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Fuel Poverty

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Fuel Poverty

Fuel Poverty is the name given to the people(s) that are unable to adequately keep their home heated. It is estimated that between 1.4 to 2 million homes in England are suffering from Fuel Poverty.

Fuel Poverty is caused not primarily by the increase in the cost of Gas, Oil and Coal, but also by home being poorly insulated. Inadequate and inefficient insulations caused heat to leak from doors, windows and walls. This in turn causes the household to spend more money to heat the home. The government has defined Fuel Poor homes as ones that spend 10% or more of their total income on heating their home and homes that spend 20% or more as Severely Fuel Poor.

While the cost of fuel, poor insulation and low income are all major contributors to Fuel Poverty there are demographic groups that are more likely to be living in Fuel Poverty.

  • Households that have an Energy Performance Certificate of E or below (to find out what your EPC is, visit
  • Homes with at least one person under the age of 16
  • Houses that include a person with a disability or chronic illness
  • Tenants in the private rental sector
  • Homes that use pre-payment electricity meters
  • Households that include at least one person over the age of 60
  • Households that are not connected to the Gas Mains (predominately in rural areas)

One of the major implications of living in a cold home is the increase of possible health problems. Living in a poorly heated home can increase your chances of getting colds and flu and exacerbates existing conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism as well as possible cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases. Children living in fuel poor homes are more susceptible to respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, asthma and bronchitis, which effects their education.

It is estimated that 10% of excess winter deaths in the elderly and those in ill health can be attributed to fuel poverty.

The number of homes that are fuel poor, varies depending on the region, Currently the West Midlands has the highest proportion of fuel poor households (around 13.8%) while the South East has the lowest (around 8.2%).

Region % of households in fuel poverty in the region % of all fuel poor households in England Aggregate fuel poverty gap in the region (£m) Average fuel poverty gap per fuel poor household (£)
East England 9.0% 9.3% 95 436
East Midlands 10.0% 8.6% 81 401
London 10.0% 13.9% 99 304
North East 12.0% 5.8% 34 255
North West 11.0% 14.3% 104 312
South East 8.0% 12.7% 117 395
South West 12.0% 11.7% 123 447
West Midlands 14.0% 13.6% 137 427
Yorkshire and the Humber 11.0% 10.2% 86 359
All 10.0% 100.0% 877 374

Table: Regional distribution of fuel poverty in England, LIHC definition, 2012 (DECC, 2014)2

To end Fuel Poverty, authorities will first need to identify those households that are suffering and their reason for suffering. One of the ways in which this is being done is via the GP network in the UK. GPs are in a unique position to identify people and households that are suffering the negative consequences of fuel poverty and are able to see that they get help.

If you would like more information on fuel poverty, please visit Fuel Poverty Action.

There are also national schemes and policies that could potentially help you and your family:

  • Winter Fuel Payments (only available to those over 65)
  • Cold Weather Payments (made during periods of very cold weather to help people to pay for extra heating costs, and are available to those in receipt of certain benefits)
  • Warm Home Discount Schemes (participating energy companies provide a discount (£140 for winter 2014-15) on the electricity bills of certain customers)


1 Hills J. (2012) Getting the measure of fuel poverty. CASE report 72. Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion for Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), p.27 of full report, based on evidence from the Marmot review team (see footnote 60)

2 DECC (2014) Fuel poverty detailed tables 2012. Detailed tables under the low income high costs indicator.

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