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CIH Cymru – Rising to the crisis?

Matt Kennedy reviews the options for tackling fuel poverty in the UK.

As we see households struggling through a very real cost of living crisis, driven by stark rises in inflation and staggering energy costs the Welsh Government finds itself in a place where its main programmes aimed at helping households in fuel poverty have either ended, or are nearing their end.

The efficiency of homes, how cost-effective they are to keep warm, and what their knock-on impact is on the environment has been at the centre of a Senedd Equality and Social Justice Committee inquiry and now the Welsh Government’s own consultation on its Warm Homes Programme (that includes the Nest and Arbed schemes).

We believe that there are a number of key areas the next iteration of the programme must reflect in order to further improve its impact in practice. The definition of fuel poverty needs to be more flexible, to better capture people who may be self-disconnecting/rationing their energy use. It needs to be better targeted at those living in, or at risk of fuel poverty, capturing people’s circumstances and monitoring to what extent interventions improve their situation. Richer data on people’s wider financial pressures would also be really beneficial for understanding how the Warm Homes Programme (WHP) has an impact the financial resilience of households.

Designing the new programme against the backdrop of the climate crisis places added pressure to get the balance between helping people and installing measures that have little to no negative impact on the environment a real priority. We strongly endorse an approach that take the fabric first approach into the programme’s activities but add to this there needs to be broader consideration of how intelligent heating systems, clean forms of energy production become synonymous with WHP. It has an important role to play in providing certainty to industry about demand for new, innovative, clean measures that would also help secure further commitments in terms of apprenticeships and training.

Whilst the WHP shouldn’t be all things to all people, (there are better ways the government could look at supporting households more broadly) there must be an emphasis on low-income households, living in hard to heat, low quality homes, considering the rural challenges that results in transformative changes to people’s homes – small incremental gains simply aren’t going to cut it.

Matt Kennedy is policy and public affairs manager at CIH Cymru

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