ensure nobody is forced to live in a cold home were seen today by
energy minister Brian Wilson during Warm Homes Week.
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
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
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
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
- ensure that Scotland's pensioner households and social sector
tenants all live in centrally heated and well insulated homes by
- help 30,000 fuel poor households in Wales under the HEES scheme by
- help at least 40,000 fuel poor households in Northern Ireland by
2006, using the Domestic Energy Efficiency Scheme and partnership
- 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
- 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
- funds a pilot study into the impact on health of improving heating
and insulation in homes.