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Is the UK doing enough to eradicate fuel poverty?

A new report has highlighted key failings in the UK's efforts to deal with fuel poverty.

Every year, the National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS) produce the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor. The latest edition was published following the elections in May and highlights why progress to end fuel poverty has slowed.

The report found that there's greater need to collaborate and evaluate progress across nations to foster a sense of co-operation and to help learn from each other's mistakes and successes. 

For example, Scottish Housing News reports that the Scottish government has a target to eradicate fuel poverty by November 2016. With only a few months until that deadline, an estimated 845,000 households in Scotland still live in fuel poverty - that's around 35 per cent of the population. While huge improvements have been made with projects to improve thermal wall insulation, update boilers and install efficient glazing, it's safe to say there's still a lot left to do.

The report has called for the introduction of a detailed roadmap, which defines targets and milestones for eradicating fuel poverty. It also suggests the adoption of NICE guidelines for cold homes and the development of better links with the health service.

Key recommendations include:

  • Continuing UK government reports on annual progress under the ten per cent measurement of fuel poverty
  • Department of Energy and Climate Change, along with Scottish and Welsh governments working together to assess how changes to the GB-wide ECO scheme will impact on the statutory fuel poverty targets for each nation.
  • Updating and improving annual housing surveys to accurately measure progress towards national statutory commitments and tracking effective policy making.
  • Establishing a regular and transparent forum for shaping policy ideas and good delivery practices.

Commenting on the report, Peter Smith, head of policy and research at NEA, said he hoped the report would help all of the UK nations to "get the job done" and take the necessary steps to put an end to fuel poverty.

"Despite our report warning for many years that a pan UK-wide approach to eradicating fuel poverty is a very distant prospect, in the last five years alone there have been over 500,000 more fuel poor households living in cold homes," he explained.

In Wales, Carole Morgan Jones, director of NEA Cymru, noted the importance of a joint approach between the devolved governments, and that Wales needs to adopt a "fresh approach within its devolved areas of responsibility".

NEA Northern Ireland's director, Pat Austin, pointed out that action needs to be taken to address Northern Ireland's dependence on home heating oil. "Policy makers in NI must also ensure current and future schemes are effectively targeted at those that need the most support," he added.

And in Scotland, Norman Kerr, director of EAS, explained that over the last five years his organisation has been calling on the Scottish government to commit to a detailed plan to eradicate fuel poverty. He says it's more important than ever that the new Scottish government act on these recommendations. "The report also calls on the new government to press on with the introduction of ambitious energy efficiency regulations for private sector homes," he added.