Fuel poverty? It remains a scandal

 

Personal finance editor

I’ve written far too many times about the shaming scandal that many vulnerable older people are forced to choose between heating and eating because they can’t afford soaring energy bills.

The spotlight will be thrown back on the issue on Friday, which has been designated Fuel Poverty Awareness Day by the charity National Energy Action.

The constant refrain from the energy giants is to blame poor insulation of UK housing, suggesting that if we all had our houses properly insulated, the problems would disappear.

The Government recognised the situation and used to hand out grants to home owners to help with the cost of putting in decent insulation.

But the government-funded Warm Front scheme has now been replaced by another called Affordable Warmth, which is paid for by the energy companies and, in turn, presumably added to all of our bills! Critics say the new scheme, launched last year, is failing hard-up consumers and not getting help to those who need it, or even making some pay for home improvements.

But judging by an email I had last week from an i reader from Warminster, grants have never really worked. Wendy says her home qualified under the Warm Front scheme for free insulation.

“Our house qualified for draft proofing, as it is a 1730s cottage with no cavity walls,” Wendy  told me. “However, when the nominated private company visited, it said our cottage was too difficult to draft-proof because of its age.”

As a consequence Wendy and her husband, aged 70 and 80, are hit with a monthly electricity bill of about £225 (they don’t have gas). She also reported that her 90-year-old neighbour spends most of his pension on fuel bills.

“The problem is with the bills themselves, regardless of insulation,” Wendy says. “Elderly and vulnerable people simply need help with paying the bills.”

I agree. Forget grants and insulation. The real solution is to provide affordable energy to vulnerable people.

s.read@independent.co.uk

Twitter: @simonnread

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