Fuel poverty has had numerous definitions some better than others but none can sum up the condition that occupants of over 10% of England’s households find themselves in.
Food or fuel shouldn’t be a choice anyone has to make but for many it is. As a Green Doctor Adviser visiting people who are living in fuel poverty it’s obvious that the problem is not limited to just one demographic or geographical area. Young and old, those in deprived areas and those who aren’t, whatever ethnic or social boundary you draw fuel poverty crosses it. Of course some are more likely to suffer than others; single parents, the unemployed and those whose income is lowest are much more likely to live in fuel poverty.
Meeting people reveals the causes of fuel poverty to be complex and often very different from each other. For some it’s a simple matter of not having enough money, others who can afford average heating costs cannot meet the costs of heating their very inefficient home. Bereavement, relationship breakdowns, health problems, redundancy, poor quality housing and many other situations can all lead into fuel poverty.
At one home I visited, the owners had replaced their single glazed windows with double glazed units. Unfortunately the work was poor and the windows were letting in large draughts leaving the owners out of pocket with an even colder house. More worrying still are the homes where the heating has broken down. For tenants of councils and housing associations emergency repairs ensure that boilers are fixed but for private owners and those privately renting the situation can be much bleaker.
As part of the Warmth for Wellbeing scheme we can help those living in fuel poverty in Leeds get access to free replacement boilers and repairs. This provides a real life line to those who can’t afford to fix a boiler. Unfortunately such schemes are not universal; creating the awful situations where you can’t help someone because of their post code. Warmth for Wellbeing is funded by Leeds city council and the NHS; fuel poverty has already reached the level where it’s cheaper to buy lots of people boilers than treat the health conditions caused by it.
The Green Doctor service provides measures and services some smaller some larger that together can make a real difference to someone struggling to heat their home. A typical visit may see a front door draught proofed saving £50 a year, four reflective radiator panels each saving £1 to £4 a year and four energy efficient light bulbs saving £50 a year. That’s over £100 per year on small efficiency savings! While these are being installed another Green Doctor could have found a cheaper energy provider saving another £200 or more a year. Additionally we will check the eligibility of everyone we visit for the Warm Homes Discount, this is £140 credited to your electricity bill and many people don’t even know they can get it! For many such savings can really mean a warm home during the winter when it was unaffordable before.
This post was written by Gareth Milsom using our Create an article for South Leeds Life page.