Energy bills have been on the front page news for months now and understandably so; despite average energy payments falling to an average of £200 a month in June 2023 they remain almost double the £108 they were in May 2020

For lots of the population this is a case of tightening the purse strings and cutting back on luxury items, however we have seen a significant amount of the population pushed into fuel poverty and for those already living in those conditions, times remain harder than ever.

What is fuel poverty?

Fuel poverty, in its simplest form, refers to households who spend a significant amount of their income on keeping their homes warm, due to above average energy costs. In late 2021, fuel poverty was estimated to impact over 3 million UK households, with that number still continuing to rise in 2023. In 2023, the North West was declared the third highest for fuel poverty numbers in the UK.

Our Energyworks team have seen an increase in the number of households ending up in fuel poverty over the past few years, with many being referred to the Green Doctors with increasingly complex issues and a bigger need for emergency support.

These people are either at risk of or are currently disconnected and have no electricity or gas until money is put back on the meter. In a financial crisis, many of these residents are having to choose between putting the heating on and eating.

What causes fuel poverty?

In 2021, over 11 million people were furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in many households living off just 80% of their regular wages. Losing 20% of household income can have a significant impact on working class households. Whole industries shut down around the world and there was a lot less demand for oil and gas, as the world returns to normal after the pandemic there was an increase in demand for power and supplies of oil and gas struggled to keep up with demand which resulted in higher prices globally. This has been compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has impacted on supplies and driven up prices further. Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas and supplies and prior to the invasion was supplying around 40% of all gas to the EU.

In 2022 the Government supported households through the energy crisis by offering a £400 payment to every household, this came to an end in March 2023 and although the cost of energy has fallen slightly the loss of a £400 support contribution will mean many households will still find it difficult to afford their energy bills.

The effects of fuel poverty

Fuel Poverty can have several significant and wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, and society as a whole. Here are some of the key impacts of fuel poverty:

Health Impacts:

Cold-Related Illnesses: Living in a cold home can lead to various health problems, especially for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions. These health issues can include respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and exacerbation of existing health conditions.

Mental Health and Well-being:

Stress and Anxiety: The constant worry about high energy bills and an uncomfortable living environment can lead to stress, anxiety, and mental health issues.

Social Isolation: People in fuel poverty may avoid inviting friends or family over due to the cold and uncomfortable living conditions, leading to social isolation.

Energy Bills and Debt:

Financial Stress: High energy bills can strain household budgets, leading to financial stress and sometimes accumulating debt.

Fuel Debt: Many individuals in fuel poverty fall behind on their energy bills, leading to fuel debt and potential disconnection of services.

Educational Impact:

Children’s Education: Living in a cold and uncomfortable home can affect children’s ability to study and concentrate, potentially impacting their educational attainment.

Housing Conditions:

Deteriorating Homes: Some households in fuel poverty may avoid necessary repairs or improvements to their homes, leading to a cycle of deteriorating living conditions.

Inefficient Energy Use: Fuel-poor households may be less likely to invest in energy-efficient appliances or home improvements, contributing to higher greenhouse gas emissions and energy waste.

Social Inequality:

Disproportionate Impact: Vulnerable and marginalized groups are often more affected by fuel poverty, exacerbating social inequalities.

Energy Insecurity:

Living in fear: The possibility of energy disconnection or rationing can create a sense of insecurity and instability within households.

How Groundwork helps

With energy prices remaining high in 2023 and the ending of the Governments Energy Bills Support Scheme in March of this year, Groundwork’s Energyworks team continue to offer free energy advice phone calls to residents in need in Greater Manchester, with the possibility of arranging a home energy advice visit too.

The team provide advice and support when it comes to:

  • Identifying causes of heat loss in the home
  • Identifying and tackle damp or mould problems
  • Offering useful tips for saving energy and water whilst ensuring your home stays safe and comfortable
  • Helping with heating controls (including storage heaters)
  • Installing small energy and water efficiency measures, such as draft excluders, LED lightbulbs and radiator foils
  • Supporting in switching energy providers to save money
  • Helping residents apply for the warm home discount or register on priority service registers

Even if you don’t qualify for support, there are many things you can do in your home to stay warm and well and save yourself money.

Check out these handy resources the team have created to assist with everyday issues, such as:

Making your home warmer

How to use storage heaters

How to prevent damp