Prof John Hills Fuel Poverty Review was presented at a meeting at Moseley Exchange on 2nd July. He has reported to the government that the present measure of fuel poverty, which is 10% of income spent on fuel is not helpful in identifying who is in fuel poverty, or how to find and help them (as it is mainly a reflection of movements in fuel prices and incomes).
He proposes that ‘fuel poor’ should in future mean living in a home that is hard to heat, such that anyone on a low income living there will be pushed into poverty. This means it would be possible to focus action on hard-to-heat homes with low income occupants.
The Winter Fuel Payment that goes to everyone over a certain age, regardless of their home, fuel use, or income level, is likely to be reallocated. This is a large sum that could be used to actually target “Low Income, High Cost” households. Instead of giving out money to subsidise fuel bills, the government would invest in making homes more fuel efficient, focussing on people in poverty. There is also substantial money from the fuel companies to be spent. A street-by-street approach would give economies of scale in doing energy saving work. This is the only way to reach carbon reduction targets and fuel poverty targets, says Prof Hills.
The ‘Stay Warm, Stay Well’ programme in Birmingham has been evaluated. It was successful at working through health professionals who know where the most vulnerable people are. Affordable Warmth can be seen as a health prevention measure. People appreciated not just advice, but practical action, such as draught stripping etc by ‘green doctors’. Given more time and more resources, this approach could have a big impact.
There is an interest in having a joint Affordable Warmth campaign, with BCC (which is becoming responsible for public health), the health authorities and the voluntary sector. This means joint working, sharing information and using existing networks to reach people.