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NEA: We MUST tackle fuel poverty

The fuel poverty charity NEA explains why fuel poverty should be top of the energy agenda.

NEA is the national fuel poverty charity which has delivered a wide range of services on behalf of central Government, relevant local and national agencies, local authorities, social housing providers and large and small businesses for over 30 years. We have a clear and focused mission to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to sufficient warmth in the home to ensure their health, comfort and well-being at an affordable cost. Here they talk about fuel poverty and why it’s a rising concern…

Why is fuel poverty an issue?

According to an independent review commissioned by the UK Government earlier this year, fuel poverty is damaging the health of millions of households.

In contrast to those who are able to afford domestic energy bills and occupy more energy efficient houses the fuel poor experience a number of detrimental health hazards and threats to their general well-being as a result of cold, damp living conditions. The good news is that by tackling fuel poverty it is not only possible to improve people’s lives, we can also improve local areas and enhance streetscapes, reduce national and local health and social care spending, put additional money back into the local economy and make a significant contribution to efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the UK housing stock.

The most common adverse health consequences of cold homes relate to cardiovascular and respiratory problems. However, low indoor temperatures
also diminish resistance to infections and prompt the incidence of damp and mould in the home. These issues are often associated with lower standards of energy efficiency. Beyond physical health, the evidence also indicates there is a link between low temperatures and poor mental health, with those living at low temperatures more likely to suffer from stress and be subject to psychological disorders. Social isolation among adults is also associated with cold homes.

Research also suggests that an inhospitable living environment can adversely affect children’s educational attainment and, more generally, leads to social isolation and a degree of disengagement from family and friends.

Addressing the health-related problems of cold homes currently costs health and social services more than £1 billion each year across the UK. It is vital that we communicate the need to ensure that all UK households deserve a safe, healthy and warm living environment and gain the public and political support necessary to ensure adequate financial resources, policies and programmes to finally resolve the problem of fuel poverty.

What’s our main concern?

In March 2013 the Government’s Warm Front scheme will come to a close, marking the end of more than thirty years of Treasury-funded support
for energy efficiency programmes to mitigate fuel poverty in England.

Yet, the Governments of both Scotland and Wales are maintaining and increasing funding for their own programmes to address the problem of cold homes.

Clearly the Treasury has a range of spending priorities; however, as noted above every time energy prices rise, the Treasury benefits from additional income from additional VAT. Fines imposed and collected by the energy regulator, Ofgem, along with relevant departmental underspends, are also often returned to the Treasury. On top of this, carbon tax revenues next year will rise significantly, potentially rising to £4 billion each year by 2020 and to £7 billion by 2027.

Without changing direction, it is likely this money will leave energy consumers subject to intense financial stress and energy-related debt and cost burdens on health and social services will soar.

NEA has consistently taken the view that heating and insulation improvements represent the only rational and sustainable solution in ensuring long-term affordable warmth. This is also where environmental and social objectives coincide. We are actively campaigning with a growing number of partners in advocating a sustainable model based on recycling existing and future energy-related revenues accruing to HM Treasury to fund an ambitious national domestic energy efficiency programme that can meet economic, social and environmental objectives. NEA believes that there could be no better deployment of these resources; not only could it significantly reduce fuel poverty and achieve major carbon emission reductions, it can create tens of thousands of green and local jobs.

NEA is supporting Big Energy Saving Week. For further information on the week visit http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
index/aboutus/bigenergysavingweek.htm.

For advice on how to access heating and insulation grants and other assistance contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 /
homeheathelpline.org.uk

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