricity has increased 63-68%. [2]

The Warm This Winter campaign is now calling for additional financial and non-financial support for households this winter. [3]

Chief among the non-financial asks is an immediate suspension of all forced transfers of households onto more expensive pre-payment meters (PPMs), whether by court warrant or remotely via smart meters. [4]

Financially, Warm This Winter is calling for additional, targeted financial support measures to those who need it most. This would include a third cost of living payment of £325 for those on income linked benefits to be paid on 1 December.

Campaigners have also asked for a further £150 uplift in disability benefits, the restoration of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, increasing the energy bill support payments for people who do not have a mains gas connection and ensuring that all households who received the Warm Homes Discount last winter can access a £150 rebate this winter (regardless of the new process which now uses an algorithm to decide who benefits).

The cost of these additional financial measures would be around £14bn, but the Government could further help those with pre-existing health conditions by suspending all prescription charges in England and suspending any deductions to benefits to recover money owed for a variety of debts and advances, including energy bills.

Sarah Woolnough, CEO of Asthma + Lung UK, said:

With millions of homes set to be plunged into fuel poverty this winter, we’re extremely concerned that the nation’s lung health will rapidly deteriorate if the government doesn’t step up to help the most vulnerable.

If people cannot afford to heat their homes, they may be forced to live in freezing homes where cold and flu viruses can thrive. Cold air is a common trigger for people with lung conditions, with around two-thirds of people with asthma and COPD that we surveyed saying that it can make their symptoms worse.

We know that people with lung conditions are already struggling with price hikes – 1 in 5 that we surveyed said they’d had an asthma attack because of changes they’d made to their lives in response to the cost of living crisis, such as skipping meals, not picking up prescriptions, and using mains-powered medical machinery less. Things will only get worse when temperatures plummet and colds and viruses ramp up.

We need the government to do more for people with chronic health conditions, and to provide targeted financial support for people on low incomes and living with lung disease. Without these measures, there is the real risk that people will be forced to take major risks with their health this winter.

A spokesperson for the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, commented:

In addition to supporting households now, Government policy has created a cliff edge in April 2023, with the Energy Bills Support Scheme and additional Cost of Living Payments due to end.

This will result in the numbers of households in fuel poverty rising to almost eight million. The situation will be made worse if benefits are not uprated by inflation and if prescription charges increase.

Therefore the Government must also set out a medium term plan for financial support while we wait for longer term measures to take effect.

Cara Jenkinson, Cities Manager, Ashden said:

Poor quality homes that leak energy are currently causing the NHS £1.4bn a year as well as misery for people in damp, cold homes.

To solve fuel poverty for good, we need a rapid scale-up of home retrofit focused on the areas that need it most, with an investment in the construction skills needed so that work isn’t stalled by a lack of workers.

Tessa Khan, director of Uplift, said:

On top of everything else, this government’s plan to fix the UK’s energy system is also in disarray. We need a government prepared to tackle the crisis at its root, which means moving the UK off volatile fossil fuels with a national insulation programme to cut waste, and a massive acceleration in renewable energy, which is now nine times cheaper than gas. This is the only way to permanently lower energy bills.

The government needs to stop adding to our problems and fix the ones on their desk. This must begin today with providing more targeted help for those who are going to be hit hardest.

Other measures the government could take to support households stay warm this winter, include:

  • The launch of a centralised public information campaign to ensure people are aware of, and signed up to, the Priority Service Register.
  • Guidance to local authorities on best practice in using the Household Support Fund (HSF) to deliver free boiler repairs (where ECO criteria are not met), providing warm packs and financial support on non-means-tested benefits (e.g. ESA).
  • Work with charities and local authorities to increase the provision of energy advice (for example, single local point of contact for those struggling) and to develop guidance on how social prescribing could be used to help tackle fuel poverty.

Working with landlords, the Government could also support tenants in fuel poverty through:

  • Introducing a social rent cap, alongside ring-fenced funding to social landlords so that energy efficiency improvements are not sacrificed in the event of supply chain costs increasing.
  • Introducing a private sector rent freeze (similar to that introduced by the Scottish Government).
  • Urging local authorities to ensure landlords comply with existing private rented sector regulations – highlighting that enforcing these regulations is cost-neutral in the long term.


[1] Fuel poverty levels estimated by the End Fuel Poverty Coalition. For methodology and assumptions visit:

£14bn made up of:

– £325 to c.8m households – £2.6bn

– £150 to c.16m disabled households  – £2.4bn

– £20/week = £1040/year to c.8m households = £8.3bn

– Additional £150 for c.4m off gas households = £600m

– WHD ask = up to £160m

Full details of Warm This Winter are briefing available on request.

[2] Analysis by End Fuel Poverty Coalition on energy prices, full charts available on request.

[3] Warm this Winter is a new campaign demanding the government acts now to help tackle rising energy bills this winter and to ensure energy is affordable for everyone in the future. It is supported by leading anti-poverty and environmental organisations, including Save the Children, WWF and the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.

[4] The Government could do this by issuing a directive to energy firms and Ofgem instructing them to comply with the terms and conditions of pre-payment meter installations, with stringent enforcement and financial penalty for non-compliance. Given that installing these meters severely limits the amount of energy which can be used by these groups, it cannot be possible that installation of PPMs this winter meets the terms of Ofgem rules that PPMs can only be installed if it is “safe and reasonably practicable” to do so.