Fuel poverty gap 'rises to £438'
Published on 09 August 2013 11:30 AM
Households struggling with energy costs now face a gap of £438 between the cost of their bills and what they can afford to pay, new figures show.
Research published by the Office for National Statistics found that the gap has risen by almost £200 compared with 10 years ago.
The latest statistics were calculated using a new method of measuring fuel poverty, which highlights families facing both high energy bills and low incomes.
The previous method included all those who had to pay more than 10% of their income to heat their homes properly.
Analysts said the new method meant fewer households were recorded as being in fuel poverty, down from 3.2 million to 2.4 million.
But the average gap between what people can afford to pay and their fuel bills has jumped to £438, compared with £248 in 2003, the figures show.
Across England, households in fuel poverty faced bills totalling £1.05 billion more than they could afford, up from £606 million a decade ago.
720,000 older households unable to pay to keep warm
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, said the figures showed 30% of people in fuel poverty were over the age of 60.
She added: 'That's 720,000 households whose residents are among the most frail and most susceptible to the risks posed by cold temperatures are unable to pay to keep their homes warm.
'This data is further shocking evidence of the link between fuel poverty and increasing age - the 'oldest old' are amongst the worst affected and are often in the deepest fuel poverty.
'These numbers show yet again that England still urgently needs a programme to enable people to keep warm. This must be the clear priority of the Government's long-promised new fuel poverty strategy.'
Energy minister Michael Fallon said the new definition of fuel poverty would help provide support to the most vulnerable people in society.
He added: 'Two million households received cuts to their bills last winter under the Warm Homes Discount, and the budget will continue to increase each year, up to £320 million for 2015/16. We are pressing the big six to make sure the poorest households aren't stuck on expensive tariffs, to simplify their rates and make it easier to switch.'
Copyright Press Association 2013