As the news breaks this week from the National Energy Action (NEA) that a government scheme designed to combat fuel poverty has failed to repair a single gas boiler since April, a rising number of consumer groups are calling for further action on fuel poverty.
Official guidelines consider a household to be fuel poor if: ‘they have required fuel costs that are above average and, if were they to spend that amount, they would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.’ According to Government statistics approximately 11% (2.5 million households) are fuel poor. Lone parents with dependents make up 23.6% of the fuel poor, with fuel poverty being highest in the private rented sector.
According to figures gained by the NEA, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme responsible for aiding the fuel poor with boiler repairs, maintenance and replacement has had its funding cut from £800m to £640m as a part of the Government desire to reduce energy bills. This has resulted in the scheme replacing a smaller number of boilers than in previous years and an apparent ending of the repairs to faulty appliances. The data for 2017 suggests that this year will see fewer than half the number of boilers replaced than in 2013, whilst not a single gas boiler has been repaired since April 2017.
The Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has joined in calls for the Government to take further action on fuel poverty in the upcoming autumn budget.
Kevin Wellman, CEO of the CIPHE said,
“The fuel poor are some of the most vulnerable people in society. Schemes such as ECO have played a very important part in helping to lift households out of fuel poverty, especially via the replacement of old inefficient boilers with new, highly efficient counterparts. However, the cut in funding potentially leaves thousands of households without heating or hot water this winter if the scheme fails to extend to boiler repairs or increase to the number of boiler replacements previously seen.
“We understand the government’s desire to reduce fuel bills for all, but doing this at a cost for the most vulnerable is a mistake. We would strongly urge the government to consider filling any shortfall in funding for ECO as a part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. With a cold winter ahead, we need to protect those most in need from the misery and health issues associated with a cold home.”