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FIGHTING BACK THE COLD FOR LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS

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The results of government measures to combat 'fuel poverty' and...
The results of government measures to combat 'fuel poverty' and

ensure nobody is forced to live in a cold home were seen today by

energy minister Brian Wilson during Warm Homes Week.

Mr Wilson was visiting a family in Saltcoats that has recently

benefited from new loft insulation and draught proofing paid for

under a Government strategy aimed at removing low-income households

from fuel poverty.

Mr Wilson said:

'A number of schemes are now in place to ensure that no-one is forced

to live in cold homes when winter comes.

'Warm Homes Week raises awareness of fuel poverty schemes and helps

to alert people to the assistance that is available.

'Lower energy prices, higher incomes and better energy efficiency in

homes have removed close to two million households from fuel poverty

over the last few years, but there is a lot more to be done to ensure

that the vulnerable know they can get help and where they can get

it.'

Fuel poverty affects millions of households and tackling it is part

of a wider social exclusion agenda. The government published its UK

Fuel Poverty Strategy a year ago, with the goal of removing all

vulnerable households from fuel poverty by 2010, and all other

households from fuel poverty by 2016.

Over the last five years, up to two million households - half the total

estimated number of fuel poor - have been removed from fuel poverty

by improvements in their incomes and by lower energy prices.

Under the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy, grants are available in Scotland

under the Warm Deal and Central Heating Programmes (run by the

Scottish Executive), in England under the Warm Front Team (run by the

Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), in Wales

under the New Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (run by the National

Assembly for Wales), and in Northern Ireland under the Domestic

Energy Efficiency Scheme (run by the Northern Ireland Assembly when

in session).

Notes

1. Fuel poverty is defined as when a household needs to spend 10% or

more of its income to maintain an adequate standard of warmth (around

3.5% of income across all households). The most recent estimate

(based on modelling updates of 1996 data) is that there are about 4

million fuel poor households in the UK. The figures will be updated

by 2001 survey data early in 2003.

2. The main cause of fuel poverty in the UK is a combination of poor

energy efficiency in homes and low incomes. Fuel poverty damages

people's quality of life and imposes wider costs on the community.

The most direct effects are in relation to the health of people

living in cold homes. Although these risks apply to all people, older

people, children, and those who are disabled or have a long-term

illness are especially vulnerable. Typically, about 30,000 more

people die in the winter months in UK than would be expected from the

average death rate for rest of the year. This problem affects the UK

far more than other European countries, and poor housing has been

cited as one of the key causes. Illnesses such as influenza, heart

disease, and strokes are all exacerbated by the cold. Cold homes can

also promote the growth of fungi and numbers of house dust mites,

which have been linked to conditions such as asthma.

3. The government published in November 2001 its UK Fuel Poverty

Strategy setting out fuel poverty objectives, targets, and policies

to deliver those objectives. Energy minister Brian Wilson co-chairs

(with DEFRA minister Lord Whitty) the ministerial group responsible

for developing and taking forward the Strategy. The Devolved

Administrations are responsible for the practical programmes for

tackling fuel poverty, reflecting their roles in housing and energy

efficiency.

4. The goal of the government and the devolved administrations is to

seek an end to fuel poverty for vulnerable households by 2010, and,

as required by the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, to

remove all households from fuel poverty, as far as is practicable,

within 15 years of the publication of a strategy, by 2016. Achieving

this involves a range of policies and programmes - improving the

energy efficiency of fuel poor households; continuing action to

maintain the downward pressure on fuel bills (includes supporting the

development of energy industry initiatives to combat fuel poverty);

and continuing action to tackle poverty (including benefits uprating)

and social exclusion.

5. The Fuel Poverty Strategy sets interim targets to:

- assist 800,000 vulnerable households in England under the Home

Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) and ensure a further nearly 500,000

social sector properties are brought up to a decent standard, by

2004;

- ensure that Scotland's pensioner households and social sector

tenants all live in centrally heated and well insulated homes by

2006;

- help 30,000 fuel poor households in Wales under the HEES scheme by

2003; and

- help at least 40,000 fuel poor households in Northern Ireland by

2006, using the Domestic Energy Efficiency Scheme and partnership

programmes.

It also:

- brings together existing policies and budgets of central

government, local authorities and the devolved administrations to

provide a more coherent, better focused package of help;

- establishes 'Warm Zone' pilots to develop co-ordinated action on

the ground;

- sets up an external panel of experts to advise ministers on the

effectiveness of the programmes on the ground;

- commits the government to monitor progress and publish regular

reports;

- funds a pilot study into the impact on health of improving heating

and insulation in homes.

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