1.6 million UK children living in fuel poverty

February 27th, 2013

 

  • 130,000 more children in fuel poverty since 2010
  • Number of English children in fuel poverty now at 1.2 million
  • If energy bills rise by 25% the number of children in fuel poverty in the UK will double from 1.6 million to 3.2 million
  • A nationwide programme of insulation funded by carbon tax could eradicate fuel poverty and cut annual energy bills for the fuel poor by over £300 every year on average.

 

1.6 million children in the UK, including 1.2 million children in England,  are now living in fuel poverty, according to shocking new research published by the Energy Bill Revolution. The findings accompany the launch of a hard-hitting campaign film today highlighting the impacts on children of living in a cold home (1).

The Energy Bill Revolution is the biggest fuel poverty alliance ever created and comprises children’s charities, including Barnardo’s, old age, health and disability groups, environment groups, consumer groups, women’s groups, trade unions and major businesses. They are calling on the Prime Minister to end the growing scandal of cold homes by using carbon tax to make all UK homes super energy efficient.

The number of children in fuel poverty has risen by 9 % over the past three years, with 130,000 more children now living in families who need to spend more than 10% of their income on fuel to keep warm(3). Rising energy bills, falling incomes, and a decrease in Government investment to make homes more energy efficient have all played a part in the growing crisis (4). The research estimates that, since the Government came to power, funding to help fuel poor families with children has been cut by 27% (5).

Fuel poverty can have a disastrous impact on the health and wellbeing of children. As the story of Ryan in the campaign’s new film ‘Fuel poverty: Growing up cold’ shows, breathing problems such as asthma can be exacerbated by living in cold and damp rooms. His story is supported by research which demonstrates that children living in cold homes are twice as likely to suffer from asthma and other respiratory problems compared to those whose families can afford to keep the house warm (6).

The Energy Bill Revolution wants the Government to use Carbon Tax to fund a nationwide programme of insulation that will make people’s homes as energy efficient as possible.

Carbon tax is charged to big companies for their carbon emissions but it ends up being paid for by consumers on their energy bill. Despite this, the Government doesn’t currently use one penny of carbon tax to help people to insulate their homes, bringing down energy bills and tackling fuel poverty.

The Energy Bill Revolution calculates there is enough carbon tax revenue to deliver energy efficiency measures each year to over half a million fuel poor homes. The energy efficiency improvements proposed by the campaign would cut the bill of the average fuel-poor household by over £300 every year. This could bring nine out of ten homes out of fuel poverty and in time help solve the problem of fuel poverty once and for all (8).

Ed Matthew, Director of the Energy Bill Revolution said:

“Fuel poverty is a nationwide scandal that is forcing some families to make the desperate choice between heating their home or feeding their family this winter. The only permanent solution to the fuel poverty crisis is for the Government to invest in a nationwide programme of super-insulation funded by carbon tax, which could end fuel poverty once and for all.”

Neera Sharma, Assistant Director of Policy and Research at Barnardo’s, who supported the making of the film, comments: “It’s a disgrace that not only has so little action been taken to bring down energy bills, but nothing is being done to stop them rising further for the UK’s poorest families. 1.6 million children now endure the misery of growing up in cold homes, which can affect every area of their wellbeing.

“The Government must tackle this national crisis, to reduce the effects of poverty. They can start by channelling funds raised by the carbon tax into making homes warmer.”

‘Growing up cold’ is endorsed by an alliance of children’s charities including Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society, National Children’s Bureau, Children England and Netmums. It is available to view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGyjmRC-4Eg

The ‘Families and Fuel Poverty report is available at www.energybillrevolution.org/resources
Ends
For more information call:

Victoria Wallin, Portland Communications: Tel 020 7822 1766

Ed Matthew, Director, Energy Bill Revolution: Tel: 07827 157906

 

Notes to editors:

(1) Across the UK at the start of 2013, approximately 1.6 million children are in fuel poverty. This is 130,000 children more than in 2010. Of these, nearly 1.1 million are children under the age of 16, of which nearly 390,000 are under the age of 5. In England, 696,000 families with dependent children are in fuel poverty, up by 60,000 families compared to 2010: ‘Families and Fuel Poverty’, Pedro Guertler and Sarah Royston, Energy Bill Revolution 2013. The research accompanies the release of the ‘Fuel poverty: Impact of cold homes on children’ film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGyjmRC-4Eg

(2) The Energy Bill Revolution is alliance of children’s and older people’s charities, health and disability groups, environment groups, consumer groups, trade unions and businesses that is calling on the Government to use carbon tax revenue to make all UK homes highly energy efficient.  For more information on its members http://www.energybillrevolution.org/whos-behind-it

(3) Fuel poverty exists where a household needs to spend more than 10% of their income on energy to stay warm.

(4) Domestic fuel bills have risen by an average of eight per cent this winter. This means families are bracing themselves for record high annual bills of over £1,400, with gas prices predicted by OFGEM to continue rising. Meanwhile fuel poor households with children are more likely to live in homes with uninsulated solid walls: Families and Fuel Poverty, Energy Bill Revolution 2013

(5) Families and Fuel Poverty, Pedro Guertler and Sarah Royston, Energy Bill Revolution 2013.

(6) Marmot Review Team (2011) The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty. Friends of the Earth and the Marmot Review Team, London. The research also shows that one in four adolescents living in cold homes is at risk of mental health problems, compared to one in twenty where the temperature of their home is not a problem. Cold homes have also been proven to negatively affect how children perform at school. www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/cold_homes_health.pdf

(7) The Energy Bill Revolution is calling for a nationwide programme of insulation, funded by carbon tax, to end fuel poverty and help all households to have lower bills and warmer homes. The Government will raise £60 billion in carbon tax over the next 15 years, an average of £4 billion / year.  The Government will raise £1.5 billion in carbon tax in 2013. There is enough revenue to deliver energy efficiency measures to bring over half a million households out of fuel poverty each year. In time it could help every UK home to become highly energy efficient. It would save over £300 every year for a fuel poor home and help make the home warmer. For an average household it could help save over £400 every year in energy costs.

(8) ’The Energy Bill Revolution campaign report’ – Energy Bill Revolution – Feb 2012. This report estimated that if gas prices increase as the Government expects the number of households in fuel poverty will rise from 6 million to 9 million by 2016, the date when the Government has a duty under the Warm Homes Act to do everything reasonably practicable to eliminate fuel poverty. It also calculated that the Government will raise £60 billion in carbon tax by 2027, enough revenue to bring 9 out of 10 of these 9 million homes out of fuel poverty. Carbon tax revenue will continue to be collected by the Treasury after 2027, so in time carbon revenue could be used to help all UK homes to maximise their energy efficiency.  Carbon tax revenue is raised from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and from the UK’s Carbon Floor Price which starts in April 2013.

9.  Families and Fuel Poverty, Pedro Guertler and Sarah Royston, Energy Bill Revolution 2013. The following table illustrates the number of children in fuel poverty in different regions of the country:

 

Region Number of children in fuel poverty % of children in fuel poverty
South East

125,000

6.6%

South West

86,000

8.2%

North East

49,000

8.6%

London

174,000

8.7%

Eastern England

129,000

9.4%

Yorkshire and the Humber

108,000

9.5%

East Midlands

139,000

13.6%

North West

236,000

13.9%

West Midlands

169,000

13.9%

 

 

 

 

 

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