As energy suppliers continue to raise their prices, the cost of energy bills is putting increased pressure on household budgets. And it's often the most vulnerable members of society that are hit the hardest.
On average, those in fuel poverty need an extra £321 1 a year just to be able to heat their homes. Without it they face having to make sacrifices like going without food in order to keep their homes warm, dry and safe.
What is fuel poverty?
Fuel poverty is when a household has energy costs that would leave them below the poverty line, if they were to pay them.
Many factors contribute towards fuel poverty, but those who are most likely to be affected are those on minimum or living wage, unemployed people, and those living in poorly insulated properties.
In fact, homes with the lowest energy efficiency rating (Band G) are twice as likely to be in fuel poverty. The ‘fuel poverty gap' (the amount of extra money they need to pay their bills) of Band G households is a whopping £1,597. That's 5 times more than the national average of £321.
Households living in fuel poverty
Band G households living in fuel poverty
What are the effects of fuel poverty?
People living in fuel poverty are often forced to ration their energy use. This means that they may only be able to afford to heat one or two rooms in their home or even have to choose between cooking a hot meal and turning on the heating.
Living in cold and damp conditions, can also have serious effects on their medical and even mental health. Respiratory problems like asthma can be made worse while the misery and discomfort of living in the dark and cold can lead to anxiety and depression.
Being in debt can also result in feelings of stress and anxiety. Many people who live in fuel poverty feel helpless and unable to see a way out of their situation.
Why Prepayment Meters don't help
Energy customers with a poor credit rating, or who have previously struggled to pay their bills, will often be fitted with a prepayment meter (PPM). The idea is that they help manage energy payments over time prepay tariffs can be as much as £200 a year more than standard tariffs.
This means that vulnerable customers are being forced to pay even more for their energy, putting extra strain on their already stretched budgets.
Paying for energy in advance also means that PPM customers are on a constant countdown to when their credit expires and their gas and electricity is switched off, often having to make financial sacrifices elsewhere in order to afford to top-up.
As result, more than a fifth (21%) of prepay energy customers are in fuel poverty.
Forces for Warmth
Latest figures show that 310,000 veterans are struggling to heat their homes, forcing them to go without heating and live in cold, damp conditions.
National Energy Action's (NEA) Forces for Warmth project provides vital support to both serving and ex-service personnel to help them combat fuel poverty by helping them to manage energy debts, switch energy supplier, make their homes warmer and more energy-efficient, and offering gives access to a crisis fund to help with top-ups for emergency energy measures and credit for prepayment meters.
No one should have to live in a cold home – especially veterans who've served our country. That's why we've joined forces with the NEA to support them in their work in helping support serving and ex-service personnel struggling with fuel poverty.