Help the Aged: Brown’s fuel measures are ‘flimsy and inadequate’

Help the Aged has slammed today’s government’s rescue package for vulnerable households facing hefty rises in their energy bills as “flimsy and inadequate”.

It led criticism from older people and anti-poverty groups that the plans would do little to help families fight fuel poverty.

Help the Aged warned the government’s statutory target to end fuel poverty for vulnerable people by 2010 would be missed by a “wide margin” and said that many of the measures were “half-baked”.

£1bn commitment

Gordon Brown today announced a £1bn joint commitment between the government and energy companies to assuage the recent dramatic increase in the cost of gas and electricity.

Around 11m older people and low-income households will be eligible for free loft and cavity wall insulation improvement. In addition, cold weather payments for low-income families this winter will rise from £8.50 to £25 per week and cuts in the Warm Front scheme, which offers financial assistance to pensioners and those on low incomes to improve their heating systems, will be reversed.

But Help the Aged special adviser Mervyn Kohler said the decision to put money back into Warm Front scheme made a “mockery” of the recent cuts.

He added: “If the government wants to meet its legal obligations to eradicate fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions, ministers are going to have to deliver a lot more than this.”

CPAG joins attack

Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Kate Green joined the criticism, saying: “We have both a long-term problem and an immediate crisis on fuel poverty, but the new package of measures is too modest on the former and does next to nothing to address the latter.  The government now has just a few weeks to avert a major crisis with over 5 million households in fuel poverty this winter.”

She said that it was vital that the government provided support for vulnerable families in next month’s pre-budget report.

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