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Rise in fuel poverty is a looming ‘health and social crisis’

A million more households with children will be thrown into fuel poverty from April under the new cap
02 February 2022 , By Katie Coyne

CIEH and charity, End Fuel Poverty call for action, arguing that the UK’s reliance on fossil gas for heating and power is the root cause of fuel poverty, exacerbated by poor quality housing

As energy bills are set to triple in April, the CIEH has warned that fuel poverty is a health and social crisis and urgent action by the government is needed now.

Work by the independent think-tank the Resolution Foundation has found that the number of households in ‘fuel stress’ - spending at least 10% of their family income on energy bills - is set to triple to 6.3m households from the start of April. This is the date when the new energy price cap comes into effect. It is expected to rise by 51%, translating to a rise in maximum yearly energy costs from £1,277, under the previous cap, to £1,925.

The Foundation said the rise will mean it is no longer just the poorest households affected by fuel stress, but also low and middle-income families.

“Fuel poverty is a health and a social crisis. We need urgent government action to help those most in need now alongside long term and reliable investment in energy efficiency measures to improve the fabric of our homes.”

An ipaper investigation in January found that from 1 April, 2022 a million more households with dependent children will be thrown into fuel poverty. This means around 2.2m households with children will struggle to pay their energy bills – a rise of 74% from 2019.

Tamara Sandoul, CIEH Policy and Campaigns Manager said: “This is a particularly tough winter for so many households struggling with both the impact of high inflation and the cost of energy.

“It is particularly disheartening to hear that so many of those in fuel poverty are families with dependent children. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home. They are more likely to suffer from both physical and mental health conditions as a result.

“Fuel poverty is a health and a social crisis. We need urgent government action to help those most in need now alongside long term and reliable investment in energy efficiency measures to improve the fabric of our homes.”

The charity, End Fuel Poverty wrote to the prime minister in January calling for action to alleviate fuel poverty, backed with 27 signatures from a range of social charities as well as environmental organisations. They argued the “root cause” of the crisis is the UK’s “heavy reliance on fossil gas for heating and power” made worse by poor quality housing. They want to see emergency help for the most vulnerable households such as the expansion of the Warm Homes Discount funded via a windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry.

They wrote: “Over 85% of UK homes currently depend on fossil gas heating, and exposure to volatile international gas markets is exacerbated by our cold and leaky housing stock.

“The government must address these underlying drivers of the crisis by investing in a greener, fairer and healthier future. The path to long-term resilience and to tackle the climate crisis is to ensure all UK homes are well insulated, to shift off gas and to homegrown, sustainable, renewable energy.”

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