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Fuel poverty’s up again

Through our sunless lanes creeps Poverty with her hungry eyes,
Sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us in the morning and Shame sits with us at night.

There’s a lot to like about social media – Twitter, Facebook etc. There’s also a lot not to like – the online abuse of JK Rowling and a radiator salesman who just happens to have the same name as one of the BBC’s newest, least experienced, football commentators spring to mind.

However one of the things I do really like about it is the way it brings me into contact with people, articles and blogs that I might otherwise miss.

This week, for example, there’s a blog I’ve just started following, written by a stay-at-home Dad and how he’s dealing with the financial fallout of rising bills, redundancy and lower household income.

This week the blog (SkintDad) looks at the issue of spiralling household budgets, with help from some figures from t he national Debt Helpline.

In the last seven years, the number of people contacting the helpline has rocketed. Only to be expected, you’d think since we are only just emerging from a really long, really quite painful recession.

But what’s interesting – in a scary way – is that the biggest rise in requests for help is for people struggling with household bills rather than loans and credit card debts.

Energy prices have increased by something like 36% in the last three or four years. That means that even if people used exactly the same amount of electricity and gas as they did in 2010, they are still paying over a third more on their bills than they did.

Fuel poverty is increasing DECC own projections show that it has grown from 2.28 million households in 2012 to 2.33 million this year. ACE, the Association for the Conservation of Energy says: “despite these figures, a long-awaited new fuel poverty strategy – first promised before Easter – has still not appeared, and support for the fuel poor under the Energy Company Obligation has been significantly reduced.”

The best way for people to spend less on their fuel bills is to use less of it. And the best way of them spending less of it is to have decent, well insulated, well-built homes, that keep the heat in in the winter and the heat out in the Summer.

Alas, it seems that instead of actively going out there to set up a strategy to sort this out, the Government has spent the last four years tweaking their response, in order to make fuel poverty seem less severe. Instead of tackling the fuel poverty scandal, the Government have wasted four years redefining it to make it seem less severe.

Still, I had a call in the middle of writing this from a call-centre wanting to know if I was aware of the Green deal and how I could get some money back from the Government if I replace my ancient boiler. So someone is doing something.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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