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Almost half of Welsh households now in fuel poverty

Up to 45 per cent of households in Wales – and almost all of those on the lowest incomes – could be in fuel poverty following the energy price cap increase this month, according to new estimates for Welsh Government.

The updated estimate represents 614,000 households now meet the definition of fuel poverty of spending more than 10 per cent of their income on maintaining a satisfactory heating regime, compared to 196,000 last October. A further 201,000 households (up to 15 per cent) are judged to be at risk of fuel poverty.

The number of households in severe fuel poverty (spending more than 20 per cent of their income on keeping warm) has trebled since October to 115,000 (up to 8 per cent).

Households on the lowest incomes are obviously at most risk because they spend a higher proportion of their incomes on energy bills. Welsh Government estimates that 217,700 (98 per cent) are now in fuel poverty and 91,700 (41 per cent) are in severe fuel poverty.

National Energy Action (NEA) warned that more support is needed to offset a ‘catastrophic impact’ on those in severe fuel poverty who are hardest hit by the energy crisis.

Ben Saltmarsh, head of Wales at NEA, said: ’These statistics are worse than feared. The energy crisis is having a catastrophic impact on households across Wales, with almost half of all households estimated to be in fuel poverty. Over 217,000 are living on the lowest incomes, struggling to keep warm and safe at home.

‘Worryingly, up to 115,000 households are in severe fuel poverty, having to spend more than 20 per cent of their income just to keep warm. These people can do very little, if anything at all, to improve their own situation. Those on the lowest incomes, living in the leakiest homes, are simply being priced out of having essential warmth and power. With no slack in their budgets and nothing left to ration, their quality of life is plummeting. When the cold weather strikes this coming winter, it will have a grave impact on health and well-being.’

NEA is urging the Welsh Government to continue its efforts to support those most in need, especially targeting help at those in severe fuel poverty who are likely to be on the lowest incomes, living in the least efficient homes. It is calling on the Welsh Government to:

  • Ensure its Cold Weather Resilience Plan results in co-ordinated efforts across government, health, housing and third sectors to urgently prepare for winter, ready and able to jointly tackle fuel poverty before the cold weather sets in
  • Ramp up its ‘claim what’s yours’ benefits take-up campaign to help maximise household incomes and raise awareness of available support
  • Ensure the Warm Homes Programme is sufficiently equipped to lift households most in need out of fuel poverty, helping to insulate and make their homes sustainably warm.

NEA continues to call on the UK Government and Ofgem to:

  • Exempt vulnerable households, in particular prepayment energy users, from paying the £40/year levy that is currently planned to re-pay the ‘heat now, pay later’ £200 energy bill rebate
  • Provide additional support for low-income households ahead of next winter, for example through a bigger Warm Home Discount that directly supports more people, or by expanding the Winter Fuel Payment beyond pensioners
  • Develop a social tariff that is additional to current energy market protections, providing a below-cost energy price to low-income households
  • Help to clear utility debts through starting a payment matching scheme, matching every pound that a household makes towards their utility debt repayments.

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