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Fuel Poverty

October 25, 2013

finance

The weather is turning and we are all looking for our winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves. Most of us had to switch the heating on at some point over the past week to take the chill out of the air. Imagine however if you couldn’t just put the heating on when you felt a bit chilly because you were terrified that when the heating bill came in you simply could afford it. This is a problem facing thousands of Brits every year and hits the elderly and infirm particularly badly. Citizens Advice Bureau has noted a steep increase in people getting into fuel debts in recent years.

The average British fuel bill has reached the dizzy heights of over £1000 a year and for many people it’s the biggest bill they will have to pay all year. In the UK today there are large numbers of people that are struggling to keep warm. The definition of suffering from fuel poverty is if you spend more than 10% of your total house income on keeping your house warm. The figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change shockingly states that the number of people who are counted as in fuel poverty has doubled in the last 5 years. This equates to about one in six of all UK households – senior charity advocates have described these increases as a ‘national scandal’.

These figures were released a day after the treasury revealed that it has plans to reduce the emergency fuel bills from £25 to £8.50. These payments are made when the average temperature falls to freezing or below for 7 days in a row. People who are on pension credit or income support qualify for this. The government is also considering rising the age of people who qualify for winter fuel allowance from 60 to 66.

Campaigners would like see the government working with energy suppliers in order to assist the most susceptible families. Currently those on pre-payment meters or pay by cash are on the highest tariffs and people who use these tariffs tend to be the poorest.
Tom Lyon, energy expert at price comparison service, uSwitch.com, said: ‘This report reveals what we’ve always suspected – fuel poverty is a runaway train that is only going to gather momentum.’

It seems pretty insane in my opinion that in this day and age we can have over 4 million people living in fuel poverty. There is a fear that with the comprehensive spending review being released later this week that most vulnerable will be seriously affected.

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