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Fuel poverty numbers set to soar amid coronavirus fallout

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15/07/2020
Tens of thousands of households could fall into fuel poverty as the economy struggles to recover from lockdown, which in turn will expose them to the worst effects of coronavirus, a coalition warns.

The number of households in fuel poverty is set to soar, with estimates suggesting 200,000 could be pushed into the group.

The End Fuel Poverty Coalition warns that being in fuel poverty puts households at more risk from the worst effects of Covid-19, as a future wave of the virus striking in the colder weather could be catastrophic for individuals and health services.

It comes as Public Health England declared there is “clear evidence on the links between cold temperatures and respiratory problems” and “resistance to respiratory infections is lowered by cool temperatures and can increase the risk of respiratory illness”.

As more people are staying at home and incomes are being squeezed, the coalition has launched a petition calling on the government to take urgent action to save lives and help address the financial impact of the current crisis.

It said 2.4 million households in England are already in fuel poverty due to low incomes, high fuel prices, poor energy efficiency and poor quality private rental housing. And with the effect of coronavirus, many more will be pushed into fuel poverty, especially as policy to end fuel poverty has been frozen for three years, the coalition said.

William Baker, from Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty and member of the coalition, said: “It has never been more important for the government to fix the roof while the sun is shining.

“While it is summer now, colder temperatures are on the way and hundreds of thousands more people will feel the harsh reality of fuel poverty. In just a few months we could see a perfect storm of cold homes, high winter fuel bills and a future wave of Covid-19 hitting the NHS during winter – a period when it always struggles to maintain services.”

‘Choice between heating and eating’

Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch.com, said: “This warning about fuel poverty is a sobering reminder of the less obvious, but equally dangerous, fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

“People have been using more energy than usual during lockdown, with the average household predicted to rack up an extra £195 a year in energy bills.

“For many people – especially the vulnerable – this extra cost will be a lot to bear, potentially forcing them to choose between heating or eating.”

Broomfield added that households should check whether they’re eligible for the Warm Home Discount, which last year was a £140 discount off electricity bills for vulnerable households.

For anyone on a supplier’s standard variable tariff, switching suppliers could see big savings of up to £479 according to uSwitch.

Broomfield said: “Making your home more energy efficient could also save you money and keep your home warm in the winter. Look out for more information about the Chancellor’s newly announced voucher scheme, which will pay up to £10,000 for heat-saving measures for vulnerable people.”

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