The number of vulnerable households without adequate fuel has more than tripled in the past four years, the government’s Fuel Poverty Advisory Group has warned.
The group’s seventh report, published today, said that more than million households were in fuel poverty in September last year compared with 1.2 million in 2004. Around Half of these were pensioner households.
Average domestic fuel bills rose dramatically over the past five years, with combined gas and electricity bills increasing from £572 to £1,287 between January 2003 and September 2008, according to figures cited in the report.
The advisory group predicted that the growth in unemployment would have a negative impact on fuel poverty levels,
“even when compared to any positive impact arising from recent price cuts”.
It called on the government to spell out how it would meet its target of eradicating fuel poverty by 2016, ensure that the most vulnerable households got help with energy bills and increase benefits in line with real energy costs.
Responding to the report, energy minister David Kidney pointed out that the government had spent more than £20bn on policies and programmes to help tackle fuel poverty.
He added: “We know the challenge needs further action, and recognise that rising energy costs has reversed the downward trend on the number of households in fuel poverty. The transition to a low-carbon energy supply will also impact on consumers. We will be doing all we can to ease the burden on low-income households and provide the support required to be able to heat and power their homes at an affordable cost.”
Older people’s charity Age Concern and Help the Aged supported the advisory group’s recommendations.
Director Michelle Mitchell said: “It is imperative that a proper business plan and a route map to deal with thie elementary problem is prepared by and owned by the government as a whole. This needs to happen now – or more vulnerable older people will struggle to keep warm and well.”