Fuel poverty is a very real issue. As with food poverty, it affects every member of a low-income household. Fuel poverty can be defined as: ‘A situation where members of a household cannot afford to keep adequately warm at a reasonable cost, given their income.’ So, in a nutshell, the problem is high fuel bills coupled with poverty.
As always, it is those who are the most vulnerable in our society who are affected — the unemployed, those on low incomes and people living in energy inefficient homes are the ones most likely to face heating poverty.
While this has long been a problem in society, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge problems with unemployment, school closures and people placed on furlough. Spending more time at home means heating bills have automatically increased, particularly in winter. Many households, including families and individuals, have been financially hit by high energy bills and are faced with a choice between heating or food. This is one of the reasons for the increase in food banks.
Fuel poverty is generally measured by using the low income, high costs (LIHC) indicator. It stands to reason that energy price increases and stagnant wages leads to financial problems, and for many the money isn’t there to stay sufficiently warm.
What help is available for those who are struggling with fuel poverty?
- Those on state pensions or social security may qualify for winter fuel payments.
- The cold weather fuel allowance is available to those on certain benefits.
- Warm home discount schemes are available to some qualifying households.
- Talk to your energy supplier or shop around for the best value tariff to save money.
- Pre pay meters are an option to manage costs which helps people keep out of debt.
Being cold makes for a miserable existence. Heat poverty must be addressed before it causes severe health problems to those who are already struggling to survive.