Five Questions On: Fuel poverty


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The Independent Online

Has it risen again?

 Actually it's fallen by 5 per cent, according to the latest government figures.

But how can that be when energy prices have been soaring?

They have changed the way they measure it to take into account households with both high energy bills and low incomes. Under the old measure, which included everybody who had to spend more than 10 per cent of their income to heat their homes properly, some 4.5 million English households were in fuel poverty in 2012, a huge increase on the 3.2 million in 2011 and almost double the number – 2.28 million – included in the new measure.

So it's still a major problem?

It is, especially as it is a contributory factory in the 24,000 excess winter deaths in 2013 reported by other official figures yesterday. The figures prompted Age UK to point out that the health implications of living in cold homes are well-established, ranging from cardiovascular and respiratory disease to depression, at an estimated cost to the National Health Service of £1.36bn a year.

So what can we do about it?

We need improvements to homes to make them more energy-efficient, say charities. Age UK is calling for an energy efficiency programme to bring housing up to standard, which it says could lift nine out of 10 homes out of fuel poverty as well as greatly reducing people's bills. Friends of the Earth wants a publicly funded programme to insulate every low-income home in the country. "Slashing energy waste would save households hundreds of pounds every year and would create jobs, tackle climate change and reduce our reliance on overseas fossil fuels," it says.

What will the Government do?

Politicians will continue to make sympathetic noises, while allowing the scandal to continue.

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