Fuel poverty is defined by the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act as where someone on a lower income is living in a home which cannot be kept warm at reasonable cost.
Citizens Advice say that some families are forced to make a decision between eating and warming their house.
Social action charity, Imago, has a £20,000 grant from UK Power Networks, to expand its service to include specific support around fuel poverty and energy resilience for vulnerable groups, helping people to lower their energy bills and switch energy tariffs.
Imago helps better the lives of 26,000 of the most vulnerable people across East Sussex and the South East.
The new project aims to improve the health and wellbeing of clients experiencing financial difficulties.
Jon Weller, director of development at Imago, said: “We believe everyone deserves access to information that could better their situation.
“Warmth is a basic need that is essential to our wellbeing, and no one should be in a situation where they are unable to seek advice on affordable heating and energy efficient heating.
“We are delighted to work with UK Power Networks to reach people who would benefit from advice to increase their energy resilience, reduce fuel poverty and improve health and wellbeing.”
Imago helps people facing barriers to support due to health, disability, communication impairments and isolation.
Its work will include advising people how to use energy and water efficiently, training staff to support people in fuel poverty and home visits for people with complex needs.
Citizens Advice estimate 600,000 people in the UK have been plunged into fuel poverty during coronavirus. As a result, helping consumers cut their energy costs, is more important than ever.
In the fourth round of funding from UK Power Networks’ Power Partners scheme, nine not-for-profit organisations and community groups have secured a total of around £180,000, to help combat the growing issue of fuel poverty during the pandemic.
The aim is to support community services to reach more people with help including energy efficiency advice, tariff switching and support for frontline charity workers.
Giulia Privitera, social sustainability strategy and programme manager for UK Power Networks, said: “Our fuel poverty strategy is built around the evolving needs of our customers and relies on creating strong partnerships with local organisations, like Imago, who deliver energy advice and support out in the communities where it is needed the most.
“Since 2019 our Power Partners projects have explored new ways to tackle fuel poverty and have already made a real impact for people who struggle to pay their energy bills.
“The growing financial difficulties caused by an unprecedented pandemic means that providing accessible and timely support in helping energy consumers cut their costs is more important than ever.
“For this reason, we decided to increase the funding granted for the fourth round of Power Partners to be able to support more individuals or communities who are experiencing emerging vulnerabilities or entering into fuel poverty as a result of the pandemic.
“Year on year, through our Power Partners and other energy saving initiatives, UK Power Networks continues to deliver tailored support for hard to reach communities that otherwise could have been left behind.”
A Citizen’s Advice report stated: “Fuel poverty is a fact of life for 2.5 million households across England. The average fuel poverty gap – the amount by which a fuel-poor household’s energy bills exceed reasonable costs each year – was £353 in 2015.
“As a consequence, too many people are forced to make unacceptable choices between ‘heating or eating’. At its worst, fuel poverty can contribute to premature winter deaths.
Fuel poverty and its consequences are largely preventable through the right policy interventions, including action on energy prices, direct financial support to relevant households and energy efficiency schemes. However, it is through improving energy efficiency that the most cost-effective and long-lasting difference could be made in reducing fuel poverty.
“To that end, the government has set out its ambition to upgrade as many fuel- poor homes in England ‘as is reasonably practicable’ to band C of the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) by 2030, which is a certificate giving the energy efficiency rating of a property.
“However, despite some moderate progress in achieving its interim objectives, this report finds that ECO isn’t working. The scheme will need to undergo significant changes in order to hit target.”
The fund, administered in partnership with leading energy justice charity the Centre for Sustainable Energy, is open to not-for-profit organisations and community organisations. For more details email [email protected] or call 0117 934 1400.
UK Power Networks also runs a Priority Service Register which people living in vulnerable circumstances can sign up for, to get free extra help if a power cut ever happens.
To apply visit www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priorityservices, ring 0800 169 9970, or email [email protected]