Monday, 20 October 2014

Fighting Fuel Poverty

The impact of fuel poverty goes beyond financial consequences. Living in fuel poverty can affect people’s health, increasing the risk of common ailments such as colds, flu and respiratory infections including bronchitis. This has resulted in worryingly high excess winter death levels in Wales, with older people particularly susceptible.

There are indirect effects: stress in children and adults, long-term depression and anxiety, social exclusion, damaged health and life chances for families and individuals and reduced educational attainment.

Moreover, there are broader budget implications for education, employment and health services in Wales.

You are in fuel poverty if 10% or more of your household income is spent on energy.

The causes of fuel poverty are equally complex, requiring a person centred approach alongside energy efficiency measures.

In 2012, 30% of households in Wales were living in fuel poverty, equating to 386,000 homes. Nearly 85% of these are vulnerable households, containing a child, older person or someone with a disability or chronic illness.

Energy efficiency is not the only way of helping fuel poor households and further opportunities exist, including helping people to find the best energy deal and to maximise their income.

True partnership working is key to finding those who are hardest to reach, ensuring that they receive all the help they are entitled to and developing solutions to meet their needs and situation.

No one agency can provide all the solutions to a complex problem affecting people with diverse circumstances. However, a central movement such as Care & Repair Cymru can guide people in the right direction to obtain the help they need.

Last year, Care & Repair agencies gave energy advice to 1,800 older people and 1,000 older people who had damp in their home. Amongst other things, they can advise on whether you are eligible for a £140 Warm Home Discount on your electricity bill and how, as a pensioner, you can join your energy supplier’s Priority Services Register.

If you require help or are unsure about the help you can receive, then contact Care & Repair for free advice on 0300 111 3333.

Mark Isherwood AM 
Chair of the Cross Party Group on Fuel Poverty sponsored by NEA Cymru and Citizens Advice Cymru 

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