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Committee calls for more help for fuel poor homes

A government quango has called for the winter fuel payment scheme to be extended to help fuel poor households.

The Committee on Fuel Poverty’s second annual report warns of the slow progress being made to upgrade homes and recommends fuel poor households receive ‘at least the same levels of assistance’ through the winter fuel payment scheme to pay their bills as pensioners.

It claims less than 10% of the money from the scheme and the warm home discount go to fuel poor households.

‘The majority is received by pensioners who have a median equivalised after housing cost income of twice the level of those in fuel poverty,’ the report states.

‘We were therefore pleased to see that the government’s manifesto included a commitment to means test winter fuel payments and also the previous government’s intention to consider making further improvements to the delivery of warm home discounts.’

But the report notes there are ‘no current plans’ to amend the winter fuel payment scheme.

According to the report, progress in upgrading as many fuel poor homes to Band C or above by 2030 is slow and warned the government’s own projections show 11% of such homes will be at this level by 2019.

The report also questions whether enough funding is in place to upgrade the energy efficiency of fuel poor homes.

Using the 2017 BEIS fuel poverty statistics, it estimates £15.4bn will be needed after March 2019 to install the necessary measures.

But it claims only £1bn could be available up to when the Energy Company Obligation ends in September 2022.

The director of policy and research at National Energy Action, Peter Smith, commented: ‘The report also rightly notes that progress is being made towards our fuel poverty strategy “milestones” but based on current progress there is a risk thousands of fuel poor households in the worst properties could still be suffering long after 2020.

‘Without adequate resources the report notes the final 2030 target could also be missed by some distance. Like the committee, we now want to see the UK government re-target existing schemes on those that need the most support and, where needed, commit to additional investment to achieve our national goals,’ added Mr Smith.

‘The good news is there is strong cross-party consensus on the need for more ambitious policies,’ he added. ‘There is also a strong case for central investment and domestic energy efficiency should be regarded as a hugely important infrastructure priority.

‘This would help the UK and national governments meet their fuel poverty and carbon targets and more generally will reduce the cost to energy consumers of the transition to a low carbon energy system as well as creating economic growth in all parts of the UK. This approach is also supported by a growing number of non-departmental public bodies, academics, industry and NGOs.’

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