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Charity calls for Govt action over fuel poverty crisis

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The Government must take firm action to help the 4.5 million UK households in fuel poverty, warns Citizens Advice.
Charity calls for Govt action over fuel poverty crisis

This call to help households struggling to pay increasing monthly energy bills comes as the Department of Energy and Climate Change published new statistics showing that the UK’s so-called “fuel poverty gap” is widening, but the total number of people in fuel poverty has fallen.

The DECC said there were 4.5 million people in fuel poverty in 2011, a fall of 250,000 on the previous year.

But the fuel poverty gap, a new indicator of the depth of that poverty, went up over the same period.

Officials state that households who spend more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity are classified as in ‘fuel poverty’.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Hiding behind the tiny reduction in fuel poverty is the shocking news that 4.5 million households can’t afford properly heated homes, including 3.5 million with children, elderly, long-term sick and disabled people. Punishing price rises, falling incomes and severe weather mean that many more who are struggling will be pushed into poverty.

“The Government hasn’t put enough money into its Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grants scheme for it to make a real difference, and the Green Deal is practically powerless to help low-income households.

“The Government’s fuel poverty strategy must set out comprehensive plans to eradicate fuel poverty, including legally binding targets. Anything less will condemn millions to another winter in cold, damp and unhealthy homes.”

Citizens Advice is concerned that:

  • Less than half of ECO funding is ring fenced for fuel-poor households, meaning that many of the most vulnerable will be left without help.
  • Despite additional consumer protections, the Green Deal may be open to mis-selling and pressure selling.
  • Locking future occupiers into a contract which they did not set up, without any ability to renegotiate is unreasonable.

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