Sophie Adam considers the one in
five young people who live in fuel poverty.
Struggling to pay
energy bills and keep warm at home is traditionally seen as a problem that only
affects old people but this is not the case. The numbers of families with
children living in inadequately heated homes is rising. Young parents and
households headed by young people are now disproportionately affected by living
in a cold home.
Approximately 40 per
cent of households living in fuel poverty are couples or lone parents with
dependent children. In total, 3.8 million children in England live in families
that are struggling to pay their energy bills.
we spoke to young parents about what it’s like to be unable to heat your home
properly, one of them put into words perfectly how it undermines her family’s
quality of life:
understand fuel poverty unless they have lived in it. Fuel poverty is when you
wake up to find you have no gas, no money and two days ‘til payday. You have to
feed cold food to your children and wrap them up in coats, gloves and scarves
indoors or trail them round the shops all day to keep warm.”
consequences are far-reaching and can mean parents cutting back on essentials
to keep their homes warm or being forced into debt when they cannot afford to
pay their energy bills.
child, growing up in a home that is cold and damp can have a long lasting
effect on their health, learning and enjoyment of life.
are worried that our children’s health might be suffering as a result of living
in cold and damp homes’
Young parent in Lambeth
The estimated cost to the NHS of treating conditions and
illness in people of all ages caused or made worse by cold homes is around
£1.36 billion per year.
from Economy Energy’s customers
provided NCB with the opportunity to carry out a fuel poverty project
to gain insight and understanding of why the problem occurs and its impact on young people.
with young parents, we wanted young parents, children and young people
to play a part in telling the social and economic story of fuel poverty and the
impact on young lives. They told us that fuel poverty is not just about income
but is also about having an awareness of what they can do themselves to help
solve the problem.
We found families
with children, and young parents in particular, face multiple challenges when
it comes to keeping their homes warm and healthy. These include:
Struggling with low or falling incomes
even when they are in employment
The high cost of energy
A greater likelihood of living in
private-rented accommodation with higher rents and lower energy efficiency
The poor condition of housing stock,
particularly in the private-rented sector
Less access to social housing.
A greater likelihood of pre-payment
meters with higher energy charges
A lack of knowledge and understanding
of how to reduce their energy consumption and bills.
Families want to do
their bit cut their fuel costs and keep their homes warmer – but facing
challenges such as these means they can’t do it alone.
The government’s 2015
Fuel Poverty Strategy states that tackling fuel poverty is a government
priority. However, there is widespread concern that the government target will
not be met as current resources stand at less than half of what is needed to
achieve the fuel poverty target.
is vitally important that government, energy companies, voluntary organisations
and local communities look at how they can support and help young parents to
improve their living situations in relation to fuel poverty and cold homes.
we do more to support all those who struggle
to heat their homes properly, too many people will continue to have their
health and happiness undermined by fuel poverty.
‘Fuel poverty: what it means for young parents
and their families’ is available from www.ncb.org.uk/fuelpoverty
It is published to mark Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2016 - #fuelpovertyawarenessday.