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Fuel poverty: know the signs

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In the UK, 1 in 7 household are living in fuel poverty, unable to afford to effectively heat their homes. A situation made worse by high energy prices, dwindling household incomes and low standards of domestic energy efficiency including poor quality housing stock.

The government defines a household as fuel poor if they have fuel costs that are above average and, if they were to spend that amount, they would be left with an income below the official poverty line.

Living in a cold home can have longer-term impacts on health and wellbeing. Each year, £1.3bn is spent on health services in England for treating illnesses caused by cold homes. The most effected households tend to be those on low incomes, people with disabilities or suffering from a long-term illness and older people.

How has COVID-19 impacted fuel poverty?

A report by NEA found that the impact of COVID-19 on fuel poor households has been unparalleled, with people using more energy in the home but having less financial resource due to unemployment or furlough. With increased debt comes energy rationing, which is devastating at a time when staying warm is even more important than ever to staying healthy.

Accessing support has been more difficult during COVID-19, especially in households which are digitally excluded or speak English as an additional language. The restrictions have also caused reductions in services which could be helping people to have more affordable energy usage, such as smart meter/ECO installs.

It can be difficult to identify if someone is living in fuel poverty, but here are some signs you can look out for:

  • Wearing lots of clothes indoors
  • Staying in bed to keep warm
  • Complaining that home feels cold, damp or draughty
  • Respiratory problems such as asthma or a persistent cough
  • Complaining that energy bills are too high or owing money
  • Not understanding energy bills
  • Feeling isolated and unable to go out and socialise

If someone you know is struggling with high energy bills or finding it difficult to keep their home at a comfortable temperature, we may be able to help. Get in touch for free impartial energy advice.

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