Fuel poverty is the lack of adequate funds to pay for essential fuel services for the home, this can have significant economic and health impacts.
The three key factors that impact fuel poverty are income, fuel costs and the insulation of their home. In 2013 DECC reported that 30% of F and G rated homes held fuel poor households, compared with only 2% of A rated.
Why tackle fuel poverty?
Fuel poverty is a public health problem:
- Cold homes make respiratory conditions worse; asthma, COPD and infections can be significantly worsened by living in a cold home
- Children living in a cold home are more than twice as likely to suffer from breathing problems, including asthma – this can have a devastating impact on a child growing up, reducing participation in sports and limiting social activity. There is also a proven link between children growing up in cold homes, and suffering from problems with mental health and anxiety
- Mental health in adults is affected with reporting increases in depression and anxiety. Ability to socialise is limited, and as social interactions reduce then many of the low mood triggers are reinforced.
- ‘Everyday’ conditions such as colds, flu, arthritis and rheumatism can be made far worse, and develop into life-threatening conditions.
- Death occurs in excess figures, meaning that more people die in winter than should do according to the climate and the health of a community
- These factors cost the NHS billions of pounds in admissions, medication, time and operations; they cost the economy in terms of reduced output, lack of employment and reduced opportunity; the human cost is of course utterly immeasurable.
Cold homes are expensive:
- A home that leaks heat has higher fuel bills
- A home where the heating does not work efficiently is expensive
- Households may have to eat less or eat lower quality food in order to afford to heat their home adequately
- The national fuel poverty gap currently stands at just of £1.1BN, that is the shortfall of funding for all energy consumers to heat their homes properly.