Fuel Poverty

Over the last few years, you might have heard the phrase “Fuel Poverty” ad nauseum. In fact, it’s almost become one of those phrases that’s used so often, it’s started to lose meaning.

So, we thought we’d break down what Fuel Poverty is, how it’s defined, if you or your home fall into it, and how you can get help if you need it.

Let’s start with that definition:

Fuel poverty is defined by “legislation for England and Wales in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, which regards a person in a fuel-poor household as someone on a low income, that cannot keep their home warm at a reasonable cost.”

The different countries making up the UK break down the specifics differently. In England, a house is considered to be in fuel poverty if the property has an Energy Efficiency Rating of Band D or below and if their income places them below the poverty line (see table below).

In real terms, according to 2021/22 figures published by the Department for Energy, Security and Net Zero, 13.4% of homes (equating to 3.26 properties) fall into fuel poverty. This number was expected to rise significantly during 2023, but figures have yet to confirm this.

Shockingly, 52.8% of ALL low-income properties fall into Fuel Poverty.

Here in Stoke-on-Trent, we have the second highest number of properties in Fuel Poverty in the country, with 22.1% of local properties affected. Key factors for this local trend are energy efficiency, income (which is lower than the national average in almost all sectors) and energy prices.

Working the problem

In December 2023, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet approved their 2023-2028 Fuel Poverty Strategy, which lays out the work the Council intends to do to tackle this problem locally.

Measures included:

  • Investment of £8.8 million in Central Heating Systems in Council owned properties
  • Further investment of £15 million to install Energy Efficiency measures including wall insulation, windows, doors, roofs and ventilation.
  • £3 million in funding to delivery measures to around 300 privately owned homes through the Local Authority Delivery Scheme.

Unitas will be working on a number of these projects, which well echo work already completed last Autumn on properties in Smallthorne:

Image shows three adjoined two-storey houses. All of these have white outer walls, black doors and windows. In front of them is green grass and the sky behind them is light grey and cloudy
Houses in Smallthorne, Stoke-on-Trent completed in 2023

We have also obtained ECO4 Funding and have formed partnerships with Phoenix Gas and Switchee to install over 1500 Switchee Smart Thermostats in Stoke-on-Trent City Council properties. As well as helping our customers control their heating to optimum effect, the devices feed back information which could help us and the City Council to pinpoint the properties at risk of Damp, Mould and Condensation AND Fuel Poverty.

Of those Switchee devices already installed, data has indicated that 11% are at risk of fuel poverty. In these instances, we have reached out to the affected customers to see where and how they can be supported.

We will be contacting customers who’ve been selected to have a Switchee device installed directly over the coming months.

Support for you

If you’re finding it hard to manage either your energy or other bills, there is a lot of support available to you.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has compiled a directory of support services, including benefits checkers here.

You can also contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, National Energy Action or the Trussell Trust.

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